Apart from shuffling feet and the rustling of fabric, all was quiet backstage. Twenty under-tens stood waiting for the curtain to rise, ears straining to hear what their pastor was saying. Kayla sat on a stool at centre stage, waiting, waiting.
“Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, our Kids Time class will present 'The First Christmas', a play written by their leader, Rhonda Charlton. Please welcome them to the stage.”
The curtain rose and the Angel Gabriel burst onto the stage. “Oh!” cried Kayla.
“Don't be afraid, Mary,” said Gabriel confidently, relishing his role. He smiled broadly at the audience and, picking out his mother in the crowd, gave her a wave.
Rhonda whispered from side stage. '”Keep going Gabriel - I am bringing you good news.” She hoped the children would rise to the occasion and remember their lines. Oh, the work that had gone into this play! In half an hour it would all be over and life could return to normal.
Could she ever have imagined that one play could be such an undertaking? In that leaders' meeting four weeks ago it was obvious that she was the one to direct it. Teaching and acting experience, artistic, a writer. It was the other leaders who pointed out her gifts and experience, and they were so encouraging. They assured her she was the best one for the job.
Rhonda enjoyed writing the play and then she allocated the roles, carefully matching them to the children's sizes, talents and ages. There were exactly twenty characters in the play so every child was included. On Sunday she gathered the children together to announce who would be who. She picked the most responsible ones to be Mary and Joseph, the older boys for wise men and shepherds and the girls for angels, except for the Angel Gabriel. Tyler had to play Gabriel.
Those with speaking parts took their lines home to learn. The little ones were sheep so they had no words. Rhonda sent a practice schedule home to the parents – Sunday afternoons and Wednesdays, after school.
The costume-making was already under-way. Another leader was patching up old costumes and Rhonda was making little sheep costumes from fluffy white fabric. She had them all cut out and pinned, ready to stitch, but there was no rush, as long as they were finished for the dress rehearsal.
As Rhonda turned into her driveway her phone rang. “Rosie Jones here, Rhonda. Sorry to bother you, but Jason can't be a wise man. He's in the Wolves soccer team and they practise on Wednesdays after school.”
Rhonda scanned quickly through her busy schedule. “What if I change the practice times to Saturday mornings? Would that suit him?”
“No, sorry. That's when they play their matches.”
“OK. Jason can be a sheep instead. They don't have any words to practise. He'll be able to pick it up with just the Sunday practices.”
“Thanks, Rhonda. See you on Sunday.”
But the phone rang again. It was Sue Merton with the same story. Robby couldn't come to the Wednesday practices because of soccer practice. “He's just been selected for the Wolves, you see,” apologised Sue.
“Don't worry. He can be a sheep, instead and just come to the Sunday practices,” offered Rhonda.
By five o'clock there were five new sheep, all Wolves, and Rhonda was busy ringing around to give the previous sheep other roles, and driving across town to deliver new scripts. She soon had it sorted out.
In no time Rhonda was planning the dress rehearsal, the very last practice. It was on Sunday so that the soccer boys could attend. She gave out the costumes and the other leaders helped the children get ready. Now that some little ones were shepherds and wise men their costumes looked a bit baggy, but the real problem was the sheep costumes. The Wolves' sheep costumes looked decidedly small. Some wouldn't go on at all.
Rhonda threw her hands up in dismay while the sheep rushed around with costumes half-on, baaing loudly. “Oh no! The sheep costumes were made for littlies. I'll have to re-do them!”
The Angel Gabriel came to the rescue. “My Nanna has sheepskin rugs all over the place at her house. They could wear them and have sheep masks, Miss.”
“Tyler, what a brilliant idea! What's her phone number?” Rhonda asked. “Our Wolves will be in sheep's clothing yet.”
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