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Manger effort

As the minutes ticked closer to start time Friday, costumed wise men, inn keepers, Roman soldiers and a certain expecting couple all shared their first pregnant moment in years.

A snowstorm canceled Rogue Valley's Live Nativity in 2013, but the event featuring live animals and the efforts of more than 100 volunteers returns this weekend in a new location. After years in Jacksonville, event director Renee Hewitt said she moved the event to Jackson County Expo this weekend knowing weather won't call it off.

Despite rains outside, women wearing handwoven shawls and carrying prop baskets of flatbread and coin purses beamed with excitement backstage prior to the event's debut Friday night.

"I don't think we'll feel any cold," Kris Castleman of Medford said, eager to tell the story of Christ's birth.

Castleman said the performance, in which participants walk with Mary and Joseph through four stages as they seek shelter to birth the Christ child, moved her to tears during the dress rehearsal Thursday.

"It took my breath away when they first did it," Castleman said.

The performance, with a budget of roughly $50,000, drew in volunteers from four churches as well as Southern Oregon's acting community.

"We kind of went all out," Hewitt said.

Actors Mera and Jeremy Oliveria said they channeled their experience as parents to a 1-year-old daughter when approaching their roles as Mary and Joseph. Mera said they sought authenticity showing what a "humble birth" being born in a dirty manger would be.

Sean Snyder of Medford, Jeremy Oliveria's best friend, said he'll be reading lines in Hebrew and English in his role as the innkeeper, who has to explain to the couple in labor that there's no room. 

Hewitt prepped Evan Wise and his son, Josiah, for their role as temple guards, telling them their role involved preventing the audience from walking too far ahead to the next station.  She also warned that they might get wet in costume.

"You guys are going to be standing in the rain a long time," Hewitt said.

The Wise men said they were happy to help. The pair drove 100 miles from Gasquet, California, to help in the performance to help. Josiah Wise was a cast member in Hewitt's 2014 Camelot production of "Les Misérables," and Hewitt helped Evan Wise produce a play in Brookings.

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Christine Hassell, who plays a market person, meets horse John John who is also a character in the Rogue Valley Live Nativity running through Sunday at the Jackson County Expo. Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta