New York, New York (December 3, 2013)–The TV holiday special A NEW YORK CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER at St. Paul the Apostle, presented as a service of Lessons and Carols from The Church of St. Paul the Apostle, Manhattan, will be part of the Christmas Eve services at the church and air nationally December 24 at 11:35pm eastern/pacific and 10:35pm central on CBS. Regis Philbin will proclaim the Bible passages of the birth of Jesus as dramatized by the puppet characters created by the late Jane Henson. Originally named Nativity Story, the performance has delighted audiences since 2008 and is produced and funded by daughters Cheryl Henson and Heather Henson.
Throughout the hour-long special, Philbin will tell Biblical stories intercut with performances by Heather Henson, The Fordham University Choir, The National Children’s Chorus and the St. Paul The Apostle Choir.
A NEW YORK CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER at St. Paul the Apostle is a joint production of The Church of St. Paul the Apostle, Paulist Productions, and Scott Mirkin Productions. Rev. Gilbert Martinez, C.S.P., Marybeth Sprows, Rev. Eric Andrews, C.S.P. and Scott Mirkin will serve as Executive Producers. John P. Blessington is the Executive Producer for CBS. This show is made possible in part through a grant from the Mary R. and Joseph R. Payden Foundation in memory of William R. Payden. Funding for the puppet performances comes from The Jane Henson Foundation, Heather Henson (President of the Jane Henson Foundation and CEO IBEX, Inc.), Cheryl Henson (President of The Jim Henson Foundation) from the Henson family, and The Jim Henson Foundation. Puppets built by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.
Jane Henson’s Nativity Story Background:
Jane Henson, the wife of Jim Henson and co-creator of the original Muppets, was also an accomplished ceramicist, painter, and puppeteer. Throughout her life she was inspired by the classic story of the birth of Christ. The genesis of this version of the Nativity Story began 12 years ago. At that time, Jane was studying sacred art at Catholic University and was particularly interested in both written and visual depictions of the birth of Jesus Christ, including those three-dimensional nativity scenes whose appearance in medieval Europe is traditionally credited to St. Francis of Assisi. Her long association with puppetry and her Catholic background made the idea of a Christmas crèche, with figures that “come to life,” attractive to her.
In early 2008, Jane Henson put her vision into action and called like minds together, notably Sean Keohane, Director of Pinocchio’s Marionette Theater near Orlando, to create a new show that could tour churches. “Probably Episcopal churches,” Jane said, adding, “We’ll never get puppets in the Catholic Church.”
Her daughter Heather Henson’s own company IBEX Puppetry designed and built the set, Jane Henson sculpted the heads for the puppets and oversaw their design as Jim Henson’s Creature Shop built and costumed each unique character. After a successful workshop performance at the National Puppetry Conference in 2009, the Nativity Story played several times at Pinocchio’s Marionette Theater, always to sold-out houses, and went on to tour churches and schools in Central Florida.
Following her funeral in early April 2013, Father Eric Andrews, C.S.P., President of Paulist Productions and a Jim Henson Company Alum, approached Cheryl and Heather Henson with the opportunity to showcase the Nativity Story during CBS’s annual Christmas Eve Prayer Service. The holiday special will honor the legacy and artistry of their amazing Mother.
For the upcoming national broadcast Christmas Eve, new puppets have been added to the cast, including shepherds, sheep, a bowing donkey, and an endearing baby Jesus in the manger. Television personality Regis Philbin will proclaim the scripture as the nativity scenes come to life through Jane’s puppets. The Nativity Story will be performed at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Columbus Circle, the mother church of the Paulist Fathers. A Catholic Church! Jane would be most pleased.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org