Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Puppets to bring the original, 4th century St. Nicholas to life

Expand Messages
  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20081201/news/312019994 Puppets to bring the original, 4th century St. Nicholas to life By Jennifer Jackson Peninsula
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2008

      Puppets to bring the original, 4th century St. Nicholas to life

      By Jennifer Jackson
      Peninsula Daily News

      PORT TOWNSEND WA -- It's the second night of rehearsals, and Stephen
      Schumacher is still having trouble getting his character's moves right.

      For one thing, the character keeps buckling at the knees.

      He also tends to drag his feet on stage.

      It's even a struggle to get him to open his mouth when he says his lines.

      "I'd like to do a better job of mouthing the words," Schumacher said,
      "but opening the mouth is hard. My hand starts to cramp."

      Schumacher is one of the six puppeteers of the 4th Century Players
      now rehearsing for a performance at the St. Nicholas program at St.
      Herman of Alaska Orthodox Christian Church on Thursday.

      Now in its 10th year, the free, family-oriented program features 4th
      century choral music and a visit from St. Nicholas himself, who
      brings bags of chocolate coins for the children.

      But the highlight of the evening is the performance of the true story
      of St. Nicholas, also known as Santa Claus, by the players and their
      cloth counterparts -- six large, colorfully-costumed Muppet-like
      puppets created by Leni Rodes of Sequim.

      "I feel like the hidden star behind the show is the woman who created
      these beautiful puppets," Schumacher said. "They make it real."


      Rodes, a retired kindergarten teacher who moved to Sequim from Texas
      10 years ago, prefers to work behind the scenes, even declining a
      request that she be photographed, saying she is a "private person."

      During her years as a teacher, she developed a technique of turning a
      large cloth doll into whatever puppet character she needed for her class.

      The puppets operate by inserting one hand in the back to move the
      mouth, and holding a metal rod in the other that moves the marionette's hand.

      When Rodes told the church she was making puppets, they expected
      simple figures with papier-mache heads and cloth robes.

      They were amazed when she presented them with large, elaborately
      coiffed and costumed characters.

      "It brings a level of professionalism that it wouldn't have had,"
      Schumacher said.

      The puppets made their debut last year, drawing a standing-room only
      crowd to St. Herman's, an onion-domed church at 1407 30th St., Port Towsend.

      Origin of Santa?

      According to the story, St. Nicholas secretly helps a poor old man
      provide dowries for his three daughters.

      How the bishop, a real person who lived in Asia Minor in the 4th
      century, supposedly delivered the sack of gold coins may be the
      origin of the Santa Claus story, according to Father Nicholas Kime,
      the priest of St. Herman's.

      "Saint Nicholas may be the most well-known saint in the world,"
      Father Nicholas said.

      "I think the reason he is so loved and well-known is because he's the
      perfect model of Christian compassion and love. He embodies the
      spirit of Christmas."

      St. Nicholas is also the patron saint of children and sailors, and
      one of the 318 bishops who attended the first ecumenical conference
      in Nicea, Father Nicholas said.

      His saint day, Dec. 6, is celebrated in many countries, with children
      putting their shoes out the night before in hopes that St. Nicholas
      will come by and fill them with candy and gifts.

      Annual program

      At St. Herman's annual program, a church member portraying St.
      Nicholas makes an appearance, accompanied by angels who distribute
      the gift bags.

      The program, which will start at 6:30 p.m., will conclude with
      refreshments and crafts.

      This year Rodes made another puppet, one that resembles Father
      Nicholas, and presented it to him as a gift.

      Rodes also embodies the spirit of the holiday -- she's made about 50
      of the puppets over the course of her lifetime, she said, and given
      them all away.

      The St. Nicholas program is open to everyone.

      For more information, go to www.orthodoxporttownsend.com or phone 360-385-0585.


      Port Townsend/Jefferson County reporter-columnist Jennifer Jackson
      can be reached at jjackson@....
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.