Saturday afternoon. Dress rehearsal time. This is our last chance: 90 minutes to bring it all together before Sunday’s performance in worship.
I opened in prayer and explained the game plan: first a run through, then costuming, then our dress rehearsal. A very tight hour and a half.
But there was one thing to do before we could brave a run through.
First: Some unison practice.
The play has quite a few lines that need to be spoken in unison by various groups. During rehearsals I assigned some of these to individuals, but those that remained needed work.
Before the run through we practiced all the unison lines. I called for a page and an actor to read a cue, then the relevant group chimed in. If it wasn’t clear and strong we did it again. The process took about ten minutes.
1. Run through
This was the first time all the way through without stopping. The run through always reveals what is working and what isn’t.
The play was running about 20 minutes. Huge relief. They were picking up their cues.
I could see that they were basically all getting it. My notes were about timing and movement:
- Joseph and Mary needed to be still at one point to allow everyone’s attention to be on the lines spoken by the Law and Prophets.
- The Narrator needed to pause while a troop of angels and shepherds got into place.
- The Magi needed to arrive in Herod’s throne room before they started to talk to him.
Stuff like that. Little tweaks.
No costumes are really necessary. On the other hand, anything is possible depending on how a church wants to invest in its production.
My church has huge boxes of costumes on hand, so they were just assigned by role and size.
This gave the production a familiar Christmas Pageant feel — earth-tone bathrobes for shepherds and satiny ones for the Magi. Dish towel improvisations of middle eastern headdresses. You know the look.
3. Dress rehearsal
Finally it all had the look and feel of everything working together. The cast benefited from having just done a run through, as well as from the notes.
The great thing, though, is that watching it come together pretty smoothly allowed me to see a couple small changes that could solve big problems.
- I had never noticed that I’d had Zechariah’s back to the audience when the narrator was saying he was making signs to the people about loosing the power of speech.
- Solution: Turn him around, and he can show his distress to the audience as if they were there.
- I had Mary intently talking to Elizabeth when it came time for the Magnificat. Most couldn’t see her.
- Solution: Have her turn and face every portion of the congregation at some point during that great speech. Everyone could see what she was feeling. Much more lively and inviting.
And costumes and props needed to be thought through:
- Headdresses needed to be pulled back so that faces showed.
- When Mary and Joseph left for Egypt they needed to remember to bring the gold, frankincense, and myrrh. How else could they pay for their travel expenses?
And now my part is done. Sunday morning will be our one and only performance. The play is in their hands.
Can’t wait to see it!
(And since that dress rehearsal was last Saturday, and the performance was last Sunday, I’ll tell you later this week how it went!)
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