Search for Peace: A Christmas Tradition in Curwensville

Audience members enter a past showing of a Search for Peace at the Curwensville United Methodist Church. (Photo provided by Paula Eshelman)

CURWENSVILLE – Fifty-eight years seems like a long time, depending on your perspective.

However, for an annual tradition, it is something that speaks both to the timelessness and timeliness of the message. 

The tradition is a part of Curwensville’s community pride and eagerly anticipated every year.

According to Director Lois Richards, it started with one woman who wanted something special for her church’s Christmas program. Laura Wright was dissatisfied with the Christmas pageants available.

She wanted to do something different and a pastor’s wife suggested that she should try writing her own play. The result is Curwensville United Methodist Church’s Search for Peace.

Now this children and grandchildren, and in some cases great-grandchildren, of those who first saw or performed in the play enjoy the tradition of experiencing the program. Many people return every year, saying that it kicks off the Christmas season for their families.

The play tells the story of the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph, the mother and earthly father of Jesus. But there’s a twist.

The play, performed in the dark with spotlights used to highlight the areas of action, reaches across time, from the prophets to the birth of Jesus, the shepherds and the wise men, and it ties into the hearts of people today as the world continues to search for peace.

Richards noted how busy they have been working to get this year’s production ready. Everything is done by volunteers both on stage and behind the scenes. About three or four years ago, renovations began on the stages to make them easier to install, first the side stage, and the next year the main front stage.

Church member Bob Ingram, owner of Ingram Cabinetry and Casework, and his employees designed and help install the stages each year. People build sets, install lights, make costumes, help the actors practice and all that hard work pays off.

For the most part, the play has been the same through the decades, but Richards said there have been small changes here and there, added scenes or doing things slightly differently. But these changes don’t happen without careful consideration of whether a change is in line with Wright’s original vision.

The play is also not one for very young children. Richards said it is very dark in the auditorium—the play begins in the dark, with spotlights shining on the prophets of old at the beginning, then moving to the other scenes. So if you have a child who is uncomfortable with the dark, they may not enjoy the play.

Other than this caution and reminding people to arrive at least a half-hour early in order to get a seat, Richards said it is an event for the entire family.

This year’s Search for Peace will run Dec. 1 at 8 p.m., Dec. 2 at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Dec. 3 at 4:30 p.m. only.

Due to the popularity, it is a good idea to arrive early, as the seats are first come, first served. Groups of 10 or more people can call ahead to reserve seats by calling 814-236-1976.

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