Giant puppets put playful spin on Missouri church’s nativity story
The three Wise Men used during the annual nativity performance at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ are so big it takes three people to operate each one. Standing nearly 10 feet tall, the larger-than-life puppets are the stars of the show at the Kansas City, Mo., church, which draws more than 200 people from the community each Christmas Eve.
“Why not giant puppets?” said the Rev. Jodie Wright, pastor of St. Peter’s UCC. “They help tell a very big story in a very big way.”
St. Peter’s UCC began its unique giant puppet nativity performance about 10 years ago. Members helped construct the giant Wise Men using paper mâché for their heads and fabric for their bodies. The play also incorporates three shepherds, played by adults wearing costumes and large paper mâché masks, and a “multitude” of angel windsock puppets made by children of the church out of fabric and cardboard. Wright pens a new script each year that has a different twist on the traditional story, which is then performed by church members.
“It’s a family-friendly service,” Wright said. “I have to say that the elderly people love it as much as the little kids.”
St. Peter’s UCC is not the only area church that has fun with the giant puppets. The church loans them to several other Kansas City congregations for special events throughout the year. Bethel UCC utilizes the puppets during an annual fall festival, and Southwood UCC uses them each year during a holiday performance in early December. By incorporating such a playful spin, Wright hopes her church’s performance gives the timeless story new meaning and presents it to audiences in a memorable way.
“I hope it makes the story accessible not just something long ago and far away,” Wright said. “I hope it makes it something very real and present and large and in the moment.”
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