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La Pastorela at the Adobe Chapel

By Welton Jones

The moment I entered the Old Adobe Chapel, I knew we had to do a show there.

On December 15 a new version of the traditional Mexican Christmas play La Pastorela begins a nine-day, 18-performance run.

I only hope there will be room for everybody who is going to fall in love with this ancient folk musical celebration in this nearly ideal setting, which dates back to 1850.

I had a similar feeling the first time I went upstairs in the Whaley House. And again the first time Bruce Coons looked at the yard outside and said "What about A Midsummer Night's Dream?"

Since I retired from the Union-Tribune in 2001 and joined the SOHO board, one of my main preservation interests has been to recreate some of the city's rich 19th century theatrical culture. Both The Gift of the Magi that year and A Midsummer Night's Dream in the summer of 2002 were successful one-time projects.

With the Adobe Chapel, however, SOHO has a chance to move much further towards my goal by restoring an old tradition and repeating it annually.

There is concrete evidence that a Pastorela was performed in the Mission San Diego de Alcal´ as early as 1829. Probably there were presentations even in the 18th century, since the play came to the New World with Cortez. Certainly, the tradition is appropriate for a place like Old Town, a monument to a shared Latino-Anglo-Native American heritage.

La Pastorela is part play and part ritual, a version of the biblical story of the shepherds' journey to Bethlehem after Jesus Christ's birth. The speeches, the music, even the cast of characters have varied widely over the centuries and across the Americas. But always, the main language has been Spanish.

For La Pastorela at the Old Adobe Chapel, a special script has been developed by Luis Torner, a Mexican actor and director of long experience with pastorelas, that combines both Spanish and English in a version that will be comfortably understood by everybody.

Torner and I will direct the show with a paid cast augmented by volunteers. Detailed plans are still in the works but the idea is to make the entire experience as authentic and magical as possible, with acoustic music, traditional sets and costumes and even candlelight.

There will be two performances each evening December 15-23, at 6 and 8pm. Since the chapel seats only 50 persons comfortably, this means that only 900 tickets will be available.

I certainly hope that all SOHO members and their families will be among the first to make reservations. Because, while I'm confident that La Pastorela will become an annual seasonal event, I am very afraid that we'll be turning people away by the end of this year's debut run.

Tickets are on sale now. For reservations and tickets call (619) 297-7511 or (619) 297-9327, or stop by the SOHO Museum Shop at 2476 San Diego Avenue in Old Town. Admission is $15 for adults, and $10 for children and seniors over 65. Seating is very limited; advance reservations are strongly encouraged.

We would like to thank our sponsors who are helping to underwrite our production: Cafe Coyote and Historic Old Town Community Foundation, and a very special thank you goes to the cast and crew.

2005 - Volume 36, Issue 4


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2476 San Diego Avenue · San Diego CA 92110 · Phone (619) 297-9327
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