Tomorrow is the first Sunday of December, which, for the past several years, has meant one thing for me: time to start directing rehearsals. About 12 hours from now I’ll have 40-50 kids staring at me in the church multi-purpose hall, waiting for me to introduce them to “Everybody Counts,” the sermon/skit/play(let) I wrote this past August. (My wife encourages me to call them one act plays, but they aren’t really long enough to be that, I think.)
This is my third time directing such a piece. The first, in 2008, was an adaptation I did of Hisako Aoki’s Santa’s Favorite Story. Last year, I wrote “No Time for Christmas,” which found Santa’s workshop in utter chaos and the elves in need of a reminder about what Christmas is actually all about. It wasn’t a fully original piece. The structure was similar to Aoki’s story, aside from the opening workshop scene.
“Everybody Counts” goes further. For one thing, I’m telling the Nativity story from off at an angle. It’s set in Bethlehem during the 24-hours or so overlapping with the birth of Jesus and is told mainly from the perspective of a family living next door to the inn with the stable out back where the big event happens. Joseph and Mary arrive unannounced. The angels pass through unannounced. Etc. The family is drawn into events as they unfold, embracing or resisting them in various ways. I’m also trying to put the congregation right in the middle of Bethlehem, to some degree, with roving merchants, Roman soldiers stationed around the hall, etc.
It’s much more complicated than either of the other two. Lots of lines. Lots of overlapping movement. But, with the experience of the first two, I think I’ve made choices that will work. And I have confidence in my ability to change things on the fly if needed. Which is good, since all I get is about an hour of rehearsal time divided over the next two Sundays and then a couple of run throughs the day before it’s performed.