A Christmas tradition, San Diego-style
By Pablo Jaime Sáinz
Throughout the year, Southwestern College Journalism Professor Max Branscomb takes note of all the major trends and events that made a cultural impact in American life.
That’s what adds a different flavor each year to his version of La Pastorela, the classic Mexican story of the shepherds that go on a quest to Bethlehem to celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth.
This time, Branscomb is taking some of the most important events that happened in 2012 to recreate the story in La Pastorela de Creencia, which runs runs Dec. 13-16 and 19-22 at 7:30 p.m., and 2 p.m. Dec. 15, 16, 22 and 23 at the
Lyceum Theater in Horton Plaza, in Downtown San Diego.
Each year, the show changes names, to reflect its main themes.
La Pastorela de Creencia, which means The Shepperd Story of Belief, is about keeping hope in a difficult world.
“This year’s production centers on belief,” Branscomb said. “The message is that if we believe in ourselves and each other, we can make a better society. I’ve been impressed by my fellow Americans recently that we weathered our recent economic challenges without turning on each other to the extent that scared and reactionary Americans have in the past. We showed patience and some vision. We were able to do this because we believed in ourselves.”
Other topics and cultural aspects in this year’s show include superheroes, zombies, the devil’s version of the Del Mar Fair, the 50th anniversary of The Beatles and Rolling Stones, and Gangman Style.
This is Teatro Mascara Magi-ca’s 22nd production of “La Pastorela,” and the 20th that Branscomb has written. South Bay theater and perfoming arts education legend William Virchis has directed or co-directed 21 of the productions. There are about 20 actors in the cast.
For Virchis, La Pastorela gives a glimpse about human nature, and although its origins are Mexican, he said it is a universal story.
“What do we all have on common? If you’re from planet Earth we have each other as brothers and sisters, we share the same air, earth and water,” Virchis said. “If that is true why do we let evil pollute the air, contaminate the water, and destroy the earth that we soon will become? Why, because we have flaws and those little devils will stop us on our way to a better way of life. That’s the Pastorela: a journey of faith that we all take to understand our place on this planet. On our way those creepy devils will disguise themselves as our friends, and want to take us to their planet of destruction of the human soul. La Pastorela is one of the oldest morality plays written by man. It is full of fun, music, and provoking thoughts.”
Besides his work with Teatro Mascara Magica, Branscomb is the founder and artistic director of the Bonitafest Melodrama, San Diego County’s longest-running theatre production. It celebrated its 35th season in 2012. Branscomb is San Diego County’s most commissioned playwright. He has authored more than 80 produced plays and musicals for more than 20 theater companies across the nation. Branscomb is a professor of journalism at Southwestern College and adviser of “The Sun,” America’s #1-ranked college newspaper.
Virchis is professor emeritus of theatre at Southwestern College and one of America’s leading Latino stage directors. He has directed productions of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Zoot Suit” and “Let the Eagle Fly,” as well as the national touring production of “Selena Forever.” Old Globe founder Craig Noel called Virchis “the county’s boldest and most daring director.”
Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students, military and groups and $7 for children under 12 or groups of 10 or more. For reservations call (619) 544-1000.