THESE ARE, essentially, two types of pieces in this collection of short dramas based on biblical text. The first involves the retelling of Old and New Testament stories with a modern twist. In one, a pair of CNN-style reporters covers the Crucifixion.
[pullquote]The second uses biblical narrative as a springboard for an exploration of modern life: an old woman reflects on her relationship with her daughter-in-law (much as Naomi might have done). There are pieces that fall someplace in between the two poles. But, for the most part, each mini-drama fits into one of these broad categories.
Most of the scripts, written by authors of various denominations, have the innocent, simplistic earnestness common to children’s Christmas pageants. As such, they come across as vaguely interesting, but not particularly illuminating or inventive. One notable exception is an emotionally- charged juxtaposition of Mary Magdalene at the tomb and the incident of Christ turning the moneychangers out of the temple. It was written by the only professional playwright on the list of authors. It is easily the most effective piece in the book.
It’s surprising that there aren’t more projects written for, or including, children and youth. The scripts seem to be written for adult audiences and players. This is not to suggest that scripts cannot or should not be adapted for presentation by young people. In fact, this book might be valuable as an inspiration or handbook for Sunday school teachers, youth group leaders or rectors who want to develop their own dramas.
Gordon J. Portman is a professional playwright, actor and dramaturge in Toronto.