If I have the money, I always like to participate in the ELCA Youth Ministry Extravaganza because I learn a lot about working with family and youth. In 2009, I ran this workshop at the Extravaganza. The theme of the Extravaganza that year was SHIFT. That is why SHIFT is capitalized throughout this article.
Using Minimalist Theater to Liven Youth Ministry
What does theater have to do with the word SHIFT?
There are many SHIFTs in theater. Actors and actresses must SHIFT from the person that they really are into the characters that they are portraying. The audience must SHIFT from seeing the surroundings of where they are into seeing the surroundings as the place where the play is set. The audience must SHIFT into believing that the people are not who they know, but are the characters that they are playing. Everybody must SHIFT to believe that any props used are really the items that are supposed to be. All of this happens in any theater setting, but this is especially true for minimalist theater. (All of this falls under Samuel Taylor Colridge’s “Willing Suspension of Disbelief” and Stanislavsky’s “Living the Part.”)
GET READY TO SHIFT!
What is Minimalist theater?
Minimalist theater can be considered a combination of reader’s theater and traditional theater.
Reader’s theater is when actors and actresses simply sit on stools or boxes and read the lines of the characters.
Full theater involves dressing in costumes, setting up a background, a set, a stage, and using props that are or look like the real items.
Minimalist theater takes the idea of using what you have and putting theater together. It can be thought of role playing and theater into one for those who have never heard of reader’s theater.
Why does it liven youth ministry?
It makes the youth get out of their thoughts of the now and makes them look into other situations. Minimalist theater can be used to understand Biblical stories in a deeper fashion or to understand the situations of others.
Minimalist theater also takes plenty of imagination. Classic example: Need a telephone, but don’t have one? What about using a hand like a telephone?
What items can be found that are readily available or for very cheap that can be items needed in a play?
Put these things together and that is minimalist theater.
However, this workshop is better understood when participants are active in it, not just listening. So, let’s get ready to do minimalist theater!
If you have ever been in theater, you may have heard of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s saying, “The willing suspension of disbelief.”
It means that for the time you are in the theater watching a play you put aside the fact that you are in a theater and that you are watching a play. You let the actors become their characters. You let the stage and the theater become the world. You let everything seem as if it is real.
Actors need imagination. The problem is that many people let their imagination slip away as they grow older. Instead, they need to keep that youthful imagination.
This is also true for writers. Writers need to be able to use their imagination. If they could not imagine, every single work of prose or poetry would be extremely boring and mundane.
A writer needs to be able to put himself or herself in the place of another. Poets often need to be able to put themselves in the place of an object.
Words can bring simple objects to life.
Keep your mind and your heart open. Keep your imagination soaring.
Read, Write, Act, and Imagine! Always Imagine!
Bridget Ilene Delaney
These words are also very true for Youth Ministers! All you have to do is think of the possibilities and they become endless!
What are the most common complaints about Bible study?
I hear two: “It’s boring” and “I don’t understand.”
Theater allows Bible study to become active rather than passive. The stories come alive. It is no longer boring and finally youth seem to understand.
Two options: Acting out a Bible story or using skits to act out a point.
Minimalist theater with a script is easier than minimalist theater without a script.
The first way is more like only acting. The second way is more like role playing, but it is still acting.
To find scripts, there is a sheet with a resource page (e-mail me at email@example.com if you are interested in where these are located.). Also, search the Internet for free Christian skits. Most just ask that a notification be sent by e-mail that the skit is being performed and that there is no selling of the skit or charge to see it. There are others who do not care at all and just have the skits on the Internet to be used. Read the FAQ or information given at the beginning or end of a script to fine what is wanted. You can also write your own skits, which takes time, but it also involves the the youth.
In order to do the role playing skit, read the Bible story. Then have people come up and act out the characters in the story or perhaps what happened right before or/and right after what happened in the story. There are no right or wrong answers.
In short, minimalist theater is using what you already have.
Free Skits from Righteous Insanity:
(My favorite is Coffee and Christ)
Just click on “Scripts” and choose the category that is wanted.
Ros Olson’s Drama
Christin Scripts – Free (by Bob Snook)
Sunday School Dropouts
Before using a skit, make sure to read through it thoroughly. Make any changes necessary for names and theological beliefs. It is rare that huge changes are needed, but some skits just do not fit as well as the title and description make it seem they would.
Also, quite a few “political” plays can be found. It is better to avoid these and focus on ones that are about ministry.