This might be your greatest conundrum in the area of church drama and skits. Your faithful actors don’t have much time on their hands and when they do- it’s going to be hard for them to memorize a script. Even if they do get the script down- it sounds robotic,with no inflection, no emotion and with their backs toward the wall instead of the audience. Why?
Could it be dramatic overload for these fine thespians? Could it be that the script was sitting on the coffee table a little too close to the box set of “Arrested Development”? The answer to the first question is probably a “no”. As for the second question – a huge maybe . More than likely, your actors are garnering everything they’ve learned since they were a kid when they got up and did a “skit” at camp. Some are even very serious about their craft and using every technique they learned in drama class from their Drama teacher/English teacher.
It seems that all the theater techniques don’t necessarily jive with the big screens in church service. And even in intimate settings- conventional theatrics don’t always work for skits and dramas. Don’t get me wrong- blocking, projecting, being aware of your audience, method acting, enunciating- all have a place in what you do in performing skits but on a more diminished level. When you do skits- you aren’t doing a play. The theater and the church stage really are two different worlds.
So “when in Rome”…if you could re-teach your actors not to use their arms like they were talking to the back row they may find it liberating. (And they may not need to sport an arm brace at school on Monday!) As they do more “slice of life” material in skits and dramas for church as opposed to scenes from Hamlet, doing less definitely makes it all little more real. And chances are, this will make your actors feel a little less intimidated by the expectations.
My expectations in paying for a ticket to a Broadway show is a full-tilt, maybe even overdone production. When I go to see a skit, my expectations will not likely be of huge impression.
But we can impress with skits as well as with any big production if we keep in mind that we are simply trying to be real. I often teach this at my drama workshops. During our improvs and even with scripts, I try to encourage the students to, “just talk it”. Just be natural. Just say the lines more like conversation than the “State of the Union Address”. Have your students act as if they are on T.V. (Or talking to someone while watching t.v.!) Have them pretend there are studio cameras right on their face. Tell them that Aunt Mildred will see them just fine – even on the back row!
It really is relatively easy to pull off great skits and dramas in church and not feel like the title of the script should be something like, “Droids on ‘Roids”. Acting like a human- feeling something human can be incredibly effective in communicating a message to… humans. You will be met with some opposition if you choose to take on this mission. It won’t seem right and be a huge paradigm shift with everything we have learned from drama classes. It will make your skits better and make it easier for your troupe to put together “slices of life” easier and more often.
Email me your stories, I would love to hear them: firstname.lastname@example.org