The young actors in Karol Wojtyla's Nativity Play took their lines from a traditional Bible translation.


The young actors in Karol Wojtyla's Nativity Play took their lines from a traditional Bible translation.

December 3, 2012

In producing a children's nativity play that she thinks the late Pope John Paul II would have liked, Mena Jewell refused to dumb things down.

The Karol Wojtyla Nativity Play, now in its sixth year, uses mostly the traditional language of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

"Where I could, I took huge chunks from Scriptures and put them into the words of the different actors," said Jewell, who has directed the play since its inception in 2007.

"I didn't abridge it, I didn't dumb it down, and I didn't make it any easier for them to remember their lines."

Jewell named the play in honour of Pope John Paul II because when he was still an ordinary priest, Father Karol Wojtyla made a point of having Christmas plays performed in various churches, even with risks involved in doing so. The pope was an actor, with a keen interest in the theatre.

Karol Wojtyla's Nativity Play was presented at Grant MacEwan Community College. This year's hour-long, family-friendly play was held Sunday, Nov. 25, followed by a reception.

Jewell thinks her production is the only nativity play put on regularly in Edmonton.

"I was inspired by that. I thought, 'Why don't we do the nativity play again?' It's not a unique idea, and my suggestion is not original. But it's part of our culture, and we used to always do these things," she said. "The lovely tradition is being lost, and it's important to preserve it."

David Mayhew, 10, won the sought-after role of King Herod.


David Mayhew, 10, won the sought-after role of King Herod.

The cast was comprised of 42 children and teens, mostly from homeschooled families. There were no auditions. Instead, the older children were given first choice on the roles. Every year, the oldest boy tends to choose the role of King Herod.

"Nativity plays are part of our Christian heritage," Jewell said. "Somewhere along the way we forgot about doing nativity plays, and we switched over to How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and Disney versions of Christmas themes."

A teenage girl, Georgia Snethun, narrates the play. Her family has participated in the play for several years, and she enjoys the merriment of the experience.

"This play is different (from other Christmas plays). It's based on the namesake, Karol Wojtyla, so it's kind of what he would like, I think. It's more authentic, and lots of passages have been taken right from the Bible," she said.

Snethun said the Karol Wojtyla Play is different from a typical school pageant, and she urges her friends to participate in this nativity play. Rehearsals were not overwhelming, just once a week, about two and half hours each time.

"It's a good experience if you want to get on stage. The acting is very fun, and you meet a lot of new people," said Snethun.


One of the older girls in the production was Emily Walker, who played Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptist. This was her first time participating, although she has acted in other Christmas-based stories.

"I like the story of Christmas, and I like portraying it to people and showing them how Christmas is a true thing, and we should be celebrating that Jesus was born," said Walker.

What she found most enjoyable was wearing a colourful costume, holding the baby and expressing the true meaning of the season.

The full-scale nativity play was faithful to the words of the New Testament, portraying all of the events leading up to Jesus' birth, including the appearance of Angel Gabriel to Zechariah.

"It really shows the authenticity of it, and why Christmas is special. But it goes beyond, showing Zechariah and Elizabeth, and also the miracle of what Jesus did for us," said Walker.