I have always found this to be the biggest difficulty of running a nativity play, especially as our church nativity play consists of a varying size cast from year to year, of kids and youths of different ages, skills and confidence, who can not go to numerous rehearsals. For this reason, I have always searched for an adaptable script above all, as I inevitably have to differ parts to suit the ages and abilities of the children that are taking part.
On top of this challenge, in recent years the kids that got involved didn’t intend to perform tunes, although in the years when I did include tunes for them to perform we had very little opportunity to rehearse and no guarantee that the kids would learn the lyrics (or, indeed, lines to act) anyway. And naturally, the final fear has constantly been the last minute modifications that are required if someone is ill on the day, or has stage fright and declines to perform! If you can relate to any of these problems, then the following thought process will help you to consider all of the crucial issues and choose an appropriate script.
1) Exactly what challenges/opportunities does your cast present?
– Is it an especially little or huge cast?
– Do you even know the size of the cast at the point of choosing your script?
– Do you have any special needs to consider, or skills to display?
– Will the cast carry out tunes, learn lines, get dressed up, speak up, use a microphone or be especially shy or worried?
– How many rehearsals can you feasibly count on to attain (without making it a burden!)?
2) Exactly what challenges/opportunities does your audience present?
– Would they enjoy taking part in some way? Perhaps as innkeepers, or extra shepherds etc.
– Would they enjoy singing carols rather than listening to the children perform songs? (Hark the Herald Angels sing; While Shepherds watched their flocks by night; We 3 Kings of Orient are etc) Numerous carols will fit well into the traditional nativity play.
3) What challenges/opportunities does your selection of music present?
– Do you have any music performers, and can they go to rehearsals?
– Do you have any sheet music? Do you require a licence to perform it? Do you have a backing track?
– Do you have any budding musicians, or likely soloists?
– Do you require gaps in the play to prepare the next scene? Would it be helpful to make use of a song to provide the chance?
– Will the audience want to take part? Would singing carols contribute to the atmosphere?
4) Exactly what challenges/opportunities does the location you will perform the play present?
– Can you use various areas for different scenes?
– Do you have a raised area: a natural spot for the angels, or the shepherds on a hillside?
– Do you have a great place for the tableau scene to develop as the play progresses and brand-new characters are introduced?
– Can you find a way to symbolise the journey to Bethlehem, and the traveling of the kings and the shepherds?
5) What challenges and opportunities do the outfits and props present?
– Do you have the right sized costumes for the variety of ages in your cast, or will the availability of outfits restrict your choice of a script?
– Do you have the means to make props as required? Have you got the fundamental nativity props
In summary, when you are searching for a nativity script, try to find something versatile to match numerous conditions, with the flexibility to make last minute modifications without too much problem (a script which uses narrative is ideal). Go for a script with no licence fees to pay, and no restrictions on reusing songs with another script etc, and be sure of what you can accomplish before you begin your search. Ideally, if at all possible, find a script that has been recommended or that shares feedbacks from fellow organisers or, better still, is written by a fellow organiser: there is no substitute for experience, so make the most of someone else’s!