Dona nobis pacem

BURLINGTON - "We're not going to do Christmas anymore. I'm tired of celebrating the birthday of some guy who probably wasn't even born in December. Let's celebrate something real, like the days getting longer again. We're going to celebrate Solstice."

Mark Nash's stepfather issued that pagan proclamation when Nash was young. In a way, Nash is still a child. The Vermont Stage Company's producing artistic director has lost none of his joy and wonder through the years.

Since 2004, Nash and his company have celebrated Solstice in style with "Winter Tales." Contray to his stepfather's command, Nash has done Christmas grandly too.

This year's FlynnSpace f te began with Patti Casey and Pete Sutherland singing Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Longest Night of the Year." Chapin Carpenter's song searches for more than longer days. "Make a vow when Solstice comes," she implores, "To find the Light in everyone."

"Winter Tales" tried to do just that. Under strings of bright bulbs, and fortified by warm cider and tasty cookies, the FlynnSpace audience enjoyed seasonal stories of generosity and good will enhanced by Casey and Sutherland's fine music.

For example, Stephen Kiernan's "All Tucked In," read by Paul Schnabel, told of a newspaper crew being treated to two unexpected turkey dinners. Kathryn Blume's "Tea Cup" described a broken tea cup that, when seamlessly joined-together, provided hopeful sustenance to people who needed it.

Child that he is, Nash also presented an adaptation of Dylan Thomas's delightful "A Child's Christmas in Wales." You can hear Dylan Thomas himself reciting the lyrical tale at many websites, including archive.salon.com.

Reaching beyond Solstice, Nash and his company ended the evening's recitations with May Sarton's "1937 New Year Greeting." "Open your hearts tonight, let them burn!" Sarton prays. "Let them light a way in the dark."

Then, the company (and many members of the audience) softly sang "Dona Nobis Pacem [Give Us Peace]" together.

Mark Nash's stepfather would have approved.

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