With the posting of this play about Jesus as a 12 year old, my cycle of Holy Family plays is now complete*, and I’m very pleased with how they turned out. Please read them again as a group and let me know what you think.
Reading them over again myself, I find the following common threads running through them:
Jesus as a normal child
I felt it was important to counter sentiments like, “the little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes,” and so my baby Jesus farts, and my two year old Jesus is very terrible two, and my twelve year old Jesus not especially good with his hands. (A trait that I have persist into his adulthood.)
Joseph as a non-hero
Let’s never forget that, until he was visited by the angel, Joseph was planning to have Mary put away privately. This is often spun as a noble act (because he could have done much worse to her) and this is true, but it’s also true he could have done much better. Let’s also remember that, in accordance with the customs of the times, he was probably much older than Mary, and that the notion of romantic love wouldn’t be invented until centuries later.
As I reread these plays, I see that the weak link in my portrayals is Mary. She’s a mystery I failed to fully plumb. I did make a good start in the play of her name, as I tried to convey just how odd the Magnificat is, how unlike our usual impression of the mild and meek Mary is the voice that informs that poem (and turns it into good poetry, in contrast to Zechariah’s routine Song.) However, there were other mysteries surrounding Mary that I didn’t explore sufficiently: such as why she apparently didn’t tell Joseph about the visit of the angel and the Holy Spirit, but waited until “she was found to be pregnant.”
In every play, there’s a character that speaks for the sacred and numimous, for the mystery of the Kingdom. In “Out of Egypt”, it was the gypsy woman. In “Joseph”, it was the offstage angel. In “Mary”, it was Mary herself when in the grip of whatever it was that spoke the Magnificat through her, as well as Elizabeth as she uttered her own involuntary prophecy concerning the child Mary bore. In “Jesus”, that role is taken mostly by the Temple prophetesss Anna, and also partly by the 13 year old John the Baptist.
Those darn O.T. interpretations
One of the oddest things about the Gospel accounts is the use they make of Old Testament prophecy. It’s as if they were operating on a slightly different set of logical rules than the ones we usually use. I tried to call this out in both “Joseph” and “Out of Egypt”, and play on the idea in “Jesus” by making almost every OT quote he utters not quite apropos to the situation he applies it to.
* There are two other Gospel accounts of the family, the visit of the shepherds and the visit of the magi, but my original plan for The Wineskin Project was to cover only the regular Sunday readings. If I ever decide to go beyond that, it won’t happen for a while, and the plays might be written primarily from the point of view of the shepherds and the magi, anyway.