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Advent and nativity plays - what are you doing this year?

Tue 24 November 2015

Advent and nativity plays - what are you doing this year?

By Lara Sweeney.

I’ve never orchestrated a Nativity play myself, but I’ve watched Love Actually enough times to know they can be total chaos. Even without lobsters!

Love Actually Nativity Play

Photo: An octopus for the nativity play from the film Love Actually (2003).

The thought of organising the annual nativity play is enough to make me strategically avoid the Children’s Minister every Sunday within six months of Christmas, for fear they might try to conscript me.
That is, before I read this book, The No Rehearsal Nativity!

No rehersal nativity

Jane Gillion, as a professional actor, teacher and ministry partner with her husband Bishop Rob Gillion,  has a wealth of experience with the nativity play.  

This is obvious in the opening sections of the book, in which she discusses the variety of fears that one might bring to the organisation of a nativity play; Gillion asks,  ‘Do you feel you aren’t confident enough to stage a performance? Do you lack time to organise everything? Are you worried about asking your children to learn lines? Are you afraid you’ll have too many children, or not enough? Does it all seem like simply too big a task? If you have never attempted a nativity, or if you do one each year but they are not working... I hope to encourage you.’

Gillion goes on to share her methods for navigating the various factors involved in organising a nativity play: the children (from the anxious to the beligerent) the parents (from the anxious to the beligerent!)  the script,  the props, the costumes, and the audience.

The most precious gem in this book, for me personally, was the No-Rehearsal Nativity Script.

Nativity play

Nativity plays are a wonderful opportunity to share in the Christmas story.

Gillian’s approach to presenting a nativity play is called Directed Drama,  a method in which, ‘The director or storyteller tells the story while the children react to what he or she is saying... in the No- Rehearsal Nativity, the storyteller is in control.’

This technique, and the script she provides for its performance, was particularly appealing to me, as it remedies many of the difficulties I would anticipate when organising a nativity play: it takes the pressure off children to learn lines and rehearse, reducing their nerves, and leading them to enjoy the experience of dressing up and being part of a group performance. As well as this, it doesn’t depend on hours of work being put into the construction of elaborate costumes or props.

The book also includes costume tips, make-your-own Christingle instructions, and an example of a service booklet for a Christmas event involving the No-Rehearsal nativity scene.

The No- Rehearsal Nativity by Jane Gillion is a thoughtful, user-friendly resource with decades of experience gone into its making. If the thought of organising your church’s nativity play strikes fear into your heart (like it did mine), this book is for you.

The book was released in September and can be order online through MediaCom or through your local Christian bookstore for $18.95.


By Lara Sweeney

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