For a 6,000-year old entertainment, The Pastorela sure gets around. It’s performed all over the world every Christmas, perhaps most devotedly and hilariously in Mexico. The satire and personalities change every year, but there’s always a protagonist, shepherds, wise men, angels, Lucifer and Satan. The demons create trials and temptations the protagonist must overcome to assure Jesus’ birth. Two animals traditionally act as a Greek chorus.
A dog and sheep open this year’s Borderlands show by taking a knee; the satire and send ups roll from there, nonstop. Borderlands presents its 21st Pastorela Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 14 through 17, at the Leo Rich Theatre. Visit the Borderlands website
for details and reservations.
Writer Milta Ortiz says, “The animals let the audience know it’s going to be a fun show. You can holler and sing along and laugh.” This year’s news, she says, offered almost too much fodder for the show’s political comedy. “It was ‘How do we pick?’,” she says. “I never like to give spoilers,” she says, “but I really didn’t even have to parody some things that happened because they were already funny.”
Our spies tell us, spoilers aside, that Vladimir Putin’s ways with the ladies, his swagger and bravado made excellent Pastorela material, as did the Russian manipulation of “fake news.” Immigration issues continue to provide balloons for Pastorela puncturing. The current show highlights the plight of DACA children – those brought to the U.S. by their parents as children and now under threat of deportation. And, in an epic scene, torn from actual headlines, Donald Trump throws corn and paper towels.
Thankfully, some things never change. Asked who’s performing pre-show warm-up music, Ortiz says, “It's always Gertie and the TO Boys.” They’re the pride of the Tonono O’odham Nation’s, irresistible Waila dance tradition.
This year, Borderlands revamped more than just the Pastorela’s political content, though. Producing director Marc David Pinate also gave it an updated look and a fresher feel. “It’s like when there’s a new cast on Saturday Night Live,” he says. The comparison is apt.
Pinate credits a series of improv workshops he held for the show’s all-new cast over the summer. “I hoped the (players) would get more comfortable with each other, just to have that openness to play like improv does. I told the actors first thing, ‘If you have an idea, just go for it. If it works, we'll put it in the script.’
“The temptation scenes are straight-out comedy sketches.”