I have constantly found this to be the greatest challenge of running a nativity play, especially as our church nativity consists of a varying size cast from year to year, of kids and youths of mixed ages, abilities and self-confidence, who can not go to many rehearsals. Thus, I have always looked for an adaptable script above all, as I invariably need to vary parts to fit the ages and abilities of the kids that are taking part.
On top of this challenge, in recent times the children that participated didn’t intend to perform songs, although in the years when I did include songs for them to perform we had hardly any opportunity to practice and no assurance that the children would learn the lyrics (or, indeed, lines to act) anyway. And of course, the final fear has constantly been the eleventh hour changes that are necessary if someone is ill on the day, or has stage fright and refuses to perform! If you can connect to any of these issues, then the following thought process will assist you to consider all of the crucial issues and select an appropriate script.
1) What challenges/opportunities does your cast present?
– Is it an especially small or big 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 showcase?
– Will the cast perform songs, learn lines, get dressed up, speak up, use a microphone or be especially awkward or nervous?
– How many rehearsals can you feasibly expect to achieve (without making it a chore!)?
2) Exactly what challenges/opportunities does your audience present?
– Would they enjoy taking part in some way? Maybe as innkeepers, or extra shepherds etc.
– Would they enjoy singing carols instead of 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) Lots of carols will fit perfectly into the traditional nativity play.
3) What challenges/opportunities does your choice of music present?
– Do you have any musicians, and can they attend 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 fledgling musicians, or hidden soloists?
– Do you require gaps in the play to prepare the next scene? Would it be handy to use a song to provide the opportunity?
– Will the audience want to participate? Would singing carols add to the atmosphere?
4) What challenges/opportunities does the venue you will perform the play present?
– Can you make use of different locations for different scenes?
– Do you have a raised spot: a natural place for the angels, or the shepherds on a hillside?
– Do you have a great place for the tableau scene to develop as the play advances and brand-new characters are introduced?
– Can you find a way to symbolise the journey to Bethlehem, and the journeying of the kings and the shepherds?
5) Exactly what challenges and opportunities do the costumes and props present?
– Do you have the ideal sized outfits for the range 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 needed? Have you got the basic nativity props
In summary, when you are looking for a nativity script, try to find something adaptable to suit various circumstances, with the versatility to make last minute changes 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 achieve 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 composed by a fellow organiser: there is no substitute for experience, so make the most of someone else’s!