So Much to Say and So Little Time

For the past several years I have been the drama director at a large church in McKinney, Texas. One of the biggest challenges the drama team faces in our efforts to communicate God’s truths through drama is time. Time is the bane of every church drama team because there is so little of it to spread around. Our worship accountant, I’m sorry I meant to say worship leader, has a difficult job divvying out the precious minutes of our services. After we subtract the announcements, worship set, sermon, the occasional baby dedication, offering and the transition times the drama team is left with a negative four minutes to convey truths from a six page script. The challenge begins in our weekly planning sessions where the task is set forth based off of a conversation that goes something like this:

Worship leader: It would be great to have a drama on this particular Sunday that is only two weeks away. Something that is incredibly moving, excruciatingly detailed, involving at least twelve actors. (My memory of these conversations may be somewhat skewed.)

Me: Alright, the drama team is always ready and eager to serve. How much time do we have?

Worship leader: Time?

Me: Yes, time. How much time do we have to develop this very deep, life changing, sinner reclaiming, original artistic expression of God’s love?

Worship Leader: Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t realize you were still here…yes, well let’s see, after we take out…(he mumbles for few moments scratching on his notepad, making notations and finally pulling out his calculator he delivers the news) you have four minutes.

Me: Seriously? Four minutes? Okay, well the drama team is thrilled to be given this challenge. I’m sure with a few speed speaking courses and some aerobic training we can—

Worship Leader: Just remember to allow time for the 42 piece orchestra to exit the stage and your actors to set their props—

Me: Could the praise team help set—

Worship Leader: No, not a good idea…they’re not actors, and their left arm strength has been seriously diminished by the weight of the mics. (This is completely untrue. We have a very strong praise team always willing to help. I just thought it was funny).

Okay, the above conversation may be slightly exaggerated and truthfully the Worship Leader at my church is awesome. But it is an incredible challenge to put forth a drama that effectively communicates and is well done in such a short amount of time. So here are a few ideas that have helped maximize our time in the service.

  1. Chose a set-easy script. That way your main concern is getting your actors onstage, not a sofa.
  2. Work transitions over and over. If you do have set pieces and props, you need to work with the stage crew or actors getting those pieces placed quickly. After our team has the drama prepared, we run through our sketches quickly just to run the transitions before the sketch, in between scenes, and exiting the stage.
  3. Use props that have multiple uses. One sketch we preformed was a “walk through Jesus’ life”. Our props were a basket of cleaning supplies that one actor was able to carry onstage. The mop doubled as a staff, and when turned upside down, Herod’s beard. The bathroom mat became animal fur around John the Baptist shoulders and a covering for baby Jesus. The cleaning products- air freshener, wood cleaner, and mold and mildew remover- became the gold, frankincense and myrrh.
  4. Incorporate set pieces that are already onstage. Our pastor preaches from a bistro table and a tall stool…so many of our drama settings have occurred in coffee shops or restaurants, so that we don’t have to bring additional set pieces onstage.
  5. Make sure the lighting and sound crew have a copy of the script and are aware of their cues. Precious time is lost when your actors are in place but are standing in the dark.
  6. Finally, remember the general rule that one page of script equals one minute onstage. If you have been given 5 minutes for a drama don’t even look at the 10 page scripts or you will have some serious editing to do.

I hope some of these hints help you make the most of your time onstage. No matter how much time we are given, though, it is a privilege to use our gifts and talents to share God’s amazing love. Now, go forth and be dramatic!

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