Essentials for A Drama Ministry

Featuring Terri Welch Posted on April 29, 2008

1. A buy-in from your senior pastor.
If he isn't onboard with adding drama to the worship service, it's going to go nowhere fast. You'll also need to discuss the effect adding a three or four-minute sketch to the worship service will have on the total time of the service. On the Sundays you have a sketch, you may need to have one less song than normal, or take out another element of the service, such as the children's message or the "greet your neighbor" time. Or have you pastor commit to preaching 3 minutes less than he normally does....(good luck with that one :D)

2. Recruit people.
Put an announcement in the bulletin and on the church's web site about your first meeting. (And, of course, reserve the room and time with the church office.) You can have your initial meeting be informational, or a party, or an audition. It's up to you. I recommend auditions. Having people audition may scare some people away, but it will have the benefit of letting people know this is a commitment they're making. It will also give you the benefit of seeing what kind of actor they are. At the meeting, I give everyone a sheet to fill out with the essentials: name, email address, phone numbers, height, age range they can play, times available to rehearse, and relevant theater experience. Then I leave a space at the bottom for my notes. When I watch them perform, I take notes on how loud they are, how expressive they are, and how comfortable they look on stage. The latter is a big thing with inexperienced actors. If you decide to have people audtion, you can have them come with a prepared monologue, or have some monologues ready for them to read. Rather than a cold read, you can give them some time to look at the monologues. Or, rather than monologues, you can give them some short scenes to read in groups of two or three.

3. We use everyone.
As much as we can. We're all about grace. So, you can explain to your actors that the audition isn't a culling process, it's just a way for you to discern what kind of actor they are. Some people are gifted comedically, others do better with dramatic pieces. And frankly, some people, though they have heart for ministry, may do better helping out as background actors, or helping paint scenery.

4. What next?
After your initial meeting, where you go from there is up to you. Some people have weekly meetings with their actors, for training in projection, theater games, and so on. This is best if you have something to rehearse -- a monthly sketch, or a bigger show. My current church only does drama every now and then, so I contact the actors I need a few weeks before so we can begin rehearsing. If it's a short sketch, I usually have three of four rehearsals before performance. A lot of this depends on how well your actors are doing with memorization and so on. I have found that you need a minimum of three rehearsals to get the sketch "set" in the actors' minds. A longer show, like a passion play or a Christmas show, is a whole other beast indeed.

5. Money.
If your drama ministry is just going to consist of a few sketches every now and then, you probably won't need much. You'll be able to get props and costumes here and there, from your actors, or your house. But if you decide to do a bigger show, you're going to need money for set pieces and so on.

6. Something to act.
If you want a canned script, you can try Lillenas http://www.lillenas.com/nphweb/html/ldol/downloadableScripts.jsp?tid=LD68&tc=2, or Willow Creek, http://www.willowcreek.com/servicebuilder/catalog.asp. I use these intermittently, but I usually write something myself. It's cheaper.

7. Time.
If your church is the kind that only plans a service a week out, that is going to have to change.  You will need at least two weeks' lead time to get or write the sketch, cast it, and rehearse. No way you could do that in six days -- your actors would have a hard time memorizing that fast as well.

More later.

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