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Pastorela returns to spoof and cheer
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Pastorela returns to spoof and cheer

Doug Ducey and Carly Fiorina will be in Tucson this weekend.

So will Celine Dion, the evil witch from Snow White and Donald Trump.

They are all among the angels and the devils in Borderland Theater’s “A Tucson Pastorela.”

The play is back for its 19th season after a hiatus last year due to a new producing director and smaller budget.

“People just kept asking for it,” says Milta Ortiz, who is behind the script, which is rewritten every year to reflect topical issues.

“There was a committee on Facebook about bringing back the Tucson pastorela. We do socially relevant plays, and this one is a lot more fun than some of the plays we’ve done in the past. Some people look forward to it.”

This year the cast and venue are smaller, but the format is the same — the shepherds’ journey to see the baby Jesus. It is filled with Christmas carols, satire, and modern pop songs sung in English and Spanish.

If you find Ortiz rhyming while she’s speaking, it’s understandable: Pastorelas are traditionally written in verse.

Ortiz spent three weeks in October researching and writing the script, an online rhyming dictionary as her companion.

“The lines reveal themselves,” Ortiz says. “You get into this state of mind where all of a sudden you’re talking and still rhyming and your mind just goes there and its hard to turn it off. It’s really playful.”

The family-friendly script is a crazy mashup of this year’s events on local and national levels: pop culture references combined with political candidates and Disney throwbacks.

Yet there is a larger message in the pastorela.

“Good eventually overcomes evil,” says, Jim Klingenfus, the musical director. “Evil is always lurking in the background, but evil is essentially weak. We, by our actions or inactions, give evil its power. That’s why we make it comedic … and this is a season of hope.”

Klingenfus started the Facebook page last year as a type of record, posting links to the songs and allowing community members who were a part of the pastorela to gather.

“This is a very distinctive and unique take on a nativity play that speaks with the kind of voice you don’t hear anywhere else,” Klingenfus says. This will be Klingenfus’ 17th Tucson Pastorela production.

“I think the story is beautiful,” says local folklorist Jim Griffith. “The things that change are topical and regional commentary, and that is always very funny and exciting.”

And this: “It’s the hero’s journey, and people innately follow that story,” Ortiz says. “It symbolizes a rebirth and that people can overcome. It’s such a long tradition, and something in it speaks to humanity. People want to be a part of it.”

Callie Kittredge is a University of Arizona journalism student apprenticing at the Star.

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Kathleen has covered the arts for the Star for 20 years. Previously, she covered business, news and features for the Tucson Citizen. A near-native of Tucson, she is continually amazed about the Old Pueblo's arts scene and feels lucky to be covering it.

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