The Greatest Joys
As an actor, I live my craft as a storyteller. The characters I play help to tell a part of a larger story peopled by other characters and their journeys and our intersections with one another.
But sometimes, I am blessed to tell a singular story- one character’s journey standing alone.
I have performed in several one person shows- Joan Didion’s The Year Of Magical Thinking, The Testament of Mary, and Apples In Winter- all written by other authors- and I have written and performed my own solo works for several years.
One of my favorite stories to tell by far is the story of LaBefana, a folk tale figure from the Italian culture. The story of LaBefana centers around the holiday traditions of the celebration of the Epiphany, the day Christians (particularly Catholics) celebrate the three Magi arriving in Bethlehem and offering gifts and adoration to the newborn Jesus. In Italian folklore, the Magi traveled through a small Italian town where they encountered an old lady called LaBefana as she swept outside her small home. The strangers communicated to her that they were en route to Bethlehem and that they were searching for a newborn king. Their story so moved and entranced LaBefana that the strangers invited her to join them, but her own fear and doubt kept her from accepting their offer. She watched the Magi go and gazed up at the brilliant star that they told her was the herald of this new king. She wondered.
Once a few days after, the whole village was in an uproar. Everyone was leaving to travel toward Bethlehem to see the newly born king- who it was whispered was the son of God.
LaBefana knew in her heart it must be true. Before joining the rest of the village on their journey, LaBefana ran back into her home to search for a gift to bring to the babe, as she remembered thee Magi’s magnificent gifts. But when she came out of her house carrying a small doll she had once made out of scraps, everyone had gone and the brilliant star had gone dark. So, since that day, LaBefana has searched for the Jesu Bambino. The Christ child.
And on the eve of the Epiphany (January 5th), she will come down the chimneys of all the houses and look into the faces of the sleeping children, hoping to finally see the Jesu Bambino, and just in case she has looked into the face of the divine child, she leaves behind a gift.
Children in Italy (and some areas elsewhere) put out their shoes or socks on the eve of the Epiphany to receive LaBefana’s offered gifts. The Epiphany was celebrated in this way before the adoption of the Santa Claus legend. Now, Italy celebrates with both these iconic figures, but LaBefana, with her touching and beautiful story, remains my favorite.
I have been lucky enough to tell LaBefana’s story (as LaBefana) for Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center and the International Festival of The Holidays for the past 14 years. It is now time, in July, to re-audition for the role and hope to be selected to share this story with thousands of people from all over the world. Of all the storytelling I am fortunate to do in my life, this story stays in my heart through the year.
So- wish me luck in auditions!