Meaningful? Engaging? Inclusive? Fun?
- Plan ahead. I try to have a Nativity drama chosen by early September, so I can work with all involved with plenty of time to spare.
- Choose a play you like. I always get my basic play from somewhere else, then re-work it til it’s good by me. If there is a copyright issue, I write directly to the original author for permission.
- Do not require memorization. If parts need to be memorized, this will necessarily exclude several people (including me!).
- Advertise for participants, asking everyone in the church to get involved (reminding them they do not have to memorize their part, that everyone will be holding a script).
- Type script and photocopy for easy reading by the actors. Do not take the easy way out and photocopy a poor copy. (I’ve found people hold a horizontal sheet better than vertical, and printing in two columns with font 14 results in an easy-to-read script. Some actors will prefer their section in font 16.)
- Find a role for everyone interested – big and small, old and young, good reader and silent stars! Making sure to have the option for any child that shows up only for dress rehearsal and the performance, to step into a non-speaking follow-the-leader type of roll, so no one is left out. Upholding the aim to include not exclude.
- Figure out music involved, and arrange withmusicians, and anyone else to be involved.
- Work with those who will organize costumes and props.
- Run two rehearsals, the two weeks before hand – Sundays 7 Dec and 14 Dec, 12:30 – 2:30.
- Dress rehearsal, the morning of.
- Sit in front row during the performance and do whatever needs to be done. Do not be shy about helping with lines, directions and even getting up to move something. Keep things flowing, and smile!
- No matter what happens, have fun!
A British Panto never ruins a fairy tale, only makes it better. So logically, a Nativity Panto (or almost-Panto) won’t ruin the treasured Christmas story, but will only make it better. ‘The King’s Christmas: a Modern Medieval Play,’ debuted at St Andrew’s United Reformed Church Brockley, London, in 2012. Written for a large multi-cultural congregation, ‘The King’s Christmas: a Modern Medieval Play’ is an almost-panto, for a large cast production. Replacing the traditional Sunday morning nativity (but in no way replacing the beloved Carols and Readings Christmas narrative), this light-hearted drama has become an annual tradition in itself — full of personal knock-knock jokes, talking donkeys (think Shrek) and all! It can be easily adapted to reflect a different local situation.
It was adapted, with permission, from ‘Knock, Knock, Who’s There,’ by Rev. Brian Mountford, University Church, Oxford (originally published in a collection of short Nativity dramas entitled Stars of Wonder).
The Christmas story told by the children, in the words of children. A gift from the children of St. Paul’s Chuch in New Zealand.
A shepherd’s recollection of that first Christmas, read as a dramatic monologue
Note: shepherds and angel may be presented as female or male as desired.
It’s true! It sounds crazy, I know, but I’m telling you, it’s true. It was the most wonderful thing.
We had the sheep in the fold for the night. It was gone midnight; a clear night. I was on watch…and I was dozing a bit, you know, but…with one eye open. A shepherd always sleeps with one eye open. And one ear open – if one of my sheep so much as stirs I’m alert.
So, there I was, laid across the entrance to the fold, just…resting my eyes, when something woke me. A little commotion amongst the flock. They weren’t making a fuss, I just sort of sensed that the sheep were awake and watchful….something was going on. I realised there was a light – at first I thought it was the dawn on the horizon but it was too early, and becoming too bright, and suddenly I made out the shape of a figure, surrounded by light – an angel!
Well, I jumped to my feet quick as anything! Gave Nathaniel/Natalie a kick with my toe and in a second s/he and Joan/Joel were up too, all three of us shepherds sort of hugging each other in sheer terror, as this strange light just got brighter and brighter and seemed to be all around us.
Then this angel, s/he started speaking! I’m not kidding, all three of us heard her/him, clear as day. Sort of heard her/him with our ears and heard her/him with our hearts all at the same time. S/he said…I’ll never forget these words to my dying day…s/he said:
Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.
Then…you won’t believe this! There were hundreds of them! Hundreds of angels! The whole sky was full of them, there was light and music everywhere, they were all laughing and singing and saying,
Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favours!
Then they were gone. We all looked at each other, making sure we’d all seen what we thought we had.
The sheep, who’d been so quiet the whole time, suddenly started bleating and making a racket. Now, normally you understand, a shepherd doesn’t leave the sheep, not for anything. But we had a quick chat and we knew what we had to do.
We legged it down the mountainside and all the way into Bethlehem – somehow our feet just seemed to know where to take us. And we found them, in a stable of all places, just like the angel had said. A baby, looking for all the world like any baby, lying in a box of hay. After all the bright lights and heavenly host it looked so…ordinary.
And yet, when I told the baby’s mum all about the angels and what they’d said, she didn’t seem a bit surprised. She just smiled.
No memorization required! Allow, even encourage, actors to read from their script throughout the drama. Focus on the words and their presentation, not remembering them. This increases greatly the pool of willing actors. The main requirements for actors are enthusiasm and a sense of delight. All ages can have a part. Narrator and jester roles will be reserved for the clearest readers.