Teatro Vivo Keeps 'La Pastorela' Alive In Austin

Dec 14, 2017

La Pastorela, the traditional Christmas play about the journey of a group of shepherds who are following the Star of Bethlehem to visit the newly born Christ child, has been performed in Mexico for centuries. 

"It was done originally by the Spanish priests, and it was done as a morality play to remind people that angels and demons exist and that they can influence their decisions," says La Pastorela director Alexis Arredondo. "And it worked its way to Mexico, and from Mexico it worked its way into Texas."

The basic structure of the play remains intact from year to year, but never quite the same from production to production and from community to community. Austin's Teatro Vivo has kept the tradition alive in Austin, producing a version of the play many times over its existence. Traditionally, their stagings have included commentary on the current state of the world.

"It's changed over the years," Arrendondo says. "It wasn't until the Chicano Movement that it became a little bit more about bringing more of the politics into it."

"This year, we're really working a lot with the idea of the DACA, the Dreamers," says Arrendondo. "It's a reminder... that some people don't get to spend Christmas at home this year, and it's not by choice."

For actress Eva McQuade, performing in La Pastorela is something of a family tradition. "A great uncle of mine used to portray Luzbel [Lucifer] in the production that was done in San Antonio for many, many years at the missions," she says. "So it's a part of my family history. She's bucking tradition a bit, though, and playing an angel rather than a demon -- she's this production's San Miguel, or St. Michael.

Luzbel is portrayed in this production by La Pastorela newcomer Sean Morán. "It's super exciting to be welcomed into this new thing that I never really knew existed before," he says. "It's a fun show. As much message as we put into it, we also pull a lot of joy into the show."

He's happy to have been entrusted with this important role. "I've been welcomed into this family, and it's an honor. It's a real honor to be in this show."

La Pastorela is onstage through December 17 at the Mexican American Cultural Center.