By David Wagner
A group of kids arrive at a museum on a school field trip. The kids discuss the meaning of the paintings, while the Guide can only talk about the technical details. A small child unknown to any of the other kids adds a further depth of meaning. The children are in a room that supposedly has reproductions of works by Rembrandt detailing various aspect of the Christmas story up on the walls. The "artwork" is hanging on an imaginary wall that is between the actors and the audience. Stage is empty (possibly a chair far upstage, empty), no props or period costumes are needed, but some basic mime skills should be taught, since all actors will need to appear to be looking at imaginary paintings as they act.
(Please feel free to substitute the actual names of the kids. These names are
the names of the kids that performed it in our assembly. Most of the roles could
be either male or female, including the Guide.)
Children: Abbie, Vye, Chris, Crista, Small Child, Rebekah, Christine, Sarah, Emilie, Shannon, Jonathan
[Enter Guide, followed by a group of children, stage left. After the group assembles, a small child enters and stands with group toward back, listening]
Guide: OK, children, let's keep moving here…come on in here please. No stragglers….is this everyone? Ok, good…quiet please in the back….Now, in this room of the museum, we have a large display of artwork from a famous painter named Rembrandt…has anyone heard of him before?
Abbie: Yeah, he's the guy that painted on the ceiling in that church in Rome, right? The one where God and Adam are reaching out to each other…..
Vye: Hello! That was Van Gogh. Duh. [Eyes roll]
Abbie: Well, excuse me….
Guide: Actually, that was Michelangelo.
[Abbie sticks her tongue out at Vye]
Guide: Rembrandt lived from 1606 to 1669…
Chris: Sheesh….that's like 400 years ago…
Guide: This is true. Rembrandt loved the stories in the Bible - he produced over 400 paintings, drawings and etchings on biblical themes, that's more than a third of his total body of work…in this room are many reproductions of his artwork concerning the birth of Jesus, and the events surrounding it.
Guide: The actual paintings and etchings are in private collections and museums around the world, these are reproductions, made and displayed with permission.
Vye: Whose permission? Rembrandts'?
Guide: Get into your small groups and take a look around. I'll be floating about if you have any questions.
[Guide goes to back of the stage, sits down with another adult, and has silent "conversation" with him. Kids split up into 3 small groups and each stand in a different spot on stage, one group down-left, one group down-center and the third group down-right. Group 1 is Abbie, Vye, Chris & Christa. Group 2 is Sarah, Christine & Rebekah. Group 3 is Emilie, Shannon & Jonathan. Only one group will be heard at a time, the other small groups will interact silently amongst themselves until the focus of the play shifts to them. Small Child has waited, and then walked over to join group 1, listens and watches the older kids]
Abbie: Ok, what do we have here… "The Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary"…uh…
Chris: You know, where the Angel comes to Mary and tells her that she's gonna have the baby.
Christa: Look at her…she looks like she's sitting on the edge of her seat…
Vye: Well, wouldn't you be?
Christa: What do you mean?
Vye: All right, check it….Here you are, you're Mary, and you're minding your own business, when an Angel appears…
Vye: Yeah, Gabriel. Heavy hitter. And he drops the bomb on you….
Abbie: [Steps back, spreads arms out, and says loudly] Hail, highly favored one! The Lord is with thee!
[The Guide "shhhh's" them, Abbie shrugs an apology, then continues softer]
Abbie: Blessed art thou among women.
Christa: [smiles, looks at picture again] She doesn't look too happy…
Chris: Well, how would you feel if an angel appeared to you?
Christa: I dunno…scared, I guess…
Abbie: [Continues playing Gabriel to Christa's Mary] Fear not, Mary, you have found favor with God. You're gonna have a baby! Woohoo!
Christa: He said "Woohoo"?
Abbie: Nah, I just don't remember the exact words.
Chris: It says here on the little plaque by the drawing: ["reading"] Behold, you will conceive and bring forth a son, and will call his name Jesus.
Vye: ["reads" also] He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and The Lord God shall give him the throne of his father David.
Abbie: [Resumes her role as Gabriel] He will reign over the house of Jacob forever! And his kingdom will never end! Woohoo!
Guide: [Gets up from seat and approaches the group] Excuse me…is there a question over here?
Chris: No, we're good. Thanks.
Guide: Can you keep it down to a dull roar, please? What's all the noise about?
Vye: We're just discussing the drawing.
Guide: Ah, well, it's a pen and ink drawing, dated 1635, and the original is about 6 inches square. As you can see, we've had it reproduced larger than that. It's a simple, elegant piece, great composition, great sense of motion. Anything else?
Abbie: Yeah, did you know that His Kingdom Will Never End! Woohoo!
Vye: Sorry, I meant, we were discussing what the drawing was about…
Christa: [Reads again, to Guide] What does this mean: "Mary said, How can this be, since I know not a man"?
Guide: Well…uh…she was…uh…just saying that…uh…[points to sketch] just look at how Rembrandt makes use of negative space here…nice eh? [Backing away] Anything else I can help with, let me know [splits].
Christa: So, Gabriel appears to Mary, says don't be afraid, you're going to have a baby, and he will be a king…
Abbie: THE king.
Christa: The King…what next?
Chris: ["Reads"] The angel answered, The Holy Ghost will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you, therefore, that Holy One that will be born will be called the Son of God.
Vye: Basically, that God will be the dad…
Christa: How can that happen?
Abbie: There's your answer, right there [points to sign by drawing] "With God all things are possible!" Boom! Right there, baybay! Woohoo!
Christa: That's kind of a lot to dump on a young lady…
Small Child: [Looking at painting] She's a good example.
[all 4 youths look down at Small Child, noticing her for first time]
Chris: [to Small Child] What was that, kid?
Small Child: Mary said "Behold, the servant of the Lord"…see? You're never too young to serve God.
[Small Child strolls away]
Abbie: Who is that kid?
[Vye, Chris & Christa shrug. They go back to talking about the picture, silently this time, as action follows Small Child over to Group 2. Group 2 is walking away from a "painting" toward another place on stage. Small Child joins them at a painting. Group 2 consists of Sarah, Christine and Rebekah.]
Rebekah: So what's this one called?
Christine: Uh… "Mary's Visit to Elizabeth"…
Sarah: Hmm…must be where Mary went to visit Elizabeth….
[Christine and Rebekah look at each other, then at the audience…]
Christine: Uh, yeah, that would be my guess too…
Rebekah: [reading placard] When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leapt in her womb; and she was filled with the Holy Spirit."
Sarah: Who was filled? Mary?
Christine: Well, probably, but I think here it's talking about Elizabeth…
Sarah: The baby leapt in her womb…ouch! That must have been uncomfortable…why would the baby leap?
Rebekah: Maybe it was excited to hear Mary's voice too…
Christine: What else can an excited baby do when it's in the womb…it couldn't sing yet…
[Guide wanders over]
Guide: Any questions over here?
Guide: Well, the piece is oil paints on a panel, about 2 feet by a foot and a half…as you can see, it's rounded at the top…look at the contrast in this piece…the subtle lighting in the background, compared to the strong lighting on the two central characters in the piece, Mary and Elizabeth…genius…and you can see from the signature on the step there that Rembrandt painted it in 1640…what else did you need to know?
Sarah: How did the baby in Elizabeth's tummy know that it was Mary's voice? Had it ever heard her speak before? And why did God fill Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit? Was it for her benefit, or for her baby's benefit?
Christine: Yeah, and how could Elizabeth and Mary be cousins when Elizabeth was so old and Mary was so young? Wouldn't it be like a great aunt and her great niece or something?
Guide: Umm…well…[pause, then points to painting] …hey, take a look at the delicate brush strokes here on the clothing… nice, eh? [Backs away] Any other questions, let me know, mmm okay? [leaves]
Sarah: [to Christine] Anyway, what happened next?
Christine: [looks at placard] Well, looks like Mary gives a little speech…
Rebekah: Oh, I know this part! I had to memorize it for a play once…
My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of his maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed."
Sarah: Why will they call her blessed?
Christine: Hello….she's Jesus' mom. Don't you know how cool that was?
Sarah: What if she had said "no" to God? Would He have found someone else?
Christine: I don't know. Probably.
Rebekah: Ahem….I'm not done yet!
Sarah: Oh, sorry…
Rebekah: For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
Rebekah: That's not all of it! Grrr!
Christine: Can you bottom-line it for us?
Rebekah: You don't like my acting?!
Christine: Its fine…just what's she saying in plain English?
Small Child: She's saying "yes" to God. He wanted to do a new thing, and she said yes.
Small Child: He's doing a new thing today too, ya know…[she wanders away]
Christine: Did she come with us?
Rebekah: I thought she was your little sister or something…
[From across the room, Abbie says loudly to Group 1, who have moved to another picture]
Abbie: Glory to God in the highest, And on Earth peace, goodwill toward men! Woohoo!
[Guide shushes her again. Group 1 passes group 3 and Abbie says as they pass]
Abbie: Hey, guys, go check that one out over there. It's the one with the shepherds and angels.
[Group 3 is heading toward that area, and action resumes with them. Small Child is already there]
Emilie: She said this one over here…
Shannon: Yup, "The Angel appears to the Shepherds".
Jonathan: [Looks closely at the drawing]: Cool. Looks like a floating angel, and a pair of kneeling shepherds…what do you think those things are above the angels' head?
Emilie: Don't know…that looks like a baby there…maybe a couple more angels…you know, like the Valentines Day ones…
Jonathan: Do angels really float like that, ya think?
Shannon: [Reads the placard] Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over the flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them…
Jonathan: So much for floating….
Shannon: …and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid…
Emilie: They don't look too afraid to me
Jonathan: Well, it can't be too easy to draw someone being afraid with pen and ink like that…
Shannon: How would you feel if an angel appeared to you, all glowing and stuff?
Emilie: Sounds so crazy. I can't imagine something like that happening to me…
Shannon: Do you think God still sends angels to talk to people like that anymore?
[Guide has wandered over]
Guide: I'm afraid to ask, but, do you kids have any questions about the drawing here?
Emilie: Yeah, does God still send angels to talk to people? Angel seemed really busy back in the day.
Shannon: And why would he choose to appear to shepherds instead of, say, the town rulers, or the priests or something?
Guide: Hmm. Good question. Well, you see, the drawing was created in around 1641, and was created with pen and brush. This reproduction is much larger than the original was, of course, and, as you can see, it's a terrific study in contrast, with excellent proportions. [as he walks off] It's nice to see kids that are so interested in the arts…
Jonathan: [reads placard] "Then the angel said, 'Do not be afraid…for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people…"
Shannon: Jesus is born.
Jonathan: Yup. You'll find him in a manger, etc. Then all the angels appear with him and sing.
Emilie: What a thing to show to Shepherds.
Small Child: God chooses the humble over the religious every time.
Shannon: What was that, hun?
Small Child: God fills the hungry with good things, and the rich He sends away empty. [walks away]
[Groups 1 and 2 are at center stage looking out over the audience, at a "painting." Small Child strolls over to them. Group 3 will wander over as well after a few lines, creating one large group, in a horseshoe shape. Guide is there, in the middle of the group, looking at the painting.]
Guide: So this one is called "The Shepherds Worship the Child." It's oil paints on canvas, circa 1646. It makes terrific use of dark…in fact, he probably painted the canvas black to begin with, and added the lighter shades to bring out the scene in the center there…Rembrandt was a master with light…the original piece is in the London National Gallery. [Braces himself, deep breath] Any questions?
[Everyone but Small Child starts talking at once. Guide covers his ears and flees to back of stage. The kids turn back to look at painting]
Vye: It looks like the light is coming from the baby, like it's lighting up the area.
Chris: Well, he is the light of the world, you know.
Christa: Wasn't it too soon for Mary to be having visitors? I mean, she just had a baby…
Sarah: Well, they're not visiting Mary, they came to see Jesus…
Abbie: Hey, is Gabriel in this scene? I want to do my angel voice again….
Christine: It says they saw the child, and then spread the news about the event over the whole countryside…
Rebekah: The first traveling preachers!
Emilie: If it were to happen today, the news would have been all over the internet within hours….
Shannon: I still can't believe Jesus had to be born in a barn.
Jonathan: Yeah, why would God choose a barn? Such a low place.
[Small Child pushes her way through the crowd, walks up in front of painting, looking up at it. The child is center stage, the rest of the actors are forming an open horseshoe shape around her. There is a pause]
Small Child: When you're in your lowest place, you'll find Jesus. When you find Him, worship Him.
Abbie: Who are you, kid?
Guide: Ok, children, lets gather together please…we need to be moving on…please…
[All kids mumble amongst themselves as they follow the guide out. Small Child has stayed near painting, back to it (and audience) watching the kids all exit with the Guide. Stage is empty, Small Child turns around, looks up, and addresses God]
Small Child: Well, Lord, I did it. I said what you told me to say. What do you want me to do now?
[After a pause, Small Child's Parents rush on stage, hugging Small Child as they say their lines]
Mom: There you are! My God, I was so scared.
Dad: Honey, why did you wander off like that?
Mom: I turned around, and she was gone.
Dad: Sweetie, you can't just stroll away like that. What were you doing in here?
Small Child: I was just doing my Father's business…
[Mom and Dad glance at each other, then usher the child off stage. As they exit, Small Child looks over her shoulder at audience, and gives them the thumbs up]
Mom: Well, promise me you'll never do that again, you had us so worried, etc….
[End of story. Fade lights. Thunderous applause and adulation as cast returns for bows.]
Copyright David Wagner 2002. Should you use this script would you be so kind as to let David Know? email@example.com
Production Notes for A Child Shall Lead Them:
* I wanted to write a kids' play that used no props or special costuming, and this is it!
* I figured out ahead of time where the four paintings were going to be, and then put microphone stands in those places to help catch and project the dialog of the small groups of actors. We had a wireless mike on the Small Child.
* The blocking is tricky on this one. You don't simply want each group standing in one spot the whole time, waiting for their turn to say lines. Figure out where you want each group to be on stage when they have their turn to talk, but have them move to that spot from elsewhere on the stage. In other words, move the groups around, like they are walking around a museum room, looking at art and commenting on it, but with no voices, just pantomiming talk. This will add greatly to the look of the play if you can pull it off. Remember the back wall of the stage can be used as well. Just don't have any dialog while groups are back there, with backs to the audience.
* The Small Child role is the key to the whole piece, so it needs to be well cast. We were blessed to have an adorable 7-year-old girl play the role, and she nailed it. The rest of the kids were Junior High School age or older. An adult played the Guide, and a pair of high-school kids played the parents of the Small Child.
* The drawings and paintings are actual paintings by Rembrandt in "real life." Since I couldn't reasonably display them during the play, I put copies of the artwork into the program that we made for the play, and passed them out ahead of time so people could see the artwork before it was discussed. This isn't necessary, but it's a nice touch.