Category Archive for: ‘David Hirzel’

“La Virgen Del Tepeyac” at Mission San Juan Bautista

Here is a show that will set a mood for the upcoming holiday season that has no Christmas music, no re-creations of the nativity, no heartwarming hallmark sentimentality.  It takes not in a theatre but in a church—Mission San Juan Bautista—where the thick adobe walls have echoed for two hundred years and still resound today with voices raised in song and praise.

“La Virgen Del Tepayac” is a vibrant retelling of an old story, the miracle of the four miraculous apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Aztec messenger Juan Diego in 1531.  Night has already fallen as we wait in line outside the mission, reading over the detailed synopsis of the story we are about to witness.  We’ll need this information, because the pageant is performed by El Teatro Campesino (“the peasant theatre”) entirely in Spanish.  Inside, we take our seats facing the center aisle with the altar at our right hand and the central raised stage at our left.

The lights dim; long blasts from a conch-horn echo through the darkened sanctuary, dancers clad in Aztec robes and feathers gather in the rear, and offer a song in salute and prayer to “Estrella del Oriente,” the Star of the East.  The year is 1519; enter the Spanish clergy and soldiers, a symbolic conquest, baptism of the Indios.  Appearing from the smoke and mist to our hero Juan Diego (Ruben C. Gonzalez), La Virgen is an apparition to us as well.

All this story is told with compelling music, great flashes of color and dance, moving through the mission from one end to the other and back again.  The great hall has been so built that spoken words are heard throughout with not need of amplification.  When La Virgen (Stephani Garcia Canedlaria) appears a second and third time to Juan Diego, her song captures the resonance of the great hall perfectly, a truly stunning performance.   There are turns of fine acting by the Bishop (Gustavo Mellado) and the Friars (especially Luis Juarez as Fray De Gante), some comic relief by Rosa Mari Escalante as Citlamina, a sprightly children’s dance, leading up to climactic dance and final apparition at the altar.

This show, adapted by Luis Valdez from an anonymous 18th century script, conveys all the wonder of Juan Diego’s vision and the miracle that became the seed of the Christianity to spread throughout Mexico.  As we depart into the crisp starlit night the entire ensemble sings “Vamos Caminando” and invite us to take our own journey with the true spirit, unity and essence of Christmas.

Mission San Juan Bautista, San Juan Bautista CA

Through December 16, 2012

Tickets and Information: or 1-800-838-3006

I heartily encourage you to take the trip to San Juan Bautista and see this remarkable pageant this year. Look for Posada de San Juan Hotel, a perfect blend of traditional appearance with modern hospitality ( in the midst of a town that seems to have changed little in the last century.





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