La Natividad celebrates Christmas traditions on Lake Street

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La Natividad is a remarkable bilingual production for all ages that honors community, religion, and tradition. Audience/participants in the third-annual event will walk the streets, sing, eat and enjoy a colorful and festive show that combines puppetry and street theatre. Re-creation of the time-honored biblical story of the nativity proceeds along a cultural, theatrical and spiritual course that includes a traditional Latino “La Posada” procession. (La posada means ‘inn’ in Spanish.)

For two hours, La Natividad theatergoers will embark on a journey led by masked performers and move through the four sites of the play – the Mercado Central; Plaza Verde; HOBT theatre; and two blocks along 15th Avenue to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Each stage parallels an immigrant’s life experiences as they start over in a new country. Their journey, as in La Natividad, leads to a new beginning.

The moving theater seeks to replicate a tradition that is practiced in many Mexican and Central American communities in the days leading up to Christmas. During that time, people walk in the streets and knock on doors as they sing in the name of heaven. A party is usually hosted in the last home where the people stopped. Since the procession is done nightly, the party is held in a different home each night. A number of Minnesotans of Mexican heritage still observe that tradition today, but instead of walking in the cold, however, they visit in homes and exchange gifts.

Volunteers and audience members needed!

More than 100 volunteers are needed to do the show. If you would like to help HOBT with preparation and staging of this event, call 651-721-2535.

La Natividad opens Friday, December 14 and runs through Saturday, December 22; six shows only. Only $10/person for groups and individuals who live in the Powderhorn, Central, Phillips or Corcoran neighborhoods.

Performed in English and Spanish. Approximately 2 hours long including fiesta. Audiences should be mobile and dressed appropriately for the outdoors; the procession is 2.5 blocks long. Please notify HOBT of any special needs at least one week in advance.

In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, a singular theater company recognized internationally for its artistry and for its service to the community, is located at 1500 E. Lake Street, Minneapolis.
For tickets, call 612.721.2535, www.hobt.org

The HOBT audiences will be divided in two groups. One group will go first to the Mercado Central where they will meet Maria and José and be entertained by masked figures. The other will start at the Plaza Verde where an immigration holding room is staged. Then both groups will join and proceed to the theater to see the first part of the nativity story. After the theater, there is a torch-lit procession along 15th Avenue to St. Paul’s church. Anyone can join the procession. The nativity performance takes place at the church, where the baby is born, and where the play ends with a party.

Music is central to the celebration historically as it is in this production. Traditional Latino Christmas carols are performed as well as original music composed by music director Laurie Witzkowski.

La Natividad is produced for the second year by HOBT and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church both of which are grounded in the community. HOBT had its beginning in the basement of the church. When the theater moved, the space became a sanctuary for refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala. The history of the church’s role in the refugees’ transformation foretold HOBT’s staging of la posada.

Sandy Spieler, HOBT artistic director, explained that the production of La Natividad grew out of the tradition of doing a Christmas story. She remarked also that HOBT, in general and with this play specifically, respects every person’s sense of humanity, and how they connect with each other and with the power of love, peace, the earth, and their spiritual life.

“At the core of the performance is a Christmas story that celebrates love – a love that comes into the world every time a child is born,” said St. Paul Lutheran Church’s Rev. Patrick Hansel. He also reflected that the religious message of the play is relevant today in this community as well as globally. “The birth of a child means peace. You can’t stop new life; you can’t stop peace, it’s going to be born, it’s going to transform us – the world.”

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, founded by Swedish immigrants, just celebrated its 120th year. In a community of changing faces, the church sees the people who have come to this country looking for a better life and, in doing so, giving birth to something new. Under the leadership of co-pastors Rev. Patrick and his wife Rev. Luisa Cabello Hansel, St. Paul’s is making a determined effort to make this a church of the neighborhoods. Bilingual services are held at the church.

Mercado Central is the first place where the performers knock on the door. It is also the first stop in a largely Latino neighborhood for many of its residents. The mini-mall has more than 40 shops and restaurants and serves as a gathering place as well as a market.

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