Organizing and Executing a Church Thanksgiving Play

7 Steps to Make Sure Everything Goes Well

Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Your church has probably already started planning local community events and you’ve been tasked with the Thanksgiving play… Oh no! What to do? How did you get this assignment anyway? Most likely you forgot to step back from the line like everyone else when they asked for volunteers. But maybe, just maybe, you like this sort of thing and can’t wait to get started. Either way you have to get it together and make this a success. So here is a small step by step guide to help you on your way to planning and executing a successful church Thanksgiving play.

  1. Assess Your Resources

Start a list of things at your disposal. Be realistic in assessing your likely pool of resources. Do you have a $1000 budget or a $10 budget? How many volunteers will you probably get? One? Five? Twenty? Will the play be indoors or outdoors? What kind of equipment will you have? If outdoors, will a tent be provided? How much time do you have? Write it all down. Knowing the extent of your resources will help you to determine the scope of your play. If you have ten days and five actors your play will look a lot different than if you had three months and twenty actors.

  1. Get People Involved

Getting people excited about a play and to volunteer is probably the hardest part. Start by creating a colorful informational flyer and post it everywhere you can in the community. Announce the date and time of the play at your church well in advance of the date. Keep reminding the congregation. Ask the local YMCA if you can hang a flyer there. Go into local businesses and ask if you can post in their stores. Most places will be more than willing to accommodate you. In addition to this see if your local newspaper will add it to the calendar of events they publish in their paper. Also talk to the local community webmaster about posting an add on the community website. If you don’t know these people, now is probably a good time to start a relationship with them.

  1. Pick a Theme

Will your play be traditional with pilgrims and Native Americans or will it be a modern twist on an old theme? Get a brainstorming group together to come up with ideas for the theme of your play. Don’t settle for a vague concept. Pin down the details of how you want the play to look and what scenes are important.

  1. Make a Plan

This is where you will use your list of resources to determine the scope of the play. Figure out how many helpers you have who aren’t in the play. Assign one person to script research, one to stage design, one to audio/video (a/v) control, one to costumes, and one to rehearsals (you may end up doing this yourself). Decide how long the play will run, how many scenes there will be, and how many actors will be in it. Send your scripting person on a search for a script that fits your needs immediately. Or, if you are creating your own, have them start scripting.

Let the stage and costume leads know their budget and have them do an initial search for costumes and props. Many costumes for a play can be put together from thrift store clothing. Check there for exotic boots, furs, belts, and hats. Stage props may be a little harder to come by. Have your stage designer check Craigslist.com for the unique items needed. Also, yard sales frequently have odd items that may be useful in a stage setup. If you still need things you can’t find, you may have to look for someone with some artistic ability and free time. Let them know what you are looking for and they may be able to make it for you.

Once the script has been secured, give everyone a copy for review. Set up a deadline for completing stage and costume design. Also have the rehearsal instructor do a casting call and determine a rehearsal schedule. The a/v person should be working with all of these people to make sure a/v integration goes smoothly. Once everyone knows their first assignments set up a time for the next meeting.

  1. Monitor Progress

Poor planning and failure to monitor progress are almost always the root causes of a failed project. Make sure that progress meetings are scheduled at least three times before the actual execution date. Encourage your volunteers to be completely honest with their progress and in bringing up potential issues. Problems that are caught early can usually be easily solved. Figuring out where to come up with three more costumes the night before the play is much harder. Monitor early and often.

  1. Adjust for Problems

If there are problems, don’t ignore them. Create workarounds. The problems will not go away or become easier as time progresses. Fix it now or pay the consequences later.

  1. Execute

If you follow all these steps, execution should be relatively straightforward. Most of the problems should already have been addressed. The night before make sure a sound check is done. Take stock of the costumes and make sure they are set out in an orderly fashion. Reassure nervous actors and let them know that if they give it their best, everything will work out OK. Then, get a good night’s rest and enjoy the show!

Hopefully this guide to putting on a Thanksgiving play will be useful as you plan your event. Pay attention to the details and everything should run smoothly. Now go put on that play!

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