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The King's Player's - Tips For Writing A Drama Ministry Script

Updated on January 11, 2015
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Divine Audience

Ancillary but vital to many contemporary sermons is the provocation supplied by dramatic performance. Such scenes forecast or "tease" the speaker's message while arresting the worshiper's interest. Unlike other dramatic presentations, sermon teasers do not feature a traditional narrative structure or conventional resolution. Instead, they instill suspense in order to solicit greater attention for more liturgical parts of the worship service. As one may imagine, composing such dramatic works requires unique skills in addition to a deep understanding of collaborative worship practices. As many performers involved in Drama Ministry programs often lack formal training in dramatic composition and the performing arts, these requirements can sometimes vex even veteran ministry volunteers. Below are a few suggestions for devising scripts and rehearsing performances to insure a more interesting and arresting worship experience using drama.

Common Misconceptions

The overriding misconception concerning sermon teasers relates to their purpose; the dramatic presentation should not necessarily be designed to substitute for traditional, liturgical portions of the service. Instead, sermon teasers are written to incite the intellectual and emotional curiosity of congregants.This means that the structure of the sermon teaser need not always follow traditional plotting - beginning, middle, end.Indeed, due to time constraints, it often proves prudent to start the narrative of drama ministry sketches "in media res" or with a "late point of attack." Such composition considerations will allow the dramatist to fully develop and clarify crucial ideas without over saturating congregants with superficial exposition. As Anton Chekhov stated, "My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying." According to Chekhov, the most efficient way to evade breaking trust with an audience lies in discarding contrivance. The maxim should liberate those creating drama ministry scripts from encumbering worshipers with needless background or "obligatory" material.

Another misconception derives from the compulsion to include explicit messages or instruction within each script. Again, it is important to note that many sermon teasers are incorporated into worship to stimulate interest rather than provide resolution. To this end, ostentation should guide dramatists in composing scenes. Ostentation should not connote overly florid or hyperbolic performance styles. Instead, ostentation merely refers to the dramatic practice of "telling" by "showing" the audience the essential information of the scene. Drama Ministry participants often seem tempted to overtly insert ideal messages or lessons within the dialogue of each sequence, often to the detriment of the scene's verisimilitude or credibility. Instead, credible dramatists will seek ways to demonstrate conflict and tension without the chronic need to feature an ideal resolution or raisonneur a particular character with a prepackaged message.

"The Sin Chair"

Composition Structure

The primary aim of composing and performing sermon teasers relates to guiding the audience towards deeper reflection on a topic of theological significance. However, dramatists with prior experience in especially realistic styles often feel compelled to assert unnecessary conventions upon its composition and production. Clowning, alienation effect, puppets - all of these non-realistic conventions should be viewed as potential resources despite their opposition to traditional standards of realistic performance. The only process based requirements placed upon Drama Ministry practitioners should be the ethical and charitable attitude undertaken to fellow performers and worship congregants. To this end, always meditate on the overall goal of each sketch prior to imposing habitual standards of theatrical "quality" on its characters, dialogue or plot.

Other structural considerations prove more practical to the constraints of the medium. For example, the relatively short time frame of many Drama Ministry pieces requires at least one surrogate role congregants can empathize with in order to quickly arrest the emotional and intellectual circumstances of the scene. It also behooves dramatists to balance the esoteric traits of specialized religious language with idiomatic speech. The average collection of congregants comprises a vast spectrum of experience with religious terms; using over technical language can unintentionally isolate worshipers that may otherwise benefit from a particular sketch. Finally, consider using archetypal, gender neutral roles, especially in situations where one cannot be assured of securing certain cast members. Often, a disproportionate amount of men or women participate in Drama Ministry programs. Insuring that you can cast a specific sketch with a minimum of one gender will facilitate a less stressful rehearsal process.

LifeChurch Drama Team

Special Considerations

All of the above theoretical information offers a good start to composing a stimulating and encouraging Drama Ministry script. However, these suggestions by no means comprise the totality of guidance on writing materials for performance in formal worship settings. Below are a few, final sundry tips for generating your next Drama Ministry performance.

  • Test Audience - Because of the formal setting surrounding even progressive worship services, spectator feedback - laughing, applause, gasps - will be a less likely phenomenon for many sermon teasers. To this end, consider employing a "test audience" or "preview" for each sketch to assess its quality and overall appeal.
  • Spectacle - Generally, it is best to compose scripts with few design requirements - costume, scenery, props. Given the relatively short amount of time many production teams have to compose, memorize, refine and perform a sketch, such constraints can steal valuable rehearsal time from participants. Instead, concentrate on "theater of the mind" elements that can entice congregants more than any scenic marvel.
  • Runaway Performance - An especially humorous role or performer with extensive dramatic experience can sometimes obstruct a sketch from acceding its goal more than amateur mistakes. Carefully weigh whether a particular performance is detracting from the aim of the script and find mutually satisfactory ways to amend such problems before they compromise the credibility of the overall ministry.

Above all, take steps to protect the enthusiasm and development of your troupe, not only to guarantee the reputation of the ministry but create an edifying community that uses innate and hidden talent for a higher purpose.

Fragrant Offering

Break a leg with your next performance. I sincerely hope these provoke a thoughtful conversation between yourself and like minded performers. In the meantime, I look forward to your kind feedback and hope you'll check out my other Hub Pages related to the performing arts and drama.

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