“The Birth” Returns to Charlotte Stage for Sixth Consecutive Christmas Season

Print Friendly

GWU alumnus and show’s developer, Nathan Rouse, excited to present “Christmas in three dimensions”

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. — The unconventional nativity drama “The Birth,” developed by Gardner-Webb alumnus Nathan Rouse (’02), has moved to Uptown Charlotte for its sixth Christmas season on the Charlotte stage.  The 2011 season opens on Dec. 12 and runs through Dec. 19 at the Duke Energy Theater, part of Charlotte’s Spirit Square.

The season also features a special “Celebration Night” on Dec. 16, during which guests will enjoy a performance of the show at 6:30 p.m., followed immediately by a talk-back with the cast and a concert by singer-songwriter and cast member Sara DeShields.

Rouse describes “The Birth” as “an unorthodox presentation of the traditional Christmas nativity story.”  Rouse conceived the idea for “The Birth” while pondering the writings of the Pulitzer-nominated writer, pastor and theologian Frederick Buechner.  The show’s three central monologues, told from the perspectives of the innkeeper, the wise man, and the shepherd in the nativity story, are based on Buechner’s work.

“When reading Buechner for the first time, it really struck me, the depth of the characters from whose perspective he writes,” Rouse explained.  “We often forget that these are real people.  We think of the innkeeper as just somebody who utters one line—“There’s no room in the inn.”  But the monologues help us imagine what that experience must have been like for him. You can imagine that experience haunting him afterward, that he might run from that memory rather than find joy in retelling the story.  That perspective put meat on the bones of these characters for me for the first time.

The show also features live acoustic music written originally for “The Birth.”  The set and costume designs are not the focus, according to Rouse. The show basically takes place on an empty stage, aside from some instruments and a few stools on which the cast members sit.  For Rouse and company, the challenge—and the joy—is to sing, to dance, to speak, and to transport the audience to the scene of the nativity through imaginative power alone.  It’s what he calls the “purist kind of theatre.”

“One of the beautiful things about the setup of ‘The Birth’ is that the actors are not behind a curtain when they’re not performing.  They’re sitting in the open, experiencing and enjoying the performance along with the audience.  And as silly as it sounds, I am as compelled by the material as the audience is.  We really have, whether supernaturally or otherwise, found a way to cut through the clutter and discover Christmas in three dimensions.”

In an effort to expand “The Birth’s” audience and influence, Rouse chose to reach out this season to churches in the Charlotte region, even hosting a Pastors Night in which pastors were invited to enjoy the show free of charge and given promotional material to take back to their churches.  The company will also give satellite performances for the first time, in an effort to share their perspective on Christmas with more believers.  “We really believe we have something special,” Rouse said, “and we want churches to be able to share in that too.”

For tickets or more information about “The Birth,” visit thebirth.net.