2013 Capital Fringe Show Preview: ‘Misconception: The Lost Gospel of Christmas’ by Mark Swanson

Did you ever hear the one about a cast of 25 actors from the Deep South traveling to Washington, DC to ask the Virgin Mary “Who’s Your Baby Daddy?” I can assure you this is no joke, however, these 25 southern misfits intend to tell you a very different story about the birth of Jesus in very human terms.

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You see, Mary has a problem.  She’s got a baby bump, no husband, and a stoning in her future.  Enter Joseph, the 1st century’s version of The 40 Year Old Virgin. The Three Wise Men, the 1st century equivalent to the worst 1990s boy band you can imagine, make claims of having Mary in one of their infamous “Wise Man Gangbangs” at a party in Nazareth nine months prior. And there’s “Mary’s claim of a late night rendezvous from none other than … wait for it … Jehovah. Of course, everyone knows the woman’s as mad as swine-plunging-pigs off a cliff, except for her naive fiancé who stands by her every word while every “neighbor could see someone had parted her Red Sea.”

Imagine trying to sell this musical to a city that witnessed the birth of the Southern Baptist denomination; where the buckle of the Bible Belt is strapped firmly upon this region in the South. Better yet, go further and try to convince your father, a Southern Baptist preacher and minister for 40+ years that his son, the composer, had not punched his ticket directly to hell upon the opening of  Misconception: The Lost Gospel of Christmas at Le Chat Noir in Augusta, Georgia on December 11, 2011. However unlikely it sounds, Misconception opened to sold out houses, and has seen two wildly successful runs in a town where theater ranks considerably lower than things such as golf and bibles.

Due to the incredible response to Misconception in our home town, we began to wonder how our little show might be received in other parts of the country. Once we were accepted to Capital Fringe we began to ask our cast of 25 if they could stop their life completely for ten days and take this show on the road. It did not take much convincing for the most talented people in Augusta to join me on this journey. When I talk to my cast about their obvious sacrifices in chasing down this dream, they all told me the same thing: they believe in this show. Most of my cast have never performed outside of the confines of our home town and may be looking for a little adventure, but they all tell me they believe this show has a chance to do very special things.

You see, the show is not only about making crazy, irreverent remarks about the Christmas story. It has a message with very human emotion woven throughout the work, told in contemporary language. As soon as you crack up about the Three Idiot Wise Men “getting freaky with a Nazareth girl,” the Mothers of Bethlehem cut you to the core with their tearful lament of losing their children as a result of Herod’s paranoid scheme to dispose of a new rival king. Overall, the story deals, in real life terms, with the ongoing struggle of good and evil, melding the sacred and the profane.

As a composer,  I have gone through some pretty incredible moments of creativity, but I’ve never had a composition write itself the way Misconception did. In the fall of 2011,  Krys Bailey and Doug Joiner, co-owners of Le Chat Noir, approached me about writing a Christmas show. We began throwing around ideas (and lots of beer) in early September, and Misconception: The Lost Gospel of Christmas was completed and ready for performance by December 11th of the same year.  The original idea was to come up with an incredibly raunchy, sacreligious account of the story, but as soon as I went home and wrote the first song, the show itself took over.  The result: a telling of the story about a young girl in trouble with a very special mission that will split your sides with laughter, reduce you to tears, and make you question your own belief systems.

There are very real moments of irreverence within this show, no doubt, but the human qualities the characters display seem to make it more accessible to our own human condition and steer the story away from what might seem, on the surface, a very bawdy account of the birth of Jesus. I tell people to this day that I’ve felt closer to God writing this show than at any other time in my life; and I believe if God truly made me in his image, he understands and loves every bit of me – the irreverent part, the contradictions within myself, my obvious shortcomings, and my dirty, dirty mind . . . especially if it makes him laugh.

My wonderful cast and some very incredible supporters from our city have made it possible for us to raise over $10,000 dollars to make this trip a reality. It was very important to me that the cast would have to spend very little of their own money to make this trip, given that so many are giving up ten days away from family and work to participate in Capital Fringe. Quite a daunting task, but made possible by people who believe in this show.

Come see the culmination of a “trip of a lifetime” for many of us, and you may even find out that burning question you’ve always wanted to ask the Virgin Mary – “Who’s Your Baby Daddy?”

By the way, my father and Southern Baptist preacher I was so worried about? He absolutely loves it.

Mark Swanson, Composer / Music Director, Misconception: The Lost Gospel of Christmas


205509_528609850536353_311560669_nAt The Studio Theatre – Stage 4 – 1501 14th, Street, NW, in Washington, DC. 
METRO: McPherson Sq (Blue, Orange); U Street (Yellow, Green)

Saturday July 13, 2013 6:30 PM
Tuesday July 16, 2013 9:00 PM
Thursday July 18, 2013 6:30 PM
Saturday July 20, 2013 4:45 PM
Sunday July 21, 2013 4:30 PM



  1. This show is an absolute “must-see”! So much talent in our little city- they will blow you away! Heads up, DC, Mark Swanson is in the house!

  2. I’ve driven from Atlanta to Augusta to see this twice, can’t wait to see it on the big stage. Wonderfully entertaining and thought provoking!!


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