The Shepherd’s Play
Dec 21 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Come enjoy this magical evening performance of this original nativity play, presented in a barn above the cows by talented Trillium Waldorf School teachers, staff and parents. The audience are seated on hay bales looking down on the magical scene as it unfolds. Don’t forget warm clothing and blankets! Warm up after the performance with steaming beverages and simple snacks. Public welcome! Admission is by donation; pay what you can.
Venue: Fourfold Farm Barn, #7682 4th Line Nichol Rd, Elora
Directions: Take Hwy 6 north from Guelph about 15 minutes; turn left on 4th Line Nichol Rd, and watch for the farm on the right. Leave ample time to park and meander up the drive to the barn…
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Some background on The Shepherds’ Play:
Written by: Arlene Kamo
The Shepherds’ Play is part of a cycle of three medieval plays that were performed by German immigrants to the people of Oberufer, a small island in the Danube River, in the sixteenth and early seventeenth century. The plays themselves are actually older, and were part of a widespread tradition in medieval Europe and Britain that was intended to bring an experience and understanding of biblical events to the illiterate peasantry.
The folklorist Karl Julius Schroer, a friend of Rudolf Steiner, collected the plays in the 19th century. In doing so, he was surprised to find that no complete manuscript existed. He found instead that parts of the scripts were handed down within a family and that each family treasured an ancient copy of one player’s part, passed down through generations. The Oberufer island community was able to retain a dialect distinctive from their neighbours, and in this way, the Oberufer Play cycle was preserved virtually unaltered.
After seeing the plays performed, Rudolf Steiner introduced these plays to Waldorf Schools in the 1920’s . Steiner had encouraged the Faculties of the then few Waldorf Schools to present the Shepherd’s Play as a gift from the teachers to the children. It was A.C. Harwood, a former Waldorf teacher and author of “The Recovery of Man in Childhood”, who translated the English version we use today. Harwood wrote that the style and language of the Shepherd’s Play , which are both dramatic and childlike, make a deeper impression on children than more sophisticated renditions of this story.
For many Waldorf schools, presenting the Shepherd’s Play is a gift from the school community to the children with a message that goes beyond cultural or historical specifics to speak of “That Holy Thing which shall be born of thee . .” as the Angel in the play says. Michael Miller writes in Renewal magazine:
What “Holy Thing” is this? It is nothing other than that love
which is able to “enter all the hearts of all the earth.” In
other words, that love which can only enter the world through
the human heart, and without which the world must needs remain
Miller goes on to say that although the story is rendered in images specific to the birth of Jesus, the mystery is not specific to any culture or tradition, but is specific to humankind. He offers the thought that the search for our own places, for the meaning of our lives, and for the true meaning of love is the underlying message of the play.
It is the simplicity of the Shepherds – through their humorous camaraderie – that encourages us all to delight in their innocence and gentle faith, and their willingness to follow their hearts. Certainly, to hear the peals of laughter, coming so wholeheartedly from even the youngest children, is to know that the Shepherds’ Play is a jewel of a play that warms the hearts and souls of both the young and old. In this all too busy holiday season we are given the occasion to stand back and experience a moment of reverence and awe of the simple innocence and love expressed through the shepherds, and through our children. Something rings true as we allow ourselves to become transported by the magic of this humble play. Perhaps, it is the essence of love, that “Holy Thing”, that is ringing true in our own hearts.