• Drama Tips Downloads
  • Overheard after a church drama production...

    "It was good, but they sounded like they were reading their lines."
    "When that poor actor forgot his line, the whole production fell apart!"
    "I think it was overdone. The message got lost among the props and costumes."
    "That was interesting, but what did it have to do with today's message?"
    "Boy, that was great - I sure wish we could have a skit like that every week!
    Each of the comments contained in the side-bars are very real pitfalls in the development of an effective drama ministry. But what if there was another option? What if there was a way to take untrained, inexperienced, busy volunteers and transform them into the members of an effective, entertaining, and message-enhancing drama team? Over the last two years, God has helped "The Thing of it Is Players" to do just that.
    • We are all volunteers, and have a rotating (although committed) membership. We're fairly diverse, ranging in age from 18 to 52. Some of us have drama degrees; some are pure amateurs. Sometimes there will be as few as one or two actors, sometimes as many as six or seven. But, there are never any tryouts!
    • We perform frequently, often every week for months at stretch.
    • We come cheap: we've never paid out any money for costumes or props - mostly because we don't use 'em!
    • And most oddly of all, we never, ever, ever use a script!
    What, me go without a script?!?

    Believe it or not, it is possible! We've been doing it for more than 2 years, and while it may be uncomfortable at first - especially for a classically trained thespian - you just may find that "going scriptless" is just what your troupe needs to avoid comments like those above, and start getting comments like these:
    "I just couldn't stop laughing!"

    "It just didn't seem like they ever missed a beat - no one forgot a line in the whole skit!"

    "I couldn't believe how well that skit went along with the message!"

    "It was so natural - I believed everything the characters did."

    "Wow - they do this every week?!?

    Now wait a minute, "going scriptless" looks like it could help my troupe avoid the memorization blahs, but I still don't understand how to do it!

    Well, let me answer that question by describing a typical "The Thing of it Is Players" practice session...

    Overheard in a church considering a drama ministry...

    "I wish I could get involved in drama, but I really don't have time to memorize all those lines!"
    "Where will we find all that talent? My kids just aren't Shakespearean actors!"
    "We just can't afford all those props and costumes - and what about royalties on scripts?"
    "Speaking of scripts, where are they going to come from? Most of what I find at the Christian resource store is too long or too boring for us."
    "Where are we going to get a stage manager, director, and sound man?"
    First of all, sometime in during the early part of the week, the pastor will give a message outline to our troupe leader. He'll think about it for a while, mulling over - and praying over - possible ways to present the topic in an amusing, non-preachy, and effective way. How does he come up with the ideas? Nobody knows. Maybe he watched "Godzilla" last night and has monsters on the brain. Maybe he's been listening to baseball on the radio all week. Maybe he had too much pizza at midnight. But whatever his method, by the time the drama troupe meets a day or two later, he's got the seed of an idea or two - call it a "synopses" - ready to present.

  • Don't be afraid to be "whacky." We've been everything from software pirates to robots, to cows in our skits.
  • Ideas from popular culture work well too. One of our skits was set on the Titanic. And of course there is the wolf from Aunt Bertha's "3 Pigs" who is unmistakably Arnold Schwartznegger!
  • Don't forget about fairy tales, historical stories, and parables.
  • Tips...
  • Try to keep flexible with your troupe size and members. Although commitment is important, if you always have the same numbers of players, you may fall into a rut.
  • It also may surprise you how unexpectedly well some people can perform. We've had some very unlikely performers pull of fabulous performances.
  • Keep your audience in mind as you brainstorm. Some older members of your congregation may not understand - or appreciate - some of our typical youthful humor.
  • After dinner, a good deal of messing about, and prayer for the session, the troupe members (who consist of a couple of regulars and whomever else could make it that week) discuss the idea among themselves in a kind of brainstorming session. There may be fewer or more actors and actresses than expected, so modifications to the synopses are made. Sometimes one actor will play two or more parts, and sometimes there will be one or more "walk-on" roles. (One skit included a 20-second cameo by the Energizer Bunny!) The pros and cons of the idea are weighed. Perhaps one member fears that it will be too "preachy." Perhaps one particular idea is little too... err... heretical. Maybe the idea fails to edify, entertain, or enhance. Regardless, within 30 minutes to an hour, the newly enhanced idea is agreed upon, and if all members are not quite comfortable with it, they're at least willing to give it a try.

    Now, the parts are assigned. Some care is taken to avoid typecasting. If one actor or actress was the "bad guy" last week, this week they may get a more edifying role. Similarly, if one actor or actress has gotten to be the Christ-figure two or three times of late, it may be their turn to be the foolish character. Of course, less experienced troupe members are given less demanding roles, although each participant is encouraged to take roles with which they are not entirely comfortable in order to help him or her grow as a performer.

    Finally, it is time to rehearse the skit. Generally the first time through will involve several stops and interruptions when one player or another can't figure out what they ought to say, has some brilliant idea for a line for another character, or feels like something important has been missed. The skit is generally rehearsed and enhanced two or three more times, making minor adjustments, examining the skit as a whole for clarity and effectiveness, and generally increasing everyone's comfort level. The important thing to remember is that the skit is never the same twice!

  • Don't worry about bending the "no script" rule. We have from time to time performed skits (the "Aunt Bertha" series specifically), in which one character has almost all of the lines, and the rest of the characters play off of him or her. In these instances the actress in question has "cheated" by writing down many of her lines and hiding them in the book she is supposed to be reading.
  • Note that it really only works then the character in question has a good excuse to carry a book around - and it's still no substitute for a really good working knowledge of the skit.
  • Unbelievably, the whole process (including all the fooling around that takes place at the beginning!) rarely exceeds two hours in length. Sunday morning (or whenever the skit is to be performed), the troupe attempts to reserve 20-30 minutes for a dress rehearsal, although we rarely get to practice on the stage on which we'll be performing beforehand. The effect of this is to produce skits that require very few props aside from folding chairs, and can make use of a very flexible stage area.

    Another thing I feel all but obligated to point out is that there have been numerous times in which none of the rehearsals, including the final, Sunday morning dress-rehearsal, went at all well. However, just as many times, the actual presentation itself has managed to far exceed our wildest hopes for success. Over and over we find ourselves accepting congratulations for the "excellent performance" of a skit we felt certain would bomb embarrassingly when we left the practice room. This phenomenon can be rightly attributed to no one but God. We fully realize that it is He who gives us the talent and creativity in selecting, creating, and performing the skits, and it is to Him that the glory must go. (It is also worth mentioning that reverse has, on occasion been true. There have been skits dearly loved by the performers that opened to only mediocre reviews. In these instances we must also be aware that God may be chastening us for our undue pride, and bringing home the fact that it is He who controls what happens during a service, no matter how we may think otherwise.)

    OK, so that's how YOU do it, but what about OUR troupe?

    Of course, every troupe is different. And that, I think, is why this site exists. Perhaps you have several people who like the idea of ad-libbing your own skits, but there is no one in your congregation with the God-given creative spark it takes to consistently come up with funny, effective skit ideas week after week. Believe me, were it not for the inspired contributions of our troupe leader (who is not the author of this piece, so you needn't worry too much about his pride!), the "Thing of it Is Players" would not be half so capable a troupe. That's why we created the "Synopses" option for many of the skits. The synopses are intended to serve as that little spark it takes to get the ignite the creative flame and inspire the imaginations of your players. Use them, twist them, change them to fit your purposes, and create your own unique masterpieces. (Then write them down and tell us about them!)

    Our name (unsurprisingly) came from an inside joke we started way back in our very first skit ("God Doesn't Even Know We're Here"). One of the characters said "But the thing of it is..." and another interrupted with "...and there is a thing?" For some inexplicable reason we found it so funny that we put it in the next skit, and the one after that, and the one after that. Pretty soon it became a tradition - a signature, if you will. If you ever find one of our scripts without it, let us know! (but don't feel obligated to leave it in yourselves!)
    Before you perform...
    Don't forget to ask yourself:
  • Does this skit Edify the audience? Will it illustrate an important theological point, offer a challenge, or encourage a closer walk with God?
  • Does this skit Enhance the message it will accompany? Does it make some portion of the speaker's message clearer, more real, or closer to every day life?
  • Does this skit Entertain? Have we created this skit to fully engage the audience's attention, be it through humor or drama?
  • But, perhaps you're just not ready to go off the script yet. That's OK too - we've created the "Full Scripts" section with you in mind. We would, however, encourage you never to adhere slavishly to the written lines. Yank out our inside jokes and replace them with your own. Update the circa 1998 political commentary, movie references, and slang. You'll also notice that, although we often provide numbers, genders, and even names of characters; suggestions for stage layout, and other specific suggestions, we also frequently point out a place in which a gender could be easily switched, a character added or removed, and etc. We mean that - don't be afraid to take what we've written down and play with it. You won't hurt our feelings - seriously, we'll feel even happier knowing that something we created engaged someone else's God-given creativity and was able to fit perfectly into their setting.

    Congratulations if you've held on this long! We appreciate your forbearance of our wandering comments. We trust you'll find them useful as your contemplate, create, or improve your own drama ministry. Thank you for using your God-given talents in this important work!

         -- The Thing of it Is (And There Is a Thing) Players

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