It was the first Christmas concert rehearsal of the year. With the parts carefully selected beforehand, this was the students’ first chance to hear and read about the world they’d be living and acting in for the next few weeks. Fifteen years prior, I had done this play at a different colony. As we came to one line, I remembered word for word what Ike and Abe were to say in unison. Fifteen years later, I still knew these lines nearly word for word. (When my wife sends me to the grocery store for three things, I forget two of them—the same isn’t true for Christmas concert plays.)
Finding the right plays that will resonate with your colony and your students is the beginning to a successful concert. And choosing the right plays makes rehearsals go smoother and keeps students engaged.
Here are the things I take into consideration to choose the best Christmas concert plays for my students…
- Length and quantity. Do you want one long play or several short plays? I usually go with shorter plays because it’s easier to keep the audience focused.
- Age, ability, and interest of your students. Not all students want to memorize the same number of lines as their classmates might be comfortable with. Note: Some of your students won’t be fully utilized this year. There’ll always be eager students who can do more, and not enough parts. No matter how hard I’ve tried, there’s always at least one student who could have done more. They will have to wait until next year.
- Think big, but start small. Based on past experience, I have a good idea of how many plays we can do, and how long they can be. My planning default is to start small, knowing that if we need to, we can add a small skit in the last week or so. It rarely happens that we’re doing so well that we need to find more to learn. Usually, we’re scrambling in the last week to master all the parts we’re supposed to learn.
- Drop a play if it isn’t working. Once in awhile, you have to admit that it just isn’t working. Spare yourself the grief and try again. One year I ordered the script for what I thought was the perfect play. On paper, it was perfect. In real life, it didn’t work. After two days, we dropped it and focused on a better .
- Find out what plays other colony schools have done. While no two colony schools are exactly the same, we do share many commonalities. We have similar physical setups (no big gym stages, very few professional props, etc.), similar culture and similar age students. What works for other colony schools would probably work for yours.
- Pick your plays early. If you have your plays picked in September, you avoid the last minute stress of figuring out what you’re going to do. It takes the same amount of time to pick the plays in September as it does in November. Doing it in September allows you to think of parts, collect anything you need, and basically be ready for practice. Waiting until December stresses students and teachers as we try to organize our minds around this big task.
- Have fun. Enjoy the time you have to work and connect with your students in a different way.
Here are some of my favourite plays I’ve used in recent years:
- Christmas Nativity Animals
A play where the animals at the manger scene describe what they saw the night Jesus was born.
- The Fourth Wiseman
What if there was another wiseman who set out to see the baby Jesus? In this story, the Fourth Wiseman meets challenges we didn’t think were out there.
- Rhyming Nativity
This play tells the nativity story through rhyming lines. This humorous skit accurately portrays the Christmas story. This is also my favorite of the Christmas nativity plays. I was amazed at how easily students learned the rhyming lines.
- Shepherd Samuel’s Gift
Samuel is an elderly shepherd living outside of Bethlehem. He eagerly follows his family to see the newborn baby the angels told them about. Samuel brings four gifts to give the new baby. On his way, he meets people who desperately need his help (and his gifts). When Samuel finally arrives at the manger to see the newborn baby, he feels bad because he’s given the gifts to the needy instead of keeping them for the newborn king.
I’ve written and/or adapted these four plays. In each case, I had a shorter sketch that I modified and added to. I don’t claim authorship of any of the plays because I got the ideas from somewhere. On the other hand, if the original author of these plays found them, they would only vaguely recognize their plot in my adaptation.
Other Great Concert Plays
Recently I found another great source for Christmas concert plays.
This site hosts a collection of more than 40 “old fashioned” Christmas concert plays. You can find nativity-based plays, Christmas plays, and fun skits your students can do. The site also includes songs and verses to help you fill out what you need for your concert. (And when one of the plays I had picked out ahead of time didn’t work out, this site was a great place to go to find something quick and easy to add to our concert.)