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How To Take The Hassle Out Of Directing A Children’s Drama Or Musical

Step by Step Tips

Drama
1. Plan ahead.

2. Plan ahead.

3. Plan ahead.

4. Determine what you want to accomplish through your program. Write down your goals and purpose.

5. Obtain ideas from other children’s ministry directors. Be on the lookout for new material at Christian bookstores and in catalogs.

6. Select material with a clear, religious message.

7. Watch for limitations such as unavailable talent, elaborate production scenes or large cast.

8. Establish a tentative budget including scripts, wardrobe, properties, and advertising.

9. Discuss your ideas with the appropriate governing body of your church and secure approval.

10. Order books.

11. Request permission from the publisher to videotape at the performance and keep the letter in your file.

12. Highlight stage directions and study carefully. Know which entrance and exit each child will use.

13. Make notations for any props needed.

14. Develop a ground plan which is a skeleton sketch of essential staging props.

15. Chart large movements within each unit of action to form an effective stage picture.

16. Find volunteers to assist with wardrobe, lighting, sound, rehearsals, publicity and video taping the performance.

17. Make a rehearsal schedule and see that all parents receive a copy.

18. Record light cues, and warning cues, in a script for the lighting technician.

19. Develop a rehearsal schedule. Check the church calendar to avoid conflicts.

20. Starting with the lead character in your drama, assign roles. Involve all boys and girls either on stage or as a part of your crews.

21. At the first rehearsal, have the children read their parts. Let them know when you expect their lines to be memorized.

22. Plan well-balanced picture scenes to draw the audience’s attention. Keep the middle of the stage from being center stage. Avoid getting children in a straight line. Provide an interesting variety of line and mass.

23. Create a believable presentation by effective pacing. The play does not stop while a child sits down, gets up or walks off stage.

24. Check projection. The audience must hear what the children are saying, as well as see the action.

25. Props should be simple and kept to a minimum. They are necessary only for establishment of time, creating action and reinforcing mood.

26. A children’s play can be effective without lighting, but the following basic equipment is helpful to light faces: ellipsoidal spotlight which throws a sharp-edged beam, shaped by moving the shutters; resenel spotlights which provide softer light, controlled by the use of barn door shutter devices; and a dimmer board which is the central control for ten or more lighting instruments.

27. Normally, the center and upstage areas require lights from above the stage. The downstage and forestage areas are illuminated by front-of-house suspended lights. These can either be hung from light trees or wall brackets. Be sure to eliminate shadows.

28. Use colored lights in subtle quantities, diluted with white lights. An untrained eye may not even notice colors, but their presence helps set the mood for each scene. Color is added by the use of gels.

29. Be sure the electrical system is kept at a safe level so currents are not overloaded, thus blowing fuses.

Musical

1. Children have diverse interests. Therefore, choose a musical with different styles and rhythms. Boys and girls learn what they like at a faster pace. You will also have fewer discipline problems if the children are interested in what they are learning.

2. If you cannot find an appropriate musical, write your own words to familiar tunes. This actually makes memorization easier because the children already know the tune. For example, the following could be sung to the tune of Jingle Bells for a Christmas program:

THE GIFTS WE BRING

Dashing through the glow
Of Bethlehem’s bright star.
O’er the field we go
Traveling from afar.
We three Wise Men bring
Gifts to the new king.
The Son of God we want to see
And praises to Him sing.

Frankincense, gold and myrrh
Are the gifts we bring.
Herod was beside himself
When we talked about the King.
Frankincense, gold and myrrh
From our native land.
We’ll return a different way
And save from Herod’s hand.

Copyrighted by Susan Ledsome
(Permission granted to reproduce for local church use only.)

3. Get to know the boys and girls before casting so matching up parts will be easier.

4. When learning new songs:

a. Play them over and over while the children are playing or working on projects.
b. Say a few phrases at a time and have the children echo the words back to you.
c. Use rhythm instruments.

5. Explain the meaning of the songs. Understanding what the words mean can aid in retention and have a lasting impact on the children.

6. Be sure the children understand what your directives mean.

7. When working with children on their speaking parts, read the lines using expression. This gives the boys and girls an idea of how the parts should be played. Have then imitate you.

8. The key to memorization is repetition. Go over and over the songs.

9. If the song range is too high, lower the whole song or change a few notes.

10. Plan exits and entrances for the younger children. Sometimes a performance is too long for their attention span. Make sure movement flows with what is happening. Bring everyone back on stage for the last song.

11. Costumes can be handmade or purchased from yard sales, catalogs or after-Halloween sales. Sweatsuits can be inexpensively purchased and easily decorated to represent animals.

12. At the first practice on stage, work with the sound technician to ensure microphones are placed where maximum benefit can be reached.

13. Bulletins enable the audience to follow the program’s progression and become a memento for parents and children. Include the songs, soloists, and every child’s name.

© by Betty Robertson and Susan Ledsome
Creative Christian Ministries

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