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‘The Shepherds’ Play’ set for tonight at Church of the Pacific

PRINCEVILLE — You could say, and you would be right, that Bruce Fehring knows the shepherd Gallus well.

He knows his mannerisms, his expressions, his body language, even his words. He knows exactly what Gallus is going to say and when.

Of course, that’s what happens when you’ve been playing the same part for nearly three decades.

“It’s a great story, well told,” Fehring said. “We love bringing it to the audience.”

Fehring and the rest of the cast will be performing “The Shepherds’ Play” tonight, 7:30, at Church of the Pacific in Princeville.

It is described as “a medieval passion play of the Nativity,” and a “family-friendly, reverent, comedic, musical theater experience.” It is considered good fun for all ages.

It includes solo and group musical numbers, comes but once a year, and is free.

“It’s our present to the community,” Fehring said.

“The Shepherds’ Play” dates back more than a century. It is written in Old English vernacular and the entire play is spoken in Old English and in rhymes. Alliteration is important in “The Shepherds’ Play.”

It has been performed for about 30 years on Kauai. There are 11 roles — Mary, Joseph, four shepherds, three innkeepers, Angel Gabriel and the Star Singer.

Some parts, like Gallus, are passed down through generations and played by the same person or kept in the family each year. Others are taken on by new cast members.

The first half of the fast-paced play focuses on Mary and Joseph. The second, on the shepherds. There are initially three, but a fourth comes along.

“The shepherds are quite funny, comical in nature,” Fehring said.

When Fehring first joined “The Shepherds’ Play,” he had the role of Servillus, the mean innkeeper. He wasn’t wild about it.

“I quickly realized I didn’t want to be typecast in the role,” he said.

So he took on the role of Gallus, the lead shepherd joined by shepherds Huckle and Huckle, and has since kept it. Gallus is a good guy.

“I know the play so cold,” Fehring said. “I wouldn’t have to go to every rehearsal.”

He loves knowing the role so well, having the musical on the North Shore and that it tells the story of Christ’s birth in a way that speaks to all ages.

“Little kids can be cracking up in the front row,” he said.

The church can hold about 100 people, and the cast is hoping every seat is filled.

“It’s not meant to make money,” Fehring said. “It’s just meant to be a gift.”

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