ANGELS: Who do you seek in the tomb, O Christians?
MARYS: Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified, O heavenly ones.
ANGELS: He is not here. He is risen. Go and annound that He is risen from the tomb as foretold.
~ Quem quaritis - (Whom do you seek?) c.950
This is the season when many churches are planning productions for Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Resurrection Day (Easter). These presenations include drama, dance, pageantry, or a combination of all three. In larger churches, cast members may audition for these productions, or in smaller ministries everyone is invited to participate, making it an exciting time for teaching and learning.
Liturgical drama as we know it, evolved from a four-lined 10th century scene known as a trope. The trope was a short musical interlude in the church service that was used to teach the Bible to those who could not read Latin. The earliest and best known trope was the Quem quaritis - "Whom do you seek", performed during the Easter service. Over time, the dramas became more complex, involving more detail with costumes, props, and characters. The most popular form of liturgical drama was the Passion Play, depicting the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and has taken on many variations through the years. It is amazing that the elaborate church productions that we enjoy today originated from only four lines!
Whatever type of production you are doing this year, there are some basic things to remember:
(1) If you have never been in a production before, have fun, and don't be afraid to ask questions. We are all here to tell a story that someone else needs to know.
(2) If you are experienced, don't look down on those who are less skilled than you are, and be available to share your knowledge with others -- but remember that there is only one director.
(3) Be on time! in professional theatre, the saying is: "If you are on time, you're late", meaning, if a rehearsal starts at 7:00, be there at 6:45, ready to work at 7:00 and please don't drag in at 7:15. (That goes for directors too)!
(4) Study your character, understand their motivation. Even if you are part of a crowd that yells: "Crucify Him!" know why you are saying it, and to whom you are talking. Who are you? a shopkeeper, a farmer, or a elderly person? What did He say or do that caused you to want Him dead? Where are you? When does this take place? Why are you part of the crowd?
(5) Don't talk during rehearsals. If you are waiting for your scene to come up, listen to what others are saying and doing and don't be a distraction. You might miss important information that the director will get tired of repeating.
(6) Mark your script with any notes and cues that are given to you with a highlighter and a pencil, and remember them.
(7) Know your lines and the ones before and after yours, just in case someone misses a cue and you have to keep going. You would be surprised how often this happens, even in professional theatre. Remember, this is live, so there are no retakes.
(8) Speak clearly. There is something actors are taught to do on stage, which is called "popping consonants". It means to pronounce the beginning and ending of each word, so much that even though it sounds exaggerated to you, the people in the audience will hear the words normally.
(9) Project your voice - speak so the people on the back row and in the balcony can hear you. This does not mean to yell your lines, but it does mean that you have to use your diaphragm to speak. If you are not familiar with this, your director will be able to teach you.
(10) To combat stage fright, stay focused on what you are doing, and remember that people in the audience want you to do well. If you make a mistake, don't show it, even if you have to make something up to get back on track. It has happened to everyone.
Last of all, be excited about going on stage for Christ, and don't forget your Passion for Him!