Easter, Christmas, Fourth of July and other holidays offer us an opportunity for big production. Many churches are limited to the most basic amateur who if you are lucky has had some sort of high-school experience. The end result is most often a non-awe inspiring “hammish” performance.
This is not disparaging the person who is trying, it’s simply recognizing there is normally room for growth. Developing solid performance quality is not as difficult as you might imagine and in reality does not take as much time as you might think. There are several exercises that you can send your people on and ways that you can get them to think through their actions.
First, after you cast your roles, send each performer off with a homework assignment. This assignment should be for them to go and research their character completely. They should learn everything about their characters life – habits, actions, reactions, relationships, etc. If the character is a fictional character then they should find an identical role in real life to study (for example, if the their character is a postman they should study the life of a postman).
Now when they come to rehearsal you should encourage them to begin to relate their work to that study. For instance, if the character is Jesus, and you are preparing for Easter, they need to realize the pain associated with the beatings prior to the cross. They need to understand the materials used for such torture and associate how that really feels when it slaps across your back. When they hit that part of the role, they need to allow those feelings to become real – to imagine really being hit, to try to really feel that pain. This produces a very believable reaction because it’s believable to the actor.
Make the first few rehearsals about character development – not so much about the words. Anyone can recite memorized words, what makes the performance riveting is the raw emotion that comes from the person. Details will emerge – many that the actor might not even realize – and these details will make it real.
I firmly believe the key to a quality performance begins with the actor or actress understanding their character from the inside out and then applying that to their stage character. The key is emotion and emotion can only be reached through study and understanding.