The Christmas Pageant - a Jamestown tradition
The Christmas Pageant, staged every year at the Shoreby Hill Green on Christmas Eve, has been a Jamestown tradition since 1975.
Founder Jeanne Bunkley used a pageant held in Bronxville, N. Y. since 1914 as a model for the annual island event.
Bunkley stepped down as director in 2005 and the duties were passed to Susan W. Lutes, a respected fund-raiser who is well known for participating in community projects and activities.
"The pageant is a re-enactment of the Nativity at the manger in Bethlehem," Lutes said. "It is a cherished tradition that reiterates the true meaning of Christmas. Every year, more people attend. We want to encourage everyone to join us in this Christmas Eve celebration. Many island residents contribute their time, funding, and talents to make this event better every year. The performance is wonderful, the staging is superb, and everybody has a good time singing the songs and listening to the readings."
Lutes went on to say that the cast includes three wise men, Joseph and Mary, ten angels, seven shepherds, and three lay readers. She also said that two guitar players and a family that sings Christmas carols provide the music. In addition, Lutes said that four sheep are provided by Don and Heather Minto from Watson Farm, "and we even have a donkey, courtesy of Nick Robertson."
She said that everyone in atten- dance participates in the pageant. Programs with lyrics to the carols are provided so the audience can sing with the cast. Lay readers Ray Dunlevy, Jim McLoughlin, and Charlotte Richardson read the prayers and the blessing.
Lutes also explained how the cast is chosen. She said that the angels come from the Girl Scouts and the shepherds are Boy Scouts, Lions, Rotarians, and VFW members. The wise men are community leaders chosen for their contributions to the community. Mary has always been a student, and Joseph is a volunteer.
The carols tell the story of Christ's birth, and the cast and audience sing them together throughout the half-hour program, Lutes said. She also said that the costumes are from the original cast and are passed on from year to year. "Every year we have a rehearsal a week in advance, and the costumes are adjusted to fit new cast members."
The pageant is primarily sponsored by the Jamestown Lions Club. However, the Rotary Club, VFW, and American Legion are also involved. Lutes made a point of thanking Bill Munger and Conanicut Marine for their tremendous contribution of time and equipment to provide the staging, lights and sound for the annual event.
Lutes encourages everyone to attend and participate in the pageant which will be held at 5 p.m., Dec. 24, at Shoreby Hill Green. She also said to bring a flashlight because the pageant takes place in the dark, and a flashlight is necessary to read the lyrics. The only reason the pageant is ever canceled is if it rains, Lutes said.