Many years, the Waldorf School of Atlanta offers the Shepherd’s Play as a gift to our community. Teachers, Parents and Friends of the school organize, rehearse and perform this play.
The Shepherd’s Play was found and written down in the middle of the 19th century from the small island of Oberufer on the Danube, close to the borders of Austria and Hungary. Some time in the early 16th or 17th century, a group of German people had migrated there from the neighborhood of Lake Constance. They had taken with them the cycle of religious plays which they had received by tradition from their ancestors. When the plays were collected the parts were still hereditary in certain families. No complete copy existed but each family treasured a manuscript of the words of one particular part. Surrounded as they were by people of a different nation, and speaking a different language, the peasants of Oberufer preserved unaltered both the text itself and the tradition of acting.
In the autumn, after harvest, the peasants who were to take part met together and rehearsals began. All parts were played by men, as in the Elizabethan theatre, and during the time of rehearsal, all members of the cast had to lead (as far as they could) a moral and respectable life, abstaining alike from visits to alehouses and from the singing of bawdy songs. Before the actual performance the whole company went in procession through the village.
The form of the play is such that the actors sing a song in procession, after which the characters concerned come forward and act what has just been sung, while the rest of the company seat themselves at the back or side of the stage.
The Shepherds Play is a beloved tradition in most Waldorf Schools, a gift from the adult community to the children. We are happy to share this play with you and wish you a joyous and blessed Christmas season.
In my heart a shepherd
In my head a king
Before the child together
They offer what they bring.
The heart will fire the head
The head will light the heart
The Spirit Child within
Will know Love’s healing art.
–From Notes by A.C. Harwood