The Christmas Play, an Ashley Hall Tradition
December 6 at 6:00 p.m.
The Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul
Free and open to the Charleston community
Few stories have been told around the world as frequently as that of the Nativity. At Ashley Hall, a particular telling has been a tradition for nearly a century.
Each December, in the twilight and intimacy of a beautiful church sanctuary in downtown Charleston Ashley Hall students parade as angels, jesters, kings, shepherds, and the full cast of the crèche to welcome the holiday season with Ashley Hall’s annual production of The Christmas Play. Add in the magical voices of the Red Choir accompanied by a skilled strings ensemble and you have a production cast in excess of one hundred in total—a production of grand proportion. A performance derived from fourteenth-century mystery plays in Chester, England, and a tradition at the school for more than ninety years, The Christmas Play was first directed by Mary Vardrine McBee, the founding head of school, in 1923. That Ashley Hall has carried this tradition into the twenty-first century is part of what makes it such a distinctive element of school life here.
“The Christmas Play is so uniquely Ashley Hall,” said Head of School Jill Muti. “Once a tradition for private and boarding schools, Ashley Hall is one of only a few independent schools in the country that continues to perform medieval mystery plays. With Ashley Hall’s foundation steeped in a classical curriculum, it’s obvious that a production based on medieval English literature would become one of our beloved traditions.”
Mystery, or scriptural, plays were a type of drama performed in England from the 1370’s until the latter half of the 16th century that traced the life of Christ. The entire series, 25 in total, were presented on the Feast of Corpus Cristi, which actually occurs in early June. Only four cycles still exist; the Chester Cycle, from which Ashley Hall plays are drawn, is one.
Happy Holidays from Ashley Hall!