Tag Archives: American Pastorela

Politics meets pastorela

Rehearsal for James Garcia's American Pastorela 2007 (Photo: Phil Soto)

I once made my own pilgrimage to Bethlehem, and still remember the tiny shop where I purchased small wooden nativity sets as Christmas gifts for various friends and family members. Getting there was more complicated than I’d imagined, but I hadn’t realized at the time that my life was imitating art.

After moving to Arizona, I learned that the story of shepherds journeying to witness the nativity in Bethleham has been recounted for centuries in “pastorela” plays that blend Latino and Native American cultures. They’re performed each Christmas across Arizona and beyond.

One particular pastorela has garnered national attention for its political prowess. James Garcia, a Valley playwright, often writes pastorelas that capture controversial topics. One “American Pastorela” was subtitled “The Saga of Sheriff Joe.” But this year’s offering pokes serious fun at those who’ve banned ethnic studies programs at schools. Hence the subtitle “Everything You Wanted to Know About Ethnic Studies But Were Afraid to Ask.”

James Garcia's American Pastorela 2011 directed by Alex Vega Sanchez

Garcia is the founder and artistic director for New Carpa Theater, which specializes in Latino and multicultural theater works. They’re presenting this year’s “American Pastorela” through Sunday (see note below) at the Third Street Theater, located at Phoenix Center for the Arts. Despite the sometimes ideologically racy content, Garcia says his kids loved it, and suspects others will too. There are seven children ages 7-17 in the cast, including one “sweet little girl (who) breaks into Broadway tunes at the drop of a hat.”

Borderlands Theater in Tucson presents “A Tucson Pastorela” through Sunday as well. It’s the work of Wendy Burke, Eric Magrane and “the pastorela ghost writers” —  and features band director Gertie Lopez. Pastorelas typically pit those making the pilgrimage to Bethlehem against various challenges — including Satan, and things more suggestive of contemporary experiences. Hence their inclusion of Arizona’s evil haboobs.

Sometimes laughter is the only real alternative to crying — so I’m grateful for artists who help us make that leap. Love their politics, or hate it, that’s up to you. But be proud to live in a country where free speech and creativity mix in ways that give us all pause to consider our own bigotry or bias.

— Lynn

Note: Some performances of “American Pastorela” have been cancelled, so check the New Carpa Theater website before you go, and have a “plan B” just in case you’re downtown for the show and need another option.

Coming up: Art meets economics


Theater meets Christmas

Irving Berlin's White Christmas comes to ASU Gammage in Tempe Dec. 6-11

More than a dozen Valley venues are presenting family-friendly theater fare with a Christmas theme. Here’s an early round-up, listed by city, to help families who celebrate Christmas with holiday planning…


Musical Theatre of Anthem presents a “Holiday Show” Dec. 16. www.musicaltheatreofanthem.org.

Fountain Hills

Fountain Hills Theater presents “Christmas Jukebox” Nov. 25-Dec. 18. www.fhtaz.org.


Hale Theatre Arizona presents “It’s a Wonderful Life” through Nov. 26 and  “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 1-23. www.haletheatrearizona.com.


Spotlight Youth Theatre presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” Dec. 2-18. www.spotlightyouththeatre.org.


Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre presents “A Christmas Carol” Nov. 17-Dec. 25. www.broadwaypalmwest.com.

East Valley Children’s Theatre presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” Dec. 1-11. www.evct.org.

Southwest Shakespeare Company presents “A Christmas Carol” Nov. 26-Dec. 17. www.swshakespeare.org.

Southwest Shakespeare Company performs A Christmas Carol Nov. 26-Dec. 17 in Mesa


Arizona Broadway Theatre presents “Miracle on 34th St.” Nov. 25-Dec. 29 and “A Broadway Christmas Carol” Dec. 9-17. www.arizonabroadwaytheatre.com.

The Homestead Playhouse presents “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 1-4. www.dcranchnet.com.

Theater Works presents “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 2-18. Theater Works/Youth Works Puppet Works presents “Saving Santa” Dec. 3-24 (Sat only). www.theaterworks.com.


Grand Canyon University presents “Amahl and the Night Visitors” Dec. 2-11. www.gcu.edu.

New Carpa Theater Co. presents “American Pastorela” Dec. 9-18 at the Third Street Theater (Phoenix Center for the Arts). www.newcarpa.org. (Mature content)

Phoenix Theatre presents “A Christmas Story” Nov. 23-Dec. 18. www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Space 55 presents “A Bloody Mary Christmas II” Dec. 1-17 and “7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe” Dec. 17. www.space55.org. (Mature content)

The Black Theatre Troupe presents “Black Nativity” Dec. 2-11. www.blacktheatretroupe.org.

Valley Youth Theatre presents “A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail” Dec 2-23. www.vyt.com.


Theatre Artists Studio presents “Holiday Music & Musings: From the Page to the Stage” Dec. 2. www.thestudiophx.org.

Sun City

Sun City Grand Drama and Comedy Club presents “Over the River and Through the Woods” Dec. 1-4. www.granddrama.com.

East Valley Children's Theatre presents The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Dec. 1-11


ASU Gammage presents “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” (touring production) Dec. 6-11. www.asugammage.com.

If your Valley organization is presenting a theater production with a Christmas, or other winter holiday, theme — please comment below to let readers know.

— Lynn

Note: A calendar of family-friendly events is always available online at www.raisingarizonakids.com. This post will be updated as I learn of additional theater offerings with a Christmas theme. Although most of the events noted above are designed for family audiences, please note that some are “mature audience” only productions.

Coming up: Christmas concerts, A cup of cheer

Update: Some of these shows are extending their runs, so check theater company websites for the latest and greatest information. 11/26/11