St. Elizabeth’s Church in Ridgewood cleverly adapted their Christmas pageant to make it pandemic-ready, while also continuing some of its traditional features, including many of its original costumes and props which date to 1947.
Filming outdoors in the early weeks of November – the first time their pageant has ever been fully recorded – they took advantage of the church’s buildings and grounds to enhance the Nativity story. Mary and Joseph knock on several of the church’s outer doors seeking shelter, and the angel who proclaims “good tidings of great joy” does so from high up in the church’s bell tower.
Siblings were cast in the few roles where children were less than six feet apart. Mary and Joseph are played by siblings, and the two children in the camel costume, as well as many of the shepherds, sheep, angels and archangels, are also siblings.
Masks were worn throughout the entire rehearsal, and only removed (if parents approved) for the short bursts of filming, and when children were at least six feet from others not in the same household. Children were dressed in their costumes outside by their parents, and each costume that was worn was later separated and quarantined for a suitable amount of time until it could be cleaned.
Narrators with speaking roles were filmed individually. The hymns were recorded by the children at their homes, using song tracks provided by St. Elizabeth’s Associate Choirmaster, Catherine Hostetler.
The Rev. Andy Olivo, Rector of St. Elizabeth’s, notes that the dedicated pageant committee (June Bové, Catherine Hostetler, Maggie Bird, Stephanie Ohnegian, Deanna Hoffman, and Greg Hostetler) worked long hours to make this happen, and reports that this has quickly become their most viewed video produced since the start of the pandemic.