Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Drama, The Visual Language Part 6

Street Drama

My experience with street drama has been highly successful for many reasons. When performing street drama, pedestrians are not corralled by four walls and surrounded by people they don't know. In street drama everyone in the audience is a stranger to each other and everyone is on the same plateau. People stop because they want to and know that they can leave when they begin to feel uncomfortable, if they do at all. When you think about it, almost all of Jesus' ministry was done on the street or at least outside the temple. He spoke to the audience on the shore as he stood on the edge of a boat. Jesus wrote a message in the dirt in the middle of the street of Jerusalem. He spoke to a woman at a well outside of town. I believe that the ministry of the church is evolving into a more, "Jesus like", example. Taking the gospel message back to the streets is happening everywhere and drama is playing a great role. I encourage your drama team to develop


material that is street ready and try it on a street corner or town square where there might be a good amount of pedestrian traffic. Lillenas Drama Publishing in Kansas City, Missouri has many books of short sketches that you can do on the street.

Here are some things to think about when planning a street drama ministry:

1. Prepare drama material that is short and moving.

A. Song interpretation / Dowel rods or sticks

B. Mime

C. Parable like stories

You do not need to prepare a huge number of sketches or pieces because your audience is usually always changing. Many times you can recycle the same songs.

2. Secure permits

A. Park or sidewalk permits

B. Private business owners permit (You might be set-up in front of a private business and will need permission)

C. Amplified sound permit

3. Power source

A. Provided by city receptacles (Not the case usually)

B. Battery powered CD players

C. Rent a gas powered mobile generator

4. Sound system

A. Rent a self contained board

B. Invest in a self contained board that folds up and can be carried easily

5. Flyers or handbills

A. Small business size handbills (Usually the best because people put them in their pocket, rather than on the ground)

B. Large 8 1/2 x 11 handbill (Great for posters of stuffing into local newspapers)

*The handbills or any advertisement should be an invitation to a crusade or special event.

6. Where?

A. Amphitheater

B. Street corner - choose big enough area so you won't block pedestrian traffic

C. Park

D. Community events

E. Local Christian concerts

F. Malls

7. Who?

A. Small cast for sidewalk events because you will not be able to take up too


much room.

B. Larger cast for amphitheater or park

C. Youth usually have the energy, but by no means do you want to limit participation to an exclusive group. I don't usually go younger that 13 because of the attention span and the ability of younger kids to focus on an all day or multiple-day event. Street ministry can be very rewarding, but it is hard work. Street ministry is fun and can implement many people into the process. Not everyone involved with the street ministry will be in the drama. Some people prefer to hand out flyers. Others want to help in setting up the sound equipment. All of it is important. While ministering on the streets of San Francisco with our drama team, a few locals tried to get us frustrated by trying to steal the attention away from us. Without going into great detail, we were being made fun of. We just stayed focused and the intruder went on when they realized they weren't going to get upset. I share that story because even though street drama can very successful, it is vulnerable to whoever else is on the street, too. That's why it's always wise to have permits and fees paid so you can show you have the right to be where you are. My experience with doing drama in malls or even passing out flyers in malls has been…if you don't have permission, don't do it. There is nothing more embarrassing to you and your group than being asked to leave an area because you didn't get permission. That goes for every place you want to minister, not just malls. Malls can be a very good place for street drama, especially if you can reserve the food court area.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Drama, the Visual Language Part 5

Drama, What Does It Mean?

It is speculated that drama can be traced back to the Egyptian hieroglyphics. Explorers found drawings or paintings illustrating situations and events being acted out on the walls of the pyramids. So, you see, situations being acted out aren't new, but maybe that's going back too far for us. Drama was used a lot by most civilizations for entertainment. During the rule of Rome, drama and theater was used and abused to a large extent. The church disowned such entertainment because of the subject matter. Later, however, the Roman church adapted the medium to be used again. Priests became the actors and the script was the Bible. Such biblical reenactments were known to last as long as many hours to literally many days. One reference accounted a church play to last forty days. We won't be doing that, so take a deep breath and be glad you don't live during the Roman era. Let's bring the drama history lesson a little closer to home.

What does drama mean? The word "drama" in the Greek (dromenon) means,"to do". Ancient authors gave scripts to actors, but only told the actor what to do, not what to say. There wasn't any dialogue to speak, so actors relied on their expression and actions to convey the message of the play. Actors developed a character so well that they could convey the whole message and not even speak one word. This book is an effort to encourage actors to learn what it really means to develop a believable character.

The mime technique was one of the first methods of communicating through drama. The, "doing", or the action was the language that early actors used to tell the story. The book of James in the Bible tells us to be doers of the word, not hearers only. Drama truly is the visual language. You've heard the saying, "actions speak louder than words", and it really is true. As an actor you must discover the true language of drama…and that is, "doing". Traditional thinking leads you to believe that drama is a lot of speaking and not much of anything else. I hope to show you that there is much more to the drama process and developing a believable character than learning lines and speaking them when it's your turn. Popular thought among the inexperienced is that simply learning the lines makes you an actor. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. You can't explore the character development process until you memorize the words. As a director I would commend you on your memorizing skills, but then thrust you into two weeks of blocking and note taking. I would give you assignments that would help you discover the character that I've asked you to make believable. Character development is hard work and takes more than just your ability to memorize. Memorizing is just the beginning of the character development process. Always keep in mind that drama is doing, action and movement. As we've learned more about the communication process through the years, we've added dialogue to help communicate the message in a more natural way. Adding the appropriate words to the appropriate actions makes for an enjoyable setting. One without the other is half finished. Many church plays I watch have a tendency to be half finished in their presentation. This is mainly due to the lack of experience in the acting (doing) element. Many church plays are under worked in the acting area and over the top on huge flats and props, and last way too long. I recently attended an Easter play that lasted over three hours. That's far too long for a single setting.


Let's get back to our subject in this session. As you proceed through the character development process, always keep in mind that drama is doing…action…movement.

The Dramatic Approach

We all know how music can draw people into the process of worship. Music is usually less offensive than preaching. Drama does the same thing. However, drama invites people into the process in a different way. Drama in the church offers an entirely different atmosphere. People will come to the play when they won't come to hear you preach. In drama, the audience enters into the arena of worship when they themselves feel comfortable with it and they decide it’s time. They laugh because they decide it’s funny. They cry because they decide to do it. Drama is usually the least offensive communication and often convinces the listener to relax. The visitors in your audience are more apt to attend your drama rather than your traditional church service because they feel they won't be preached at. Easter and Christmas is generally when we have the most visitors because they expect to come and see a play or musical in an inoffensive atmosphere. Since that is true maybe we need to do drama more times throughout the year. I know a few churches actually minister with drama every Sunday morning. It didn't happen over night, but slowly evolved into what it has become today. People expect to see a short sketch that either introduces the theme of the pastor's message or a concept that the leadership is trying to communicate to the whole church body. With the right organization and discipline, an on going drama ministry can greatly enhance the evangelistic efforts as well as bring variety to the church services.

Now churches are seeing the drama concept being an effective tool to take the gospel message on the street or into the community. The last five years I have had the opportunity to minister on busy street corners and parks of major cities. I was amazed at the response. Again, because the atmosphere is totally in the control of the pedestrian, people are okay with stopping and watching. They can leave when they want or stay if they want.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

CODE This year

If you are wanting more instruction on drama ministry...please visit our site at for locations and dates.

Father's Day material

If you are looking for Father's Day material...we have a really fun reader's theater called, "What a Man Really Wants...or whatever". The nice thing about reader's theater is you don't have memorize the piece. It is dramatically read in character with all the neat little nuances and expressions. So, the reader does need to be familiar with the story line, rise and fall of the expressions and ebb and flow of the story.
As a reader you have control of the unfolding of the story, but you don't move in the piece. Most of the time reader's sit on stools with their scripts on music stands or can be hand held depending on whether they are using lapel mics or not.
If you haven't performed a reader's theater piece, then try onew this year for Father's Day. You can download, "What a Man Really Wants...or whatever" at

Drama, the Visual Language Part 4

Slice of Life "Slice of Life", is a term that I use to describe a style of drama that addresses everyday life situations. When writing about life, I look for the universal humor, challenges and victories. Our days are full of interesting situations (slices) that make our day whole. From the moment you get up in the morning until the moment you lay down at night, there are little slices of life that make for great drama. Often times it's something humorous or laboring or rewarding. It's usually an event that every family or married couple has experienced. To be a successful actor, you must find that common denominator that makes your character a believable part of the whole.Here are some examples of what I'm talking about:Example #1A piece of mail came to our house. As I was thumbing through the stack, my wife asked if there was any mail for her. I said, "Yes. It was a dear occupant letter", and put it on the counter for her to read later. She said, "How do you know it's for me, then?" I innocently said, "because it had something to do with loosing weight and fat in-take." I'm still alive to tell you that we both saw the humor in it and it became a slice of life sketch that we use in almost every dinner drama we do. She later found another dear occupant letter. I asked who it was for and she said it was definitely for me. I asked how she could tell. She said, "Have you every heard of Rogaine, the product for balding men?" You see, both of the subjects touched life in a real way. We used it in a humorous way. Humor is a great way to touch on sensitive subjects, but don't use it to cut the other one down. Let the humor unfold in a natural way, but try not to let closure take place until the play or sketch can have a happy ending.Example #2I was standing in line at a photography store waiting for my slide film to be developed. As I was waiting, an elderly lady wanted to buy one roll of film. The man working at the counter wanted to sell her a multi-pack of film. She told the man she just wanted one roll for her granddaughter's wedding and that one roll would be enough. The man remarked that the multi-pack isn't that much more expensive and the film was good until 2004. The elderly woman looked at the man and said, "Son, I don't even know if I'm good for that long". I've used that situation in one of my old man routines because it sounds like something an elderly person would say. It was a real slice of life. As you go through your daily life listen to people and watch them. You will learn neat things about life that make great additions to your writing or acting skills.Example #3I included a line in a short sketch from something my youngest daughter said while we were eating at Wendy's. When she was 3 years old she said, "I like cheeseburgers with cheese on them". I thought that was cute and worked it into a scene of a short sketch I wrote for a four-year-old son and his father to do while they were eating at McDonald's.

6.Listen to people while you are waiting in line at the grocery store. Listen to conversations in the mall or airport. You'll hear everyday life happening all around you. Everyday life makes great material for the Slices of Life. Not only listen, watch their actions very closely. Watch how people walk. Do they swing one arm more than the other? Do they shift their weight when they walk? Does their head bounce when they walk? Watching and listening to people is how I may go about deciding what things I may include when I create a character that I've been cast for.Character Development Exercise:This is an exercise that I will introduce to a new cast. Have your cast form a circle. Starting with the person on your left, have them walk to the center of the circle and say their name and then return back to their place in line. As they walk to the center, say their name and return, make sure the others in the circle take mental note of how that person walks, how they swing their arms. Answer some questions like…did they look down, did they focus on one person, did one arm swing more then the other. Did they walk fast or slow and did they lead with their shoulders? Were they shy, were they bold, were they embarrassed and so on? Now, everyone take everything that you observed by watching that one person and walk to the center of the circle as if you were that person. They will watch all of you as you do them. Then the next person will walk to the center of the circle, say their name, return back to their place in line and you will all do them. Then, the next person and so on. You can learn many things from watching people. You might see something in the way a certain person walks or swings their arms that you want to add to your character. Watch people in the mall or airport or even people you see everyday. If you've been asked to play a 5-year-old, then you need to spend time with 5 year olds. Listen to the way they talk. Listen to the purity of their words. Slang and euphemisms haven't dirtied their language. In fact some of the best communicators are children about the age of 2-3. They convince us with actions, facial expressions and movement because they haven't developed their language yet. Remember drama is doing. If you've been asked to portray an elderly person, then visit with some at the local retirement home. Visit with your grandparents. Watch how they walk. Do they shuffle their feet? Do their hands tremor? Watch how many extra considerations they have to go through just sit down and the process it takes for them to get up from sitting. BRING A PENCIL TO REHEARSAL

Friday, April 30, 2010

Drama, The Visual Labuage Part 3

The Message and The Messenger Part 3 By Howi Tiller

The world we live in is driven by unbridled floods of media that appeal directly to the senses of the flesh. The successful advertising agencies not only have a message, but they know that the right messenger is what sells the product of the message. That's why they have Tiger Woods as the spokesman for credit card advertising and Michael Jordan as the spokesman for athletic shoes. They are messengers. Secular media has a message that is designed to tickle one or more of our senses. The message is dramatized to appeal to fleshly appetites. It is constantly selling something to the human element…eyes, flesh or the pride of life. The worldly message appeals to the fleshly appetites and usually becomes a detriment to the human spirit or a waste of money. The message in Christian drama appeals to the human spirit and keeps the flesh honest about itself and in check. Since this is true, the church must acknowledge that we may have to adjust our approach to the evangelistic effort. We cannot and do not want to make changes to the message, but we can make adjustments to our methods that communicate that message. No question, the gospel message is our most important subject, but how we communicate that message can be equally as important…not more important, but at times our method can be just as significant. How will the audience hear unless we are wise in our communication of it? Information is communicated in an entirely different way than twenty years. People see the whole world in a flash via satellite. I believe the Lord wants us to search for new ways of communicating the gospel. I know that the preaching methods have changed down through the years. Today's method isn't anything the way Jesus ministered. So, let's be careful criticizing changes in preaching methods, remember ours isn't anything close to Jesus' method or template. Today's method will hopefully evolve again into what God wants to use. We need to be open to what God wants to develop into being a viable and intricate element of today's evangelism. This may be hard to believe, but I think that as you read this book, you will come to the same conclusion. He who wins souls is wise. God has given us an opportunity to win souls through drama. We need to use it wisely. When you think about the way Jesus communicated, it made sense. His message was relative and the application was modern. I think that you should do what God calls you to do. If He asks you to stand on a soapbox and preach loudly on the city-street corner, then that's what you need to do. The problem with that is that today's mind-set doesn't respond to that way of preaching very well. They did in the 1930's and 40's, but not today. Maybe there will come a time again that the world could be brought to their knees and cry for bibles and repent like they did in America a hundred years ago. Having said all that, I think we need to seriously look at the opportunities that drama might afford to us as an end-time tool. The words, drama or theater might have the conservative church reeling from bad past experiences. There are also main stream religions that have opened their doors to drama but may have also opened the door to more than a pure evangelistic drama ministry. I think many churches have accepted a mix of secular entertainment and a so-called drama ministry which usually ends up be nothing more than secular theater performed in the church or fellowship-hall. That's a far cry from what this book is talking about. I'm talking about drama that genuinely draws people to Christ and causes people to really think about their soul and where they are going to spend eternity. Does that mean every play is nothing but scripture? No. Plays can be about how to live life…raise teenagers in today's world…love, hate, life and death. When my wife and I minister through dinner drama, we perform pieces or sketches that I call, "Slices of Life". Each sketch has a relative message that transcends religious background and family upbringing. The sketches are about finances, raising kids, relationships and everyday life. It wouldn't matter if your audience were Baptist, Methodist or Pentecostal, most could relate to the "Slices of Life". That's what Jesus did. His message was no respecter of persons. His message was about life situations that His audience understood. There are times that you might want to do drama for just your church family and that's fine. It could be a time for doing short sketches that included inner circle jokes or roasts. That certainly has its place. However, never invite guests to your drama or dinner drama where any or all humor is what we call inner circle humor. In other words don't do comedy that only your church members would understand. It leaves the guest out of the circle and they feel uncomfortable. The guest will most likely not come back. So, choose material and humor that's relative and transcending.

Drama, The Visual Language Part 2

Drama...To do it or not to do it...that is the question Part 2 By Howi Tiller

Nothing will ever replace Biblical preaching, praying and fasting in bringing revival to the church or new souls into the kingdom. This book wasn't written to encourage the church to substitute its evangelism with a drama or short sketch every Sunday morning. It was however, written to encourage the church to take a fresh look at drama as a viable contribution to the local church's outreach. Any ministry, whether it's the choir, Sunday School or a drama must stay under the umbrella of the leadership and authority of the church. So, before we go too far into this book, please let it be understood that it is not my desire to infer that drama is the answer to all the evangelistic questions. Again, however, drama is arguably a tool that the church can greatly use in the last days to preach the gospel. And if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. The question that should be asked is, "why aren't we already doing it?" This book will help to answer that question. I've been involved with drama for over twenty-five years and have seen the incredible opportunities that God has afforded to us when we used it wisely. I think there is a tendency to think that drama in the church is only making room for Hollywood. That possibility does have some merit, but if the driving force behind the drama ministry is about equipping the church and evangelizing the world then I think we must prayerfully investigate the viable possibilities. Sometimes, individuals can lose sight of the ministries' mission and lean towards a hollywood-ish expectation and approach. It's true that drama can be taken advantage of in the wrong way and one person's talent takes over the ministry and ruins the effectiveness that the drama ministry could have had. I address that when I teach drama conferences and instruct students to keep their motives pure and their talent under the umbrella of authority. The, "look at me", syndrome can ruin it for everyone involved in the drama ministry. In traveling to many churches over the years, I sometimes come across someone who doesn't want to be in drama if they can't be the, "star", or have a major role. I let them know right away, (in love) that this is not about them and to keep their priorities right. It's hard for some people to stay humble when they are getting all the attention. Hopefully, the pastor and drama director will recognize when things are getting out of sorts and will re-emphasize the correct priorities. With all that said, it is still worth while to create a healthy drama ministry that can be a genuine arm of evangelism in the local church. It takes time and effort to generate a solid foundation from which to build a launching pad for this vital end-time ministry. Some churches are experimenting with short sketches and song interpretations as a part of the Sunday morning service. Many are having great success and using the drama ministry wisely. An organized effort will help keep the ministry fresh and keep people from going through burnout. Many churches perform the large Easter or Christmas musicals and then don't have the energy to do drama any other time of the year. This is usually due to inexperience and taking on more responsibilities than they are qualified to do. I tend to lean toward what I call, "Less Is More", in my approach to the drama ministry as a whole. If you will adopt this theme, you will save yourself many headaches and heartaches. Don't purposely cut corners because you are too lazy to do the job right, but have a very good idea where to say, "I must have that prop", or "that prop makes the set too busy and it doesn't add to the overall effect. Let's save the money and use it in advertising". The
pastor will be happy if you come under budget, too. Money or the lack of it seems to be the main problem in initiating a drama ministry. You may have to convince the pastor that the drama ministry is not excess baggage that the church will have to carry. Be patient, walk softly and carry a big script. When it's your turn, set a precedent and make the church cheer for more (in a manner of speaking). Remind yourself and your drama team that you are messengers of truth and that the drama ministry belongs to the church for its benefits. You can preach through a drama or sketch. Some of your visitors won't come to the traditional church service, but they will come to a play. In reality an anointed drama ministry can have the five-fold ministry in operation. A drama can teach, preach, help pastor, evangelize and be used in prophetic ministry. The Bible is the message, but the five-fold ministry is the method that God uses to encourage and equip the church. I know that the five-fold ministry operating in the drama ministry is very much dependent on those involved and their sensitivity to the Lord. It is there to happen, but you must know that it's there before it can take place. If your play is Biblical and truthful shouldn't any thing be possible? Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying that the five fold ministry will be in operation during a dinner drama as you are performing a comedy sketch about marriage or finances, but more during an anointed monologue or song interpretation where the Holy Ghost is really working and moving. Again, it depends on the person involved and his or her calling. It's very important as to whom is involved in the drama ministry. The message is paramount, but so is the messenger at times.

To order anointed scripts go to