Organizers for the Christmas Eve Pageant Photo Shoot were on edge as October 2 dawned. Would there be a lot of snow on the Bonanza Road sites where the pictures were to be taken? Would it be too cold that day? Would there be enough sunlight to get good shots?
It was, after all, a bit late in the season to do the shoot, which has taken place as early as August, but usually happens in September. And this year was ambitious. We usually shoot the needed pictures around the town. Dawson City is an incredible stage setting all on its own. This year we were going out of town.
For many years now the churches of Dawson have been avoiding the complications and chaos of putting on a live Christmas Eve Pageant by creating the centerpiece of the ecumenical Christmas Eve service as a slide show and shooting all the scenes well in advance.
Digital images and a PowerPoint slide show have made it so much easier than when you had to use film and two slide projectors, but you still have to plan the necessary pictures, organize a few hours to get them done, and decide what the theme will be.
We’ve pretended to be tourists headed for Bethlehem, gold rush stampeders, and a variety of other scenarios. Somehow there always seems to be a baby both young and old enough to stand in for Christ.
We began this year at Claim 33, a tourist stop owned by Sylvia Burkhard, who not only allowed us the use of the place, but filled in as one of the Bethlehem hoteliers who had no room at her inn.
After about an hour at that site, we packed up and moved to the Discovery Claim, which provided all sorts of backdrops. There were good spots for shepherds to watch over their flocks, for angels to deliver important messages to Mary, Joseph and those same shepherds. There was a good site to double as a stable where shepherds and Wise Men could come to visit.
Andrea Magee and I had a great time lining up shots, trying to keep our long shadows from encroaching into the frames, and getting different angles, while director Betty Davidson and a group of volunteers herded our young actors, switched costumes, handled props and generally kept things moving.
The last stop, on the way back to town, was at Dredge No. 4, which stood in for Herod’s palace, where the king met with the Wise Men and plotted to find and kill the Baby Jesus.
Post-production began a few weeks after this day, and on Christmas Eve St. Paul’s Anglican Church (as the largest of the three spaces) will host a joint Christmas Eve Pageant Slide Show and Worship Service early in the evening. The choir, gathered from all three congregations, has been rehearsing since the Sunday after Remembrance Day, and the leaders of all three congregations will conduct the service for a packed house.
It’s the last big community event before Christmas Day.