A tale of the early years of Jesus
Plowshare Farm: New York City storyteller in one-man show
In 1981, New York City-based actor Glen Williamson was on a theater exchange in Switzerland. He and a friend decided to take a day trip to Turkey to visit the House of the Virgin Mary, a Catholic and Muslim shrine purported to be the home where the mother of Jesus lived her last years, located on Mount Koressos. As he was traveling to the site, a few women making the same pilgrimage made a joke: “Now, which Mary is this supposed to be?”
The Bible is full of Marys, but the jest was referring to the two conflicting Nativity stories told in the Bible — the one in the Gospel of Luke and the one in the Gospel of Matthew. One offers the story of a young, innocent Mary, the other a wise Mother figure. And it’s not just Mary the two stories disagree on — the portrayal of the childhood and youth of Jesus is similarly divergent, with the Gospel of Luke detailing several events absent from the Gospel of Matthew.
The passing conversation overheard while in Turkey was the inspiration for Williamson to write a dramatic storytelling of Jesus’ early years that weaves the two versions together, allowing the two versions of the story to enhance each other. He will be performing the story, “The Incarnation of the Logos,” at the Plowshare Farm in Greenfield on Sunday night.
“[It’s] something I never noticed as a child,” said Williamson in an interview Thursday, about how the Matthew and Luke stories differ on the story of Jesus’ early life. “But since I’ve started telling this story in this way, I’ve had lots of people come up to me and say they’ve always wondered why the Matthew and Luke stories were so different.”
It’s not the first time Williamson has incorporated spirituality into his career, he said.
“My whole life quest has been to find and create spiritual substance. That’s what’s led me to most of the pieces that I do that deal with the real essential questions of what it means to be human,” he said. “In college, I majored in theater and anthropology and mythology, to create my own major that I called religious theater. I’m probably the only person in the history of the university to graduate with a religious theater major from University of California.”
“The Incarnation of the Logos,” which has been a work in progress since Williamson first ad-libbed a performance of it in 1998, is done with minimal props — a table, five candles and a snuffer, and no costume for Williamson. Even with that minimal set and blocking, the performance is given with many more aspects of a one-man show than straight storytelling. Williamson tells the nativity story, but his tale goes further than that, jumping back to the tale of Adam and Eve in the garden and moving forward, weaving in figures from other major religions, including Buddha, Zarathustra, Krishna, Adonis and Isis and Apollo, and culminates with the story of Jesus’s baptism.
“I don’t think anyone’s told this story pieced together in this form, but the content is not original with me,” said Williamson. “I think that’s what makes it a very moving story to many people, including me. It’s that archetypal story. It’s a central event in human history, but this complex interweaving is really about the birth and destiny of a child. In this case, a very special child, but that’s a story that resonates. There’s something really satisfying about a story that honors and acknowledges that theme of destiny back to the beginning of time.”
The show will be held at the Plowshare Farm in Greenfield on Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. and is open to the public. Plowshare Farm is a residential community for adults with developmentally disabilities. A donation of $10 is suggested to offset the costs of Plowshare community programs. The show is approximately one hour, 10 minutes with no intermission. For more information, see mysite.verizon.net/GlenWilliamson or www.plowsharefarm.org.