OWATONNA — After a performance for their fellow students Thursday afternoon, St. Mary’s will open their play, “Bethlehem or Bust: How the Three Kings Teamed Up to Deliver the World’s First Christmas Presents,” to the public Friday and Saturday nights.
“This is the longest play we’ve ever done,” said Stacey Mulet, who has been directing St. Mary’s plays for the last decade.
Usually, the fall play is a comedy or fairy tale, but this year, she said, “I found a Christmas play I really liked and wanted to do.”
This is the first time “we’ve ever done a Christmas play,” but it’s filled with plenty of roles for students in grades six, seven and eight, she said. There are 22 in the total cast, as well as five in the stage crew, and Mulet — as well as her assistant director, Lynn Peterson — have been working with students on the production for the last two months.
As one might expect, the play, written by Jeff Lewonczyk, is based — albeit loosely — on the biblical story of the three wise men, she said. However, “it’s not biblically-accurate at all; it’s comedy and fiction,” Mulet said.
Still, the play teaches valuable lessons, despite the light tone. The three kings are very different from one another At first, that breeds resentment, but they eventually “team up and work together to achieve their goal,” she said
One of those kings boasts a particularly impressive vocabulary. “I’m the smart one,” said Zach Lenz, the eighth grader playing him. “I like to think I hold the group together.”
Though he’s enjoying this year’s show, perhaps his favorite play came in 2015, when he was one of the three little pigs in a Cinderella spin-off, he said. “All the characters were funny in that wacky play.”
Jacob Klecker, a seventh-grader, auditioned specifically for the role of the “aggressive, short-tempered king,” he said. “Little things get him boiled up.
“I have lots of lines, over 100, but I like freaking out at people. I looked at the script and wanted this character.”
The final king is an inventor played by Thomas Leon, who, like Klecker, auditioned specifically for the part. “It’s fun to have a [truly] lead role, but there are a lot more lines,” he said.
The villain in this production is King Herod, played by Zachary Liebl in a 180-degree reversal of fortune from his role as a charming prince in last year’s play. He’s not complaining, however, because playing a villain is “fun.”