Wesley presents living Nativity



December 17, 2015 - 12:00 AM

Wesley United Methodist Church members are reminding folks of “the reason for the season” Saturday and Sunday, with a living Nativity.
A cast of about 20 will present the story of Jesus’ birth in the parking lot on the west side of the church at 301 W. Madison Ave.
But rather than your typical stage production, with set changes, viewers will get to hear about Christ’s birth by visiting four stations.
“Since it’s going to be outside, we didn’t want people standing around for 20 minutes,” explained director Terry Meadows. “Instead, they’ll travel to different stations.”
The stations will be set around the parking lot’s perimeter.
The first scene re-enacts the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary in her house; the second follows an angel’s visit to the shepherds informing them of the Messiah’s birth; the third is the iconic manger scene; and the fourth is when Mary, Joseph and child visit the temple.
The entire production will be narrated, so actors needn’t worry about learning lines.
“It’s all action,” Meadows said.
Having the stations greatly cuts down on the production’s time, he continued.
“It’s like a stage production, but this way, we don’t have to do set changes,” Meadows said. “The audience just moves onto the next station.”
The novel approach brings about another set of challenges, most notably, a larger cast.
For example, the play requires three Marys.
“We tried to make them all alike,” said church member Nicolle Hoepker. “We’re using three young, blonde Marys.”
Most of the costumes came from the church, from previous re-enactments, although a few others were ordered, Hoepker said.
“The goal was to make the characters as close to identical as we could,” she said.
Meadows estimates a support staff of about 40 will work behind the scenes to ensure the production goes off without a hitch.
Adding to the authenticity, the Nemecek family will bring in live animals.
The Nativity will not utilize a live baby, however, Meadows said.
“It’d be pretty cold to be outside for that long,” he noted.
The Nativity will be set up from 6 to 8 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
Groups will be admitted once every 10 minutes or so. Because each scene takes between 4 and 6 minutes, the organizers want it designed so the audience can go immediately from one scene to the other.
Afterward, audience members will be invited into Wesley’s fellowship hall for cookies and hot cocoa.
There is no admission charge, although the church will accept free-will donations.
“We’re excited,” Meadows said. “We’re hoping it’ll be a tradition for years to come, and we can get people from surrounding areas.”