Christmas plays for children can be very challenging, even for an experienced director. You’ll need to identify and assign talent, organize and control groups of kids, and most importantly, ask for help when needed.
These 10 rules were compiled with the help of experienced directors to help get you through this year’s Christmas pageant unscathed!
1. Identify individual talents.
Every child has something that they are good at and enjoy doing. Some children are “hams” and like to be front and center reading lines, acting, singing or dancing. While other kids shudder at the thought and are crippled by stage fright.
If you don’t know each of the children well, talk to Sunday school teachers and parents to get an idea of their strengths.
2. If you don’t have it, ask for it.
This goes for both supplies and help. Make a detailed list of supplies needed for costumes, props and sets and keep lots of copies ready to hand out. Ask for volunteers to do tasks like printing programs. Sunday school teachers and assistants are your pageant’s greatest asset! They know the children and will be invaluable during rehearsals and throughout the show, especially with invoking good behavior. Use them to help with getting on/off stage, collecting costumes and cleaning up after the show.
Parent volunteers are also essential, but be sure to have them remain at the back of the rehearsal area as they can sometimes be distracting to their children. Also, do not ask parents to help clean up after the Christmas play. They will want to be with their little ones.
3. When things don’t go as planned, go with the flow.
Always keep in mind that this is not a professional production, and a child’s interpretation of what is supposed to happen may be vastly different than yours. Mistakes and deviations are what make the show priceless. Lines will be forgotten, little feet will trip and angels do tumble. Always be ready to improvise and focus on the bigger picture- the children learning and understanding the Christmas story.
4. Include adults in the cast.
Having adults and teenagers around and in the cast will not only help encourage better behavior, but can also help narrate if you have a young group. Including pastors and pastor’s assistants in the production will make the children feel very important.
5. Utilize the experts.
If your church has complicated lighting and sound systems, approach the techs who run those systems every Sunday and ask them to help at the Christmas play rehearsal and show. Identify a few good “problem solvers” and have them on standby to handle any unexpected catastrophes.
6. Don’t feature the same soloist two years in a row.
Give different kids an opportunity to shine each year. Your soloists don’t necessarily need to be great singers. Find kids with unusual and unexpected talents and work them into the script. This will help alleviate feelings of resentment and jealousy.
7. Limit distractions.
Have the children rehearse at least once in costume and with props to identify any potential distractions like itchy robes or an especially fidgety kid wielding a shepherd’s staff. Have a discussion about “upstaging” and demonstrate examples so everyone understands. Before the show, request that parents remain in their seats while filming and taking photos. Offer a group photo opportunity at the end so everyone can get a clear shot without distracting the performers.
8. Keeping order is essential.
Rehearsals can feel like you are herding cats, and it is easy to lose control. Have adults present to keep order. Find those that can be strong disciplinarians, especially if you are not. Try not to have too much down time and keep a structured schedule.
9. Don’t be afraid to adapt your Christmas plays script.
Make changes when you run into problems. If someone continually gets hung up on one line, change it. If your script calls for a singing solo, but no one wants to do it alone, have three friends do it together. Nothing is set in stone.
10. Words of thanks or speeches should happen before the performance.
While it seems reasonable to close the show with some words of thanks, Christmas plays that end with a speech can be very anti-climactic. Instead, offer the audience an opportunity to take photos of the cast onstage. Words of thanks can also be included in the program.
I recently put together a short online video that explains many of these Christmas Play tips in more detail (including an easy way to put together an incredible pageant with just ONE rehearsal! Click here to watch it now (it’s free!)