Behind The Pageant

By Dave Wagner


The setting of this play is backstage at the dress rehearsal for a big Christmas production. All the characters are dressed in appropriate costume for the "Big Show." The Director is running in and out getting people ready to go out "on stage" for the rehearsal. But what we see is this backstage activity, with costumed people milling about, interacting with one another. It comes out that some of the kids don't even really understand the Christmas story that they are rehearsing, so the characters embark on an impromptu re-enactment of the nativity story, grabbing whoever is available to play the needed parts. So, we get people dressed as, say, an angel for the "Big Shop" portraying a shepherd in this backstage "Little Show." Understanding and revelation is obtained by those that participate, and the "Little Show" ends up ministering to the kids more than the "Big Show." (See "Production Notes" at foot of script.)


All the costumes are the standard "robe and optional head wrap" fare, except the Star of Bethlehem. What I envisioned was a cloth jumpsuit-type thing, whereby when the Star stood with legs apart and arms outstretched, the cloth stretched out and formed 4 points of a star (the actors' head being the fifth, but no hat). We ended up simply using a white sweat suit and attaching white fabric flaps from wrists to hips. Looked kinda like a cape, but it worked. The Director simply wears a nice, modern outfit, and perhaps a visor and clipboard.


4 Angels
Inn Keeper
Inn Keeper's Wife
2 Guards
Star of Bethlehem
King Herod
3 Wise men
3 Shepherds


[On stage are many actors and actresses, costumed, mumbling among themselves. Director enters and slowly works her way through the crowd as she speaks.]

Director: OK, everyone, come on! Let's get with it here! This is the last dress rehearsal before the big show tomorrow night. We have to get it right this time. There is no room for error. Remember, this is the Christmas Story. The story of the birth of Jesus. So, it's important! Let's give it our best shot. Remember that ol' stage saying "Break a leg?" Well, if we don't get it right, I just might do that…to all of you!

Joseph: Is that your idea of motivation?

Director: I'm only stressing how important this is. We don't want God to look bad, now do we? [Exits]

Joseph: I think she has herself confused with God.

Mary: I can see where she's coming from. She just wants it to go well.

Joseph: Well, we can only do our best. Do you have all of your lines memorized?

Mary: Yep. How about you?

Joseph: I'm ready. It was tough, but I think I remember them all.

Mary: Me too. I was up late going over them.

Angel #1: Gee, it must be hard playing the lead roles and all. You must be soooo important.

Joseph: Humph! You're just jealous because you have no lines.

Mary: Yeah, you just stand there and flap your cardboard wings. [makes little "flapping" motion with her hands]

Joseph: Maybe, some Christmas, when you're mature like me, and able to handle the responsibility, you'll graduate from lowly, silent angel, and be given a few lines in another role.

Mary: Yeah. Like maybe the Inn Keeper. All he gets to say is "No room!"

Inn Keeper: Hey, that's my part. That's an important role! You can pack a lot of emotion into those two small words.

Joseph: Yeah, right. Like the whole play would fall apart if you didn't have the correct intonation.

Inn Keeper: Hey, mock me all you want. It's my part, and I'm going to do it the best I can. [To Angel #1] And you can't have my part!

Angel #1: I didn't say I wanted it.

[Enter Director, stage left]

Director: Mary, Joseph…let's go, we're starting! And the angels…where's my angels? [Angels #1-#3 line up] Hey, where's number 4? Angel number four! [Enter Angel #4, an adult, dressed in a similar angel costume, with little cardboard wings on his back. He stands in line with the other angels.]

Angel #4: I'm here. [to Director] Look, I realize we've had our differences in the past, but I have to question your decision to cast me in this role. It just doesn't seem…right.

Director: What are you talking about? You're perfect. Now go finish getting your makeup on. [Exit Angel #4] We'll need you angels in about 15. For now, I need Mary and Joseph. And where's Gabriel? Somebody find Gabriel!

[Exit Director stage left, enter Gabriel stage right]

Gabriel: [Dramatically, reciting lines] "I am Gabriel!" No, wait… "I am Gabriel! I stand in the presence of God" No, wait… "in the very presence of God!"

Mary: Come on, Gabriel. Let's go, we're on.

Gabriel: But I stand in the very presence of God!

Joseph: Well, stand in his presence on stage. We're on!

[Exit Mary and Joseph, stage left]

Gabriel: But, I've come with glad tidings..! [Exit stage left]

Angel #2: Well, there they go. The "important" actors. What do they know?

Angel #1: Yeah, they think just because they get the big parts that they're more important than we are.

Inn Keeper's Wife: Well, maybe they are. I mean, if they trusted us at all, they would have given us a shot at the bigger roles. We're just not old enough yet, I guess.

Angel #2: [To Inn Keepers Wife] Well, at least you get to be the Inn Keeper's Wife. That's almost as good as having a line.

Inn Keeper's Wife: Why? Because I stand next to him [motions to Inn Keeper] while he says "No room"? I get partial credit for that?

Inn Keeper: Yeah, see…you're there to lend emotional support to me as I turn away Mary and Joseph into the cold.

Inn Keeper's Wife: Emotional support? Ha! If it were up to me, I would have given them your room and stuck you in the manger!

Inn Keeper: That's no way to talk to your husband!

Inn Keeper's Wife: You're only my husband in the play.

Angel #2: What else would you change?

Inn Keeper's Wife: What?

Angel #2: You said you would have given his room to Mary and Joseph. What else would you change?

Inn Keeper's Wife: I don't know. I don't really know the whole story that well.

Angel #1: What? Didn't they teach you this story in Sunday School?

Inn Keeper's Wife: Sort of.

Inn Keeper: Yeah, same here. I know parts of it, but I don't think I've ever heard or understood the whole story.

Angel #3: I don't really know it either.

[Enter Guard #1 and Guard #2 stage right]

Guard #1: Are we late?

Angel #1: No…they've just started the rehearsal.

Guard #2: [Looking off-stage left] Yeah. The director's still yelling at people out there. They haven't even started the first act yet.

Guard #1: Oh, good, we've got time. [Sits down] So, what are we talking about here?

Angel #1: These guys are saying that even though they are in the pageant, they don't really know the Christmas Story. Is that possible?

Guard #1: Yeah, it is. I guess adults just assume that kids will pick up the story through osmosis or something.

Inn Keeper: What's osmosis?

Guard #2: It means that they think you'll learn the details just by being around someone who knows it already.

Inn Keeper's Wife: Or by being in a play about it?

Guard #1: Exactly. Hey, didn't you read the script?

Inn Keeper's Wife: Why? I don't have any lines. I just do what I'm told.

Inn Keeper: Really? Then go get me a soda!

Inn Keeper's Wife: Ha ha.

Guard #2: Well, how much of the story do you know?

Inn Keeper's Wife: Well, I think it starts out with that John the Baptism guy being born, right?

Angel #1: John the Baptist, you mean?

Inn Keeper's Wife: Yeah, right. What were his parents names again?

Angel #3: I know! Elizabeth…and…uh…Zzzzzzzz-

Guard #2: [Laughs] Zechariah!

Inn Keeper's Wife: Yeah. I think that's it. Yeah, he was at church and that traveling minister guy told him his wife was going to have a baby.

Guard #1: Close. Here, stand up. I'll show you. Now, you're Elizabeth…and you, [to Angel #3] you be Zechariah.

Angel #3: All right! A speaking part!

Guard #2: I'll be the angel Gabriel! [Races into position]

Guard #1: OK…now, [To Angel #3] you're a priest, right? And you're in the temple offering incense on the altar.

Angel #3: Wouldn't that burn the carpeting?

Guard #1: Not that kind of altar.

Guard #2: It's kind of like a little stove.

Inn Keeper: Hey, who do I get to be?

Guard #1: You and him [motions to Angel #2] are going to be the crowd that prays outside. [To Angel #3] Now you stand here, and pour incense onto the altar…

Angel #3: The stove thing?

Guard #1: That's right. Now, you're an old man. And your wife Elizabeth is old too. [To Inn Keeper's Wife] That's you. You guys don't have any kids but you really want some. [To Angel #3] So you're praying for a son. Go ahead.

Angel #3: "O God, I'm an old priest and I want a son." Like that?

Guard #1: No, no…pretend you're really him. How would you pray?

Angel #3: Oh, ok… "O Lord, I know you hear us when we pray. Me and Elizabeth have tried to do what's right all these years. We'd really like to have a son. Amen."

Guard #1: Excellent. Now, in comes an angel.

Guard #2: That's me!

Guard #1: Well, do your stuff then.

Guard #2: I am Gabriel! I stand in God's presence!

Angel #3: You stand in his Christmas presents?

Guard #1: Not that kind of presence.

Guard #2: Let me try it again…I am Gabriel! I stand right next to God. Don't be afraid, Zechariah.

Angel #3: I'm not.

Guard #1: Oh, yeah…you're supposed to be afraid.

Angel #3: I am? Ok.

[Enter Elizabeth and Zechariah, stage right]

Zechariah: [Dribbling an imaginary basketball] …And so, I drove up the court, weaving through the defenders, I faked left, I darted into the lane, and went in for the lay-up! That tied the game!

Guard #1: Hi Elizabeth. Hi Zechariah.

Elizabeth: [Sighs] Hi. You know, I can't wait till we get to the part where the Angel makes this guy shut up.

Zechariah: What, don't you want to hear how we won the game in overtime? I'm at the free-throw line, right? So I…

Elizabeth: Hey, Zechariah! The director is calling for you! You're wanted on stage!

Zechariah: I am? [Wanders off stage left]

Elizabeth: Man! That guy just goes on and on! What are you guys up to?

[Enter 3 Shepherds, who sit down in background and begin to play cards. Angel #1 joins them]

Guard #2: We're just going over the play. We're at your part.

Elizabeth: Without moi?

Angel #2: What are we supposed to be doing again?

Guard #1: You guys are outside, praying.

Angel #2: OK. [to Inn Keeper] Let's go.

[Inn Keeper and Angel #2 exit stage right]

Guard #2: Don't be afraid, Zechariah!

Angel #3: I'm not. Oh, wait…I am, that's right.

Guard #2: God has heard your prayer and your wife Elizabeth will have a son. His name will be John.

Inn Keeper's Wife: Hey, where'd they go?

Elizabeth: You told them to go outside and pray. [Laughs]

Guard #1: What? Oh, man. I'll be right back, guys. [Exit Guard #1 stage right]

Angel #3: What happens next?

Elizabeth: Next, you don't believe Gabriel.

Angel #3: Why don't I believe him?

Elizabeth: Because you're old, remember?

Angel #3: Old people don't believe angels?

Guard #2: No, no…you don't think that your wife can have a baby. She's old enough to be a gramma, remember?

Angel #3: Oh…Well, Gabriel, how can a gramma have a baby?

Elizabeth: The hard way!

Guard #2: [To Elizabeth] That's not what I say! [To Angel #3] Well, God's going to make it happen whether you believe it or not! But just to show you that God can do all things, you won't be able to talk until it happens!

Angel #3: I won't?

Guard #2: Nope.

Angel #3: So I don't say anything else until the baby's born?

Guard #2: Nope.

Angel #3: Cool! I'm gonna go tell mom! [Rushes off stage right]

Guard #2: Hey, where are you- …where is she going?

[Enter the Star of Bethlehem, dressed in a "star" outfit, bouncy, hyper]

Star: I'm the star! I always knew someday I'd be a star! I was born for the stage! I was made to be wildly popular! Stardom and me go hand in hand! In fact…I'm a…Superstar! Yes!

Guard #2: Not that kind of star!

Star: A girl's gotta dream, doesn't she?

Elizabeth: Don't you belong in a galaxy far, far away or something?

Star: Gee, Queen Elizabeth…I'm the Star of Bethlehem! If it wasn't for me, the wisemen might still be wandering around in the desert, looking for Jesus.

[Enter Zechariah, stage left]

Zechariah: Hey, Elizabeth…we're up, let's go.

Elizabeth: Well, wish I could stay here and play with you little people, but it's time for the real actress to go to work. Ta ta. [Exit Zechariah and Elizabeth stage left]

Star: Some people! We may not have any lines, but that doesn't mean we're insignificant.

Inn Keeper's Wife: So, what happens next?

Guard #2: Well, Elizabeth became pregnant with John the Baptist, but before he was born, Gabriel went to Mary. [To Star] Here, you be Mary…

Star: What? Me?

Guard #2: Yeah…we're acting out the Christmas story. You be Mary.

Star: Awesome!

Guard #2: I am Gabriel! Hi, Mary! You're highly favored of God. You're going to be with child and have a son, and his name will be Jesus.

Star: Oh, I know this part. "Behold, I've been handmade by the Lord."

Guard #2: No, no… "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord."

In Keeper's Wife: What does that mean?

Guard #2: She's telling Gabriel that she will do whatever God wants her to do.

Star: Yep! Gabe, whatever God wants, I'm the girl!

Guard #2: No, come on…this is serious. This was a big thing for Mary to decide. She was saying to God that she was willing for Him to create a baby in her womb.

Inn Keeper's Wife: My mom says God creates every baby.

Guard #2: But this was different…

Inn Keeper's Wife: How?

Guard #2: Uh…how do I put this…

Star: Let's see you explain this one.

[Enter King Herod and Rachel and the 3 Wisemen. The Wisemen gather with the shepherds, Herod and Rachel head toward center stage]

Herod: Behold, your king! [pause] What? No fanfare?

Star: Well, well. If it isn't King Horrid.

Herod: That's "King Herod," thank you.

Star: You're welcome.

Herod: Are you ready to see a knockout performance by me tonight?

Star: Only if it's you that gets knocked out.

Herod: Why are you so hostile to me?

Star: Are you kidding? You're the one that orders your soldiers to kill all the kids in Bethlehem! Just because you wanted Jesus dead!

Herod: Hey, I can't help it…it's in the script. If I could do it differently, I would.

Guard #2: Oh, really? Well, we're just at that part now…let's see how you do.

Herod: What do you mean?

Guard #2: We're re-enacting the scenes from the play. Would you care to play yourself?

Herod: Why not?

Inn Keepers Wife: [To Rachel] What role are you in the pageant?

Rachel: I'm Rachel. I get to weep over my lost children.

Inn Keeper's Wife: You lost your kids?

[Enter Inn Keeper, Angel #2, Angel #3, and Guard #1 stage right, enter Director, stage left]

Director: Inn Keeper! Inn Keepers Wife! Let's go! You too, guards. And Rachel. Come on.

Rachel: Aw, do I have to come now?

Director: The script doesn't say "The sound of Rachel whining!" Let's move! [To Angels] Angels in 5.

[Exit Director, Inn Keeper's Wife, Inn Keeper, and Rachel]

Guard #2: [to Star] Well, looks like you're the star and the director now. Take over, will ya?

Star: Can do.

Guard #2: [to Guard #1] We're up. Come on.

[Exit Guard #1 and Guard #2]

[For clarity's sake, on stage right now are Star and Herod front and center, the three Wisemen and three Shepherds, with Angel #1, congregating in the back. Angel #2 and Angel #3 sit together, "talking."]

Star: OK, Herod. This is your scene. We need more people. [Looks around. To Wisemen and Shepherds] Hey, we need some more actors over here. Anyone interested?

[Wiseman #1 and Wiseman #2 come over]

Wiseman #1: OK. What can we do?

Star: What are you guys supposed to be?

Wiseman #2: We're wisemen. We travel from afar, that sort of thing.

Star: [to Wiseman #2] Well, you get to be Caesar Augustus. You stand over here.

Wiseman #1: What about me?

Star: You're the Inn keeper, but we'll get to you in a minute. OK, this is the part where Caesar issues the decree for everyone to get taxed.

Wiseman #2: I hereby decree that all the world should be taxed! Everyone must go to his own home city and register.

Star: So Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem…uh…I need a Joseph. [Looks around, goes back to card game, grabs Shepherd #1 and begins to pull him over] Hey, I need a Joseph. You've been volunteered.

Shepherd #1: I have? But I'm a shepherd.

Star: That you are. But right now, you're Joseph.

Shepherd #1:Oh…ok.

Star: So, Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem…and Mary was very pregnant. [pause. To Shepherd #1] Hey, show some concern, will ya?

Shepherd #1: Oh, right. Are you ok, dear? Let's stop and rest somewhere. You look tired.

Star: Yes, I think that's a good idea. It's getting late.

Shepherd #1: Look, here's an inn. Let's see if they have a room.

Wiseman #1: Oh, this is my part. Um…nope, sorry sir. No room.

Shepherd #1: No room? What kind of dump are you running here?

Star: Joseph wouldn't have said that!

Shepherd #1: Well, he was tired. He could have been cranky.

Star: Try it again, Joseph.

Shepherd #1: No room? Please sir, my wife is ready any time now to have her baby. We need a place to stay.

Wiseman #1: Sorry. We're full. But I can set you up in the manger if you'd like.

Star: So, we head over to the cold, dark manger. [pause as they stare at the "manger" in front of them] And Jesus is born.

Shepherd #1: What a lousy way to start a life, eh?

Herod: It didn't end all that red hot, either. Born in a manger, died on a cross.

Wiseman #1: But he rose again the third day!

Star: That's right! Do you realize what an amazing moment this was? His birth here? This is one of the greatest moments in history!

Herod: I never really thought about it before. I guess we should be taking this a bit more seriously.

Shepherd #1: Yeah. It's like you volunteer to do the Christmas play every year. You have fun, play your part, go home. It doesn't always sink in what these people actually went through. And why.

Star: He could have been born anywhere. He chose to be born in a dirty ol' manger.

Shepherd #1: And to die on a dirty ol' cross.

[Enter Director]

Director: Let's go, people. Places. We're going to work on the big musical finale.

[Exit all stage left, except Director and Star. Angel #4 enters stage left, passes slowly across, and exits stage right.]

Star: Ma'am?

Director: What is it, Star?

Star: He didn't have to be born in a manger. Why did it happen that way?

Director: What are you talking about?

Star: Jesus. He went through a lot didn't he? And his parents, too. Do you think they realized how important what they were going through was?

Director: I don't know. Can you take your place on stage please?

Star: Well, I'm glad they went through it. Just thought I'd let you know.

Director: [Puzzled] Well…uh…thank you, Star.

Star: No… thank you. For the opportunity to play the star of Bethlehem. That star pointed people right to Jesus. I'll never take that lightly again. I want to live that role. [Exit stage left]

Director: [Puzzled, long pause] Hey, what's been going on back here?

[Exit Director, stage left]



Production notes for Behind The Pageant:

* The blocking is the trickiest part of this one. Once the blocking is finalized, it goes quickly enough. It reads a bit more confusing than it actually is - I don't know how to correct that.

* Some of the roles can be played by either a female or male, including the Director.

* Angels 1 through 3 should ideally be 3 sweet little girls dressed in white with cute little cardboard wings, while Angel #4 should be the biggest adult (preferably male) that you can find, also dressed in white, with the same little cardboard wings if possible. The visual effect is quite funny.

* One thing we did wrong was to have Angel #4 slowly walk across the stage at the end (as indicated) while the dialog was happening between the Director and the Star of Bethlehem. This was a huge distraction and a lot of people missed a good part of the dialog, which was the punch line of the play. I suggest, if you perform this piece, wait for Angel #4 to cross the stage before continuing the dialog.

* The Shepherd or Wisemen roles can be consolidated a bit if you don't have enough actors.

Copyright David Wagner 1999. Should you use this script would you be so kind as to let David know?