So I’ve been counting down the minutes, last week, until my kids’ Christmas play at church is over and done with and I can start relaxing and enjoying the season. Writing the play, practicing the play, directing the play (oh, and this year I was in it, too) and then praying that all the kids show up alive and well on Sabbath morning and some of them even know their lines, is probably the most stressful thing I do during December. Largely because it involves so many factors I can’t control, like kids — many of them other people’s kids, over whom I have even less control than my own.
Now, I don’t want you to go picturing some grand Broadway-style production here over which I am losing sleep. This is typically a 10-15 minutes play featuring a couple of songs and somehow ending up with everyone around the manger in Bethlehem. Although this year’s script involved time-travel to get us there, so that was a fresh twist.
A friend of mine recently wrote and directed a play for her son’s entire third-grade class in elementary school and had to run rehearsals and the whole bit with 58 kids or so … no, I am not in that league. I deal with about a dozen children in my kids’ Sabbath School classes, and it’s a pretty small-scale production. But still, more than enough stress for me.
I write my own Christmas plays for the Sabbath school kids because it’s easier. Easier than finding a play of the right length, on the right theme, featuring the right number of kids with the right balance between boys and girls. I was explaining this to Jason the other day and he said, “You mean it’s easier FOR YOU” and I guess that’s true — some people might find writing the script added to their stress load, but it’s the one thing that makes it easier for me. I can tailor the parts to the kids I have to work with, and even do last-minute revisions when some kids ask for a bigger role while others want a smaller role.
Yesterday, Chris said, “Can I write the play next year?” I smiled and said, “Maybe,” but when I thought about it I realized, it’s not like he’s too young. I started my career of writing Christmas plays in fourth grade, when my teacher (perhaps a bit distracted with the whole process?) decided, for some reason, to allow a fourth-grader to write the class Christmas play. (She was the cool semi-hippie teacher who only stayed one year, a nice break from the highly structured, we’ve-always-done-it-this-way teachers who dominated most of my elementary school career). I don’t recall much about the plot except it involved a bunch of carollers visiting a poor family, and surreptitiously dropping gifts on the floor while they sang (gee, I hope they weren’t a set of dishes or anything!) only to have the gifts discovered after the carollers had gone. It went better than you might expect, although there was some suspicious thumping and banging during the carol. And thus my career was launched.
With all the attendant stress of pulling off a Christmas play or pageant with a group of under-12s (nothing beat last year, when a family of three got sick the morning of the program and we had to reassign parts among a cast of twelve to cover three missing actors) it is something I enjoy every year. And I kind of hope Chris forgets about wanting to write next years, because the truth is, I already have some ideas!