The history of La Pastorela dates back many centuries. The play has been performed during the Christmas season by amateur and professional artists, in theaters and churches, in Mexico and in Mexican communities since the middle part of the last millennia.
It's long been a tradition to stage La Pastorela in Austin, too. After financial difficulties kept ALTA (Austin Latino Theater Alliance) from being able to stage the play last year, director Rupert Reyes set to work to ensure it could return in 2015. His production company, Teatro Vivo, will be staging La Pastorela this holiday season at the Mexican American Cultural Center.
La Pastorela changes from year to year and from production to production, but at its core its always the same story. "It's the story of the shepherds," Reyes says, that are visited by angels and told to go to Bethlehem and see the newborn Jesus. But in the course of the trip to Bethlehem, the devils come and try to trick the shepherds."
The story is usually told with humor and song (as it will be for this production), but details of the story are often changed to reflect the current state of the world. In this production, for instance, the shepherds are portrayed as refugees from Central America.
For Reyes, it's important to keep the Pastorela tradition going in Austin. He sees it as a way for the Latino community of Austin to stay connected. "We may have had animosities," he says, "but once a year we'd get together and do this play, so I'm hoping to revive that sentiment."
'La Pastorela' runs from December 3 through December 20 at the Mexican American Cultural Center. Opening night is free and open to the public, but reservations are encouraged.