What is Liturgical drama?
Liturgical drama ranges from the simple Palm Sunday procession of children carrying leaves down the street and into the Church, through a range of ceremonial variations to sophisticated operatic presentations of the Elijah and the Messiah.
Liturgical drama highlights certain Biblical stories and is often performed during festivals on the Christian calendar. Most liturgical drama is performed around Christmas or Easter, however other special events may be celebrated with a play as well.
Liturgical drama may stick very closely to the Bible text or creatively explore and modernise the original story. The art form has a long history dating from the early centuries of Christianity, and was most prominent during the Medieval period of history.
Liturgical drama may be performed in a church, school, hall, theatre or outdoor area. It may be organised by the church, the community or a professional company. It may also be filmed or recorded.
I enjoyed being involved in Christmas Eve programs as a child and have recently had the opportunity to work on organising the annual Live Nativity of my local congregation. Performed one week before Christmas, this program is more of a play than carol service and has a script, cast, and set.
The advantages of working with liturgical drama are the fact that you have a church full of people willing to be involved: for example by dressing up and acting, providing resources, ushering and and advertising the program. There is also a ready made audience of congregation members with the possibility of attracting more audience members from the community. Churches commonly have stages in their hall and all but the inner city parishes have car park facilities. There are also musicains of some quality willing to be involved.
The disadvantages and challenges of working with liturgical drama include: working with a limited budget, fulfilling congregational expectations, organising a cast of ameteurs and creating something original from well known subject matter. Liturgical drama may also be percieved as having lower artistic status than secular drama.
However, my experience as both a performer and organiser have shown that Liturgical drama is a worthwhile activity. The challenge involved in creating a smooth and professional event outways the disadvantages of being limited to a "niche" or special interest area, and the events are certainly enjoyed by all attendees
Nativity Programs around the world.
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Australia's biggest Carols production:
- Welcome - Carols in the Domain
Sydneys Carols in the Domain
Lights of Loebethal
- Lights of Loebethal
An entire community decorates their homes with Christmas lights in South Austraia.
Bethlehem comes alive in Michigan:
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is often the site of Special productions.
Our 2009 Live Nativity Production (with images of varying quality)Click thumbnail to view full-size
The 2010 production used my script. We met frequently throughout the year, with the production team reading the script through to see how it ran and adding their suggestions. The first time this happened, I was pleased to find that they did not wish to change the basic structure and appreciated their close attention and feedback.
The script used the same stage as the previous year, but with the addition of a modern hotel in the corner, because I had employed a device where the modern hotel reminded the travelers of the inn in Bethlehem.
The day of the production threatened rain, which was very unusual for December in Australia. It rained several times during the day, but the evening was cold and almost fine. About 300 people attended despite having to wear winter coats and bring blankets.
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