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Photographs by Jerome Lipani


for excerpts and promo from Lost Nation Theatre visit their website


Listen here for an interview with playwright David Budbill on Vermont Public Radio



Presenting back-to-back one-act plays with nearly identical plot lines sounds potentially redundant, but Budbill and TWO FOR CHRISTMAS create fun with the comparison. . . . TWO FOR CHRISTMAS is a well-acted, amusing double bill . . . . The two plays in the Lost Nation production share sharp direction by Andrew Doe (who led the company’s compelling version of Budbill’s A SONG FOR MY FATHER in 2010) and terrific acting not just from Nuner and Ash but also from the remainder of the half-dozen performers — Mark Roberts, Andrew Butterfield, Morgan Irons and Ashley Nease — taking on dual roles. Central Vermont fiddler Susannah Blachly provides subtle but vivid musical links in both productions.

Burlington Free Press, December 4, 2012


[This is} a charming and entertaining production of David Budbill’s TWO FOR CHRISTMAS. . . very funny, but also quite touching in it’s basic Christian message. . . . TWO FOR CHRISTMAS is a great way to celebrate a real Vermont Christmas.”

The Barre Times Argus, Rutland Herald, December 1, 2012


The play artfully combines a wondrous and raucous medieval English miracle play, THE SECOND SHEPHERDS’ PLAY, of 1479, with a
contemporary retelling of [Budbill’s] own creation, A PULP CUTTERS’ NATIVITY, set in rural Vermont. . . . Budbill brings humor to his
narrative without ever losing a sense of reverence for the archetypal event of Christ’s birth. He maintains the underlying empathy for the
poor inherent in the humble circumstance of the nativity.

Hardwick Gazette, the week of November 21, 2012


When queried as to the play’s message, Budbill replied, “One of the messages is that in 500 years times haven’t changed that much . . .
Both plays are also hilariously funny, especially with these actors.”

The Bridge (Montpelier, VT) November 29-December 12, 2012


The lines to a play are like the score to a symphony, Budbill said. The notes don’t exist as sound until the conductor (the director) and
musicians (the actors) perform it.

The Rutland Daily Herald, November 22, 2012


TWO FOR CHRISTMAS was first produced in 1996. . . . Why bring back the work now? The playwright’s answer is simple, “Because
people wanted to see it. And I thought it was time. So did [Andrew] Doe, who once again directs. . . TWO FOR CHRISTMAS is a “really
hilarious” [Budbill} alternative to seasonal staples A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker.

Seven Days, November 28-December 5, 2012

Synopsis of the Play

Act One, THE SECOND SHEPHERDS’ PLAY, is set in Wakefield, England, in 1479. Mak, a sheep thief, steals a lamb from three shepherds and takes it home to his cantankerous wife, Gil. When the shepherds arrive at Mak’s cottage in hot pursuit, Gil puts the lamb in the cradle and jumps into bed herself pretending she has just had a baby. Thus the most unholy of nativities is created. After the shepherds decipher the ruse they return to their flock and on the way they encounter The Angel of the Lord who announces the birth of The Christ. The shepherds then go to Bethlehem and worship the newborn child. Nine-tenths outrageous and hilarious parody, one-tenth devout adoration, THE SECOND SHEPHERDS’ PLAY has come down through the ages as the most entertaining and inventive of all the medieval English miracle plays. This new translation by David Budbill renders the play in modern English yet retains the original poetical form, both the pre-Elizabethan cadences and the original rhyme scheme.

Act Two, A PULP CUTTERS’ NATIVITY, set in northern Vermont in 1979, exactly 500 years later, is a funny, sad, raucous, raunchy and devout recreation of THE SECOND SHEPHERDS’ PLAY. Characters from Budbill’s well known JUDEVINE return to act out this modern version; woodcutters, Antoine, Doug and Vietnam veteran Tommy Stames, take the place of the 15th century shepherds and a stolen chain saw replaces the stolen lamb. JUDEVINE’S Arnie also returns to become the thief, and Arnie’s cantankerous wife, Gil plays the original Gil. In this version the Announcing and Attending Angel is a waitress from the local diner. PULP CUTTERS’ NATIVITY follows the original play very closely, almost speech for speech, and within those speeches there is great similarity in content. The two plays illuminate each other and make for a warm hearted, entertaining, compassionate and honest contemporary alternative to A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

Ample space for the generous use of music within and surrounding both plays. With music, running time is a little under two hours. Strong language. Four Men/Two Women, plus musician or musicians. Simple set. Those interested should contact the author at the address and phone above or his agent:

Literary and Theatrical Agent:
Susan Schulman,
The Susan Schulman Literary Agency,
454 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036
phone: (212) 713-1633
fax: (212) 581-8830


Note: This short essay is usually printed as an insert in the program



The Second Shepherds’ Play is one in a cycle of thirty-two Biblical plays, from creation to apocalypse, written and performed in and around Wakefield, England, in the middle of the 15th Century. The church created these plays in order to teach the peasantry the literature of the Bible. Members of the various medieval guilds wrote, produced and performed most of these plays communally.

The Second Shepherds’ Play however is so distinctive, has about it so much the stamp of an individual author, that the play has come down to us as written by a particular person known only as “The Wakefield Master.” Miracle plays are devout, often humorous, and always entertaining. The Second Shepherds’ Play is that and more. The whole play except for a short and orthodox scene at the very end is an outrageous and warm-hearted parody of the nativity in which a sheep thief, his cantankerous wife and a stolen lamb comprise the unholy family.

For his play The Wakefield Master invented a complex and daunting stanza full of internal as well as end rhymes. The form, by the way, is similar to the stanza in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the second, after Beowulf, great work in English literature. Here are two examples of the original, each stanza followed by my translation; the first somewhat free, the second more literal.



Sich servandys as I,    that swettys and swynkys,

Etys oure brede full dry,    and that me forthynkys;

We ar oft weytt and wery    when master-men wynkys;

Yit commys full lately    both dyners and drynkys,

Bot nately.

Both oure dame and our syre,

When we have ryn in the myre,

Thay can nyp at oure hyre,

And pay us full lately.


Such a servant as I    who works and who sweats

Yet must eat his bread dry    is aggrieved and bereft.

Still at work and bone tired   while the rich are asleep

I come home tardy and weary     to my dinner and drink–

Such as it is.

Should perhaps I blunder or miss even one day

The Sire will be happy to interrupt his play

To upbraid me, insult me and dock me my pay–

Such as it is.

Hayll, derlyng dere,    full of Godhede!
I pray the be nere    when that I have nede.
Hayll, swete is thy chere!    My hart wold blede
To se the sitt here    in so poore wede,
With no pennys.
Hayll, put furth thy dall!
I bring the bot a ball:
Have and play the with all,
And go to the tenys.

Hail, darling dear    full of God’s seed.
I pray Thee be near    when I have need.
Hail! Hail! sweet is Thy cheer!    But my heart bleeds
To see Thee lie here    so much in need,
With no pennies.
Put forth Thy hand so small!
The gift I bring is but a ball:
Have it and play Thee withal
At the tennis.


It is clear that the Wakefield Master had a well developed political and social conscience; he understood the nature of his society’s injustices. He knew the poor man’s condition, and he was not afraid to let his characters speak of it acrimoniously. But in addition to his sharp tongue, the writer also had a bubbling and irrepressible sense of humor. Although the play is a parody and has ironic moments, it is never bitter; it is lighthearted, joyful and extremely funny. The Wakefield Master was a good-natured fellow and it was impossible for him to speak critically without at the same time seeing the human warmth and humor inherent in the situation.

Sitting at my desk making my translation of The Second Shepherds’ Play  and again in the rehearsal hall as I saw the play come to life, I have been awed by its greatness. The characters are real people, finely drawn, distinct from each other; the author is in absolute control of the mood shifts; the scenes develop carefully and subtly, and the author’s heartfelt and committed engagement with his subject is obvious.

A Pulp Cutters’ Nativity follows the original play very closely, almost speech for speech, and within those speeches there is great similarity in content; in fact, in a number of places, where it worked, I used direct translations of the original lines–”My feet froze to my shoes.” “If I had the money I’d buy her a funeral.”

I have, however, tampered with the original in a few places. I altered slightly the personalities of some of the characters. I gave the angel the nativity narrative as she has it in the original, then added a portion of Jesus’ first public speech, the declaration of the jubilee year, because I think it is the penultimate message of the Christian gospel. I’ve moved the shepherds’ final singing forward a bit and written new lyrics. And I changed the mood of the end. My version ends with fear and foreboding; this is the modern age. I made up my own jokes, inserted an outburst about racism, because I think it is one of the most pressing issues of our time, added a second–more positive–view of marriage, and changed time, place, characters and dialect.

What amazed me as I wrote A Pulp Cutters’ Nativity was how easily and simply the original transferred from 15th Century England to 20th Century New England, which must be, I am afraid, a commentary on the changelessness of the human condition.

The central message of the Christian gospel is, in my opinion, that Christ came to give people hope. This gift was given originally, and must remain a special gift, to the poor, because to be poor, especially in America, is to be told every time you turn around that you should be ashamed, that you are hope-less.

The message of the Christian gospel is a denial of all that; it is an affirmation of self-respect and that is something the poor have never, nor will they ever, get from the societies of Caesar.

David Budbill

Advent 1996


Excerpts from Reviews and Previews for TWO FOR CHRISTAMS in 1996


Playwright David Budbill has created a special Christmas gift for Vermonters–a recreation of a 15th century play and a new “Judevine” play, each of which celebrate the nativity with humor and reverence.
TWO FOR CHRISTMAS features Budbill’s translation of “The Second Shepherds’ Play” and his new “Pulp Cutters’ Nativity.”
“The humor is very real in both plays,’ explained Andrew Doe, who directs the production. “What amazes me, and leaves me hopeful, is the incredible emotional hit that occurs when they go from the comic to the spiritual . . .”
“They’re both genuinely wacky plays, and then turn right around and become completely serious and devout about the nativity scene. If it works right, it should tear people’s hearts out–which is always my goal.” Budbill Said.


Jim Lowe


29 November 1996


David Budbill Revisits Judevine, and the Middle Ages, for the Holidays

[In TWO FOR CHRISTMAS] Budbill shows that, for good or ill, not much has changed in some 500 years. He transforms shepherds into woodsmen and sheep into chainsaws without a squeak of contrivance.

In his two versions of THE SECOND SHEPHERS’ PLAY, he draws together much of the crazy magic in the story of how a holy baby was born, in piercing cold, among thieves and drunkards, bringing hope and possibly justice to the ones who need it most.

It’s a wild story that turns Biblical lessons inside out, what with the lambs and the Holy Family imagery. Thus, it’s even more amazing when that thing called the true spirit of Christmas is evoked, and with such subtlety and grace. . . .

P. Finn MacManamy


11 December 199


Up in Judevine, only the props and costumes have changed since shepherds spied that star over Bethlehem.
Such was Vermont poet/playwright David Budbill’s proposition in TWO FOR CHRISTMAS, [and it’s] the real thing. Real, as in dirty, famished, foul-mouthed shepherds dressed in rags, ranting against social institutions before, literally, seeing the light. . . .
What a gritty story it was–unashamedly blasphemous in places, absolutely human throughout . . . [and] totally comical.
As one woman whispered . . . to a companion: “Now I’ve got the Christmas spirit.”


Debbie Salomon


28 December 1996





The underlying seriousness of both plays is reinforced by music maker Heidi Broner . . . . She also sings haunting melodies at the
beginning and end of both plays, and in general, overlays a brooding narrator-type presence onto the whole evening.

Jim Higgins


11 December 1996




David Budbill has hit pay-dirt again. TWO FOR CHRSTMAS . . . is a moving gift for the holiday season, as potent as 10 “Messiahs” or 15 viewings of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Dan Wolfe


18 December 1996




Two on-the-edge plays in one by Vermont author David Budbill: “The Second Shepherds’ Play” and “Pulp Cutters’ Nativity. Several characters from Budbill’s play “Judevine” reappear.

Melissa Garrido


5 December 1996

Production History of Two For Christmas

TWO FOR CHRISTMAS: Lost Nation Theatre, in conjunction with Center Stage Theatre Company. Vermont Tour, Nov. 29-Dec. 1 (Montpelier), Dec 7 & 8 (Hardwick), Dec. 13-15 (Burlington)

A PULP CUTTERS’ NATIVITY, Act Two of TWO FOR CHRISTMAS, Soulstice Theatre at The Hide House, Milwaukee, WI, January 8, 9 10

TW0 FOR CHRISTMAS, Center Stage Theatre Company, Vermont Tour, December 6-28, 1996