One of the most popular quotes from playwright William Shakespeare is “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” For “Night at the Barn,” a live nativity put on by the Tabor Mennonite Youth Fellowship, not only will men and women be players, but varieties of farm animals will as well.
Various farm animals will be involved in the live nativity scene in a barn on the farm of Maynard Knepp and Carol Duerksen. Included are donkeys, sheep, goats, and even guineas and pigeons.
One barnyard animal, Duerksen said, could be involved in the program, but only if it feels like showing up.
“The peacocks have the run of the farm,” Duerksen said. “It’s all about if we can tempt them into a pen with grain ahead of time and catch them.”
Lots of preparation goes into “Night in the Barn,” which some of the animals have come to recognize.
“The donkeys love going in the barn,” Duerksen said. “They’ve done this so much that our preparation involves them standing out there saying, ‘When can we go in? We’re ready for this event, can we go in now?’ which is really fun.”
In order for animals to be chosen to participate in the nativity, one factor is more important than others — cuteness.
“The cute factor carries a lot of weight,” Duerksen said. “Cute, people friendly — those would be the strong things.”
Another deciding factor is if the type of animal could have possibly been at the actual nativity.
“It’s good if it’s something that could have been at the first Christmas,” Duerksen said. “We don’t have any camels, but it really has to do with what’s new as far as babies or if they’re cute or love people.”
One participator in the event, a llama named Dance, loves getting to know visitors.
“We have a llama that is very curious and inquisitive,” Duerksen said. “We say she gives people kisses when in reality she’s just checking them out to see if she likes them.”
Sometimes the animals can be scene-stealers, including one goat that would take over a bale where Mary was supposed to sit.
“A couple years ago, we also had a goat that we let roam around with people, and she’d be talking with people the whole time,” Duerksen said. “We may do that this time.”
Duerksen said the event is kept simple, with guests either singing Christmas carols A cappella or with a guitar.
“We don’t use taped music,” Duerksen said. “Everything has to be natural.”
The animals also sometimes get to show off their vocals during the event as well.
“There have been times when we’re singing ‘Away in the Manger,’ and right when you come to the part of the cattle lowing, they join in,” Duerksen said. “They say ‘Oh, it’s time for our part!’”
That’s one of the things about live performance — you never know what may happen.
“Animals are animals,” Duerksen said, “and those are some of the more fun things when animals do what animals do.”
“Night at the Barn” will be from 6 to 8 p.m Dec. 17 and 18 in the barn of Duerksen and Maynard Knepp between Goessel and Hillsboro on Falcon Rd. north of 150th Rd.