THE CHRISTMAS INTERLUDES I
“. . .The scene is the kitchen of that Inn in Bethlehem.”
It turns out that not everyone is pleased with the birth of a child in a manger in Bethlehem, and the more wondrous the events around the birth, the more skeptical the reaction. A cynical shepherd is angry when a servant girl brings news of the birth of a mystical child in the stable , now filled with people coming to pay homage.
THE CHRISTMAS INTERLUDES II
“. . . . The scene being made plain showeth forth that stable in Bethlehem. . . .”
This Interlude moves from the kitchen of the inn to the stable, where Maria rests with her new-born infant while Joseph watches over them. A serving maid enters bringing grain, news and irony-she has a sad younger brother whose name is Judas. Set in verse, Wilder’s odd-ball celebration of the miracle of the birth does not neglect the shadows that lie ahead, among them Judas and the shroud.
PROGRAM NOTE: These two Christmas Interludes were composed in 1916. Interlude I was published for the first time by Playscripts, Inc. in 2009. Interlude II appeared in the Oberlin Literary Magazine in December 1916, and was reprinted soon after in an anthology of Oberlin Verse, Wilder’s first appearance in an anthology. Among all of Wilder’s plays, short and full-length, Interlude II has the distinction of being the only work composed entirely in rhymed couplets. It is considered the best of the small number of Wilder ‘s published poems.
Wilder performed in Christmas pageants as a boy and remembered them fondly. In these playlets he seems to be saying, “If you want another Christmas pageant, let me show you how it might be done–and let’s be bold and playful about it!”
An especially playful element appears at the end of Interlude II where he suggests that the playlet be followed by The Second Shepherd’s Play, a medieval mystery play frequently performed during the Yuletide Season, and The Man Who Married a Dumb Wife, a comedy adapted from Rabelais by Anatole France and produced in translation in New York in 1915 by Granville Barker.