In December 2010, Matt Henderson wanted to have a Christmas open house—an all-inclusive, meet-the-neighbors affair. But Henderson's house is a small former church in Northeast Portland, so the visual artist and drummer called some friends, made some costumes and held a live nativity, papier-mâché animals and all. "All the participants were more or less professed nontheists, [but] we tried to approach it somewhat seriously," he says. "We posed for periods of 10- to 20-minute blocks for a couple hours. There was classical Christmas music playing in the background, and we served hot chocolate."
This year, Henderson decided to go for something bigger. He was considering a neon nativity until Halloween, when he had his friend Lauren Carter make a "giant alien head" to fill the empty shrine space above the church's stage. "This alien head is so bad-ass that it occurred to me that we should do an alien nativity," he says. Yes, alien, with a mirrored manger, xenomorph Santa and extraterrestrial magi. When I called Henderson, he was shopping for "androgynous-looking" mannequins to represent Mary and Joseph. "I always like to highlight the fact that there is no one definitive history—that the story of Jesus is no more plausible than some of these alternate histories that are not accepted but nonetheless compelling," he says. The key verb is "highlight": Visitors will be issued diffractive glasses and ushered through a series of archways lit with randomly flashing LEDs. The result should be an experience akin to a Christmas rave hosted by Art Bell. I'll see you there.
SEE IT: Alien Nativity is at Xhurch, 4550 NE 20th Ave. 5-9 pm Wednesday-Sunday, Dec. 21-25. Free.
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 21
[THEATER] Portland Center Stage's fifth production of Joe Mantello's one-man adaptation stars Jim Lichtscheidl, a Minneapolis actor making his Portland debut. Replacing Portland favorite Wade McCollum, he has some big, jingle bell-adorned shoes to fill, but he proves up to the task. Lichtscheidl's metamorphic impressions of the colorful personalities with whom Crumpet the Elf must contend might even surpass David Sedaris' own.
THURSDAY, DEC. 22
FRIDAY, DEC. 23
TUESDAY, DEC. 27