A play, intended for annual use, to be put on by the children of a small group.
Dress children in anything remotely period appropriate, including but not limited to tree skirts,
1984 Pageant dresses,
(Which can be made more authentic by adding a cloak and a halo,)
and Batman costumes.
For actors that will be playing animals, allow them to use their own hair to enhance their costume’s believability.
Allow participants to choose their own roles when possible, even if they desire to represent extremely ancillary characters that didn’t make it into the recorded narrative.
Ensure that actors are acquainted with their props.
Feel free to improvise with common household items – for instance, cinnamon sticks make a perfect substitution for frankincense. Or a light saber.
Allow the talent time to socialize before the play – this creates more natural interaction on stage.
Attempt to corral all participants, taking care to not allow them to stuff their faces with high-fructose cookie dough dip immediately prior to the performance.
For optimal efficiency and maximum results, have one adult male reading the narration while another adult male wields a large stick.
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.”
(As with any expecting couple, they most likely had a disagreement or two while travelling. Feel free to improv these interactions.)
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”
(If male actors are unwilling to play the part of Joseph, another woman may be used.)
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.”
(“Flocks” can refer to a solitary sheep if animal volunteers are in short supply.)
“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’”
(Make sure that the angel displays this great joy in a believable fashion.)
(Sheep may find themselves bored during this long angelic speech. But do not be troubled – after all, they are only sheep.)
“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’”
(Feel free to allow one especially talented angel take on the soprano lead in this proclamatory song.)
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’”
“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
(And Joseph was also doing a bit of pondering himself. Things like how anticlimactic the births of the rest of their children would surely be after this one.)
“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
“On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.”
(It is recommended to quickly skim over that paragraph, as explanations might produce a bit of stage fright amongst the male cast.)
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’”
(If you realize mid-play that you have too many Magi and no Herod, you can quickly substitute an extraneous Magi for Herod. Choose one that has a natural vibe of grumpiness.)
“When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’”
“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.”
“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.”
“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.”
(Extreme melodramatic worshipping is okay. Even if it borders on hammy.)
(…because sometimes, actors are destined to inherit hammishness from their fathers.)
“Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”
“And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious,”
(…or perhaps contrary, finally looking happy when he’s supposed to be furious,)
“and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.”
(As children may find this part of the story disturbing, perhaps replace it with Herod simply stealing Jesus’ presents.)
(Then again, children might find that equally disturbing.)
After the play is completed, reattempt a corral to obtain a full-cast photo.
(This is a completely impossible feat, but what is life without attempting the impossible.)
Continue snapping photos until you can minimize silly faces, grumpy children, and escapees,
as well as nose-pickers, continuing silly faces, and adults replacing escapees.
And if you’re lucky, and I do mean really, REALLY lucky, you might get a keeper.