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From the Editor -
David Ian
Acting Up
Featured Script
Quest for the Perfect Script
By David Ian

When I attend Christian drama conferences or speak to heads of drama departments for various churches, I take an informal poll as to what one single commodity is least available and most in demand. Among the possible candidates might be "dedicated actors" or "support from the pulpit" or "platform time" or even "budget larger than zero". But overwhelmingly the response I get time after time is "quality scripts".

There is a hunger out there for Christian theatrical scripts that fit the need of the still growing army of Sunday morning church drama groups. Some of this may be due to drama leaders not knowing how to access fine resources that provide scripts at low or no cost; some of this may be due to fact that each drama team or group may have its own particular needs due to size, ability, availability, or gender balance; some of this may also be due to the specialized needs from Sunday to Sunday for each script to fit the morning message or theme like a glove. From my experience, it is all of the above and more.
(A one-woman oral interpretation)
By Pamela Bridgeman

[At Start: Stage is in darkness]

(Narrator heard off stage)

NARRATOR: Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

[Lights up. We see the interior of a dining room - daytime.]

MARTHA, a woman in her forties, dressed in an apron is setting a table. She has a towel slung over her shoulder. She is talking to herself.

(Wiping her brow)

MARTHA: Working and serving. Working and serving. That's all I do. There's so little time. (Mutters) What do I mean, so little time?

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First we have resources. One of the limiting factors for many drama leaders is lack of networking, either personal or in cyberspace. There are many fine online resources that offer scripts for limited production at no or low cost. Running "Christian Drama Scripts" on a good search engine can start you down the path to sniffing out some reliable resources and finding a match for a drama team's specific needs. Adding "Free" to the search keywords can also help to search for the elusive "perfect script".

Second we have tailor-made scripts. While searching for scripts, it's a good idea to keep in mind the flexibility that can be used with staging, casting and theatrical conventions. While at first blush a script might appear to be unusable because it calls for staging or casting that you cannot match, a second look with an eye for adaptation and ingenuity might mean the script is usable with a little creativity on your part and suspension of disbelief on the audience's part. Are all the roles necessarily gender specific, or can some be swapped out? Is the staging described in the script essential, or can you strip away the trappings and use only the bare essentials? Does the piece really need a spotlight, or can you isolate someone on stage using space and proximity or other directorial tools? This is where a director really earns his pay (hah!).

Now comes the "fitting like a glove". This involves more negotiation on the part of the drama leader than script search. Note that this assumes the morning drama has the expectation of somehow illustrating the message or theme of the service and is to have some kind of application relevant to the season or sermon. Personally, this has always befuddled me, as it is rare that the music director is asked to find or compose, rehearse and present in a short space of time "some little ditty" whose main purpose is to underline the message for the morning, and not to be able to stand alone by its own merits. But that's my own befuddlement. The reality is, morning church drama is almost always tied to some thematic concerns and rarely gets to explore themes on its own. Personally, I think that's to the detriment of all, and is a contributor to the limitations of quality for Christian short drama that is so hungrily sought after. But we have to be pragmatic, also.

Accepting this reality, then, one might have to attempt to present a broader application in subject matter in order to fulfill both the need for quality and for application. For example, if the intended message is about Judas, do we need to search for a script specifically about Judas, or will a broader category of "Betrayal" suffice? If the season involves Mother's Day, must the script be about 20th century "soccer moms", or can that ideal be embodied by other historical figures? The challenge may be to see just how abstract can you get and still be topical, assuming the payoff is a better quality script.

I'm not suggesting that great stretches be made or that the audience be asked to buy into a weak connection or scratch their heads and wonder "why?" I'm merely putting forward an idea that we attempt to lift some limitations by allowing for a greater choice of material in order to satisfy both the requirement for relevance and also maintain a desire for excellence. Too often a script is thought to be "just right" when it fulfills merely the application requirement, but is perhaps lacking in qualities that we are willing to overlook in favor of how well it fits.

If it may be thought this is putting too much value on "quality" or "production values" for a short morning drama, I consider the music director who is given leave to reject a piece of music because it is a "bad arrangement" or "too simplistic", despite the subject matter of the lyrics being "just right". Drama for worship application should be given no less the same consideration, and its directors should be the voice "crying in the wilderness" insisting on such quality -- and then taking the responsibility to go forth and find such treasures. With some knowledge of available resources, some creativity for production values, and flexibility in application of subject matter, good material should be a little easier to find.
David Ian is the Founder and Artistic Director of "Unchained Productions", a Christian theatrical production and resource organization. He is an award-winning playwright, performer, and is touring a one-man comedy show entitled "The Replacement Disciple". His website can be found at www.UnchainedProductions.com.