December 22, 2009

A Smash Hit Christmas Pageant Extravaganza!: NaCoBakMo, Day 24.

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:58 pm by the Green-Eyed Siren

I am pleased to report that our Sunday School Christmas Pageant was a tremendous success. This was my first experience directing a Christmas pageant, although goodness knows I participated in a ton of them when I was a kid. My parents easily recall my first appearance onstage around preschool age when I had a short line in the pageant. They practiced with me over and over again, emphasizing how it was a big room and I would really need to project my voice to be heard. Apparently I showed up and the folks in charge handed me a microphone into which I dutifully boomed my line just as instructed, causing severe auditory damage to everyone in the building. They may have been lamenting their hearing loss for years afterwards, but, dammit, no one could say I didn’t have stage presence!

Later my mom became involved in the whole Christmas Pageant process, and our family became totally pageant-savvy. The jockeying of position to be Gabriel (a part which is coveted as a major, steal-the-show-type role, with the added benefit of not requiring a child to hold hands with someone of the opposite sex as poor Mary and Joseph are often forced to do); the girls who live for that moment of wearing their angel halos; the frantic search for the baby Jesus; the mumbling of the second verse of Away in a Manger—it’s all part of the Christmas Pageant DNA.

Pageant directors, expecting that the audience has seen the whole plain vanilla nativity thing before and some of the kids might be looking for a challenge, tend to seek out ways to spice things up a bit. My personal favorite Christmas Pageant from when I was growing up involved a story-within-a-story arrangement: a narrator (my mom, I believe, holding what I am almost certain was our oversized copy of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas which had been covered in tinfoil to make it look like a really snazzy storybook) told the Christmas story to a fairly large cast of characters that might have been from Santa’s workshop, with some lucky kids getting the chance to be one of the colorful worker types and other kids stuck having the same old Mary/Joseph/shepherds/etc. assignments.

I had the plum part of Candy Maker. I still remember the hat my mom made as part of my costume: it was sewn from white piqué and had a holly sprig for decoration. Boy, did I love that hat. She probably did a lot of sewing that year, as a whole battery of Santa’s workshop employees would not exactly have been part of the church’s stock costumes. (Perhaps this bit of background gives you some insight into the source of my little “going a tad overboard on the Christmas Pageant” problem.)

One other thing I remember very, very clearly about that particular Christmas Pageant: the congregation was so wowed that they actually applauded. Now, applause is fairly common in church these days, or at least it happens frequently enough in mine—but remember, this was a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church; we didn’t even exchange the Sign of Peace in there. Never in my short life had I heard applause in the middle of a church service, but, that day, applaud they did. As well they should have; it was an amazing show. If I didn’t say it then, I’ll say it now: Well done, Mom. You have to know you did something great when it’s remembered so fondly more than thirty years later.

But for my first time out as director a giant extravaganza was not something I could have managed. We were limited by what was a fairly small cast. We also had very little rehearsal time available to us, as kids are so much more heavily scheduled than they were 30-odd years ago, and the parents didn’t have a lot of extra time to give either. Still, by keeping it simple we pulled it off, although it looked a little dicey there for a bit. It is miraculous indeed how the experience can go from a totally chaotic dress rehearsal with small children wandering around confusedly and/or racing around uncontrollably to a relatively organized performance full of serene, cherubic angels. One of the great mysteries of life, I’d say.

All of the kids did a great job. Naturally I was particularly proud of Unfocused Girl, who was a marvelous narrator…

…and Unfocused Junior, who was a very Linus-esque shepherd.

Amazingly, simple as it was, the congregation expressed over and over again how much they enjoyed it. (One of the very nice things about the volunteer work I’ve been doing over there lately is that people have been generous in their appreciation; it’s easy not to say anything at all, so I am grateful for the positive feedback.) One of the church’s elder statesmen sought me out afterwards to say, “I saw the rehearsal last week and I thought this was going to be a DISASTER. Instead it turned out to be one of the nicest Christmas pageants we’ve ever had!” This, of course, was due to my iron-fisted direction, as can be seen in this photo from that morning’s dress rehearsal:

"People! Pay Attention! It's time for the Star Dance!"

In that picture you can also see a portion of the backdrop I was frantically sewing the night before, as described here. I must say it was pretty fantastic. I think the big “reveal” when the curtains were first opened during Mary & Joseph’s trip to Bethlehem was effective, and the fancy pants Mary/Joseph/Jesus silhouette effect I had envisioned for inside the stable worked beautifully, just as I had hoped.

This is not to say that there weren’t occasional moments of confusion once we reached showtime. One of the shepherds improvised some additional wandering after the big arrival at the stable, and I had to peek from my hiding place to coax him back:

"PSST! Shepherd! Come back! You're not done!"

But, as I was expressly told in advance, everyone would have been quite disappointed if it had been a perfect performance; people live for those unscripted moments when children exhibit spontaneous, irrepressible cuteness. Of course, there’s plenty of irrepressible cuteness even when the kids are doing what they’re supposed to do: witness this shot of the big finale, with another good look at that killer (if a little bunched up) backdrop. There are several more angels and three wise men (all girls, so Unfocused Girl drove me crazy throughout the rehearsal process by correcting my terminology: “Wise people, mommy!”) cut off on the house right side of the photo.

So I guess it was a Christmas Pageant Extravaganza after all! Even if we didn’t have any Candy Makers.

Well, perhaps there were no Candy Makers at church this year, but instead I am doing an extended run as the Stealth Cookie Baker of the Night. Usually it’s a solo show, but I have occasional special guests; performances daily, but the show will close soon. A few more cookies and some wrapping and I’m HOME FREE!

Since it was another church-y day, I figured I’d use another church-y recipe. This one is a recent addition to my recipe file from a nice lady at church who often prepares cookies for the Sunday coffee hours. I had explained how I couldn’t allow Unfocused Junior to eat the baked goods because of the peanut and egg allergy issues, and she was pleased to say that her cookies were free of both. What a find! They have a similar texture to sand dabs, but the Rice Krispies give them some bite.

Crispie Rice Cookies

1 c (1/2 lb, 2 sticks) butter
1 c sugar
2 1/4 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
2 c Rice Krispies

Preheat oven to 325º. Prepare cookie sheets with baking parchment.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in vanilla extract. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Gradually combine with butter/sugar mixture. When well incorporated, fold in Rice Krispies.

Spoon onto cookie sheets in rounded teaspoonfuls. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or adjust as needed.

Note: I took the cheat of using an ice cream scoop because I needed to speed up the process and get my weary self to bed; it was not sensible to stay up crazy late after the exhausting Christmas pageant situation. The scoop moves things along lickety-split, but in this case I think it makes the cookies too large. It definitely impacted my baking time and temperature, as I needed to up the oven temp to 350º to get them to bake properly. I’d go with smaller cookies and the lower oven temperature, and I’d watch the timing carefully—they might not need quite so long if they’re smaller.

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2 Comments »

  1. Neil said,

    I have never seen a Christmas pageant, and that one looks particularly cute. Congrats on the good job. I notice that men in the audience even came dressed in suits and ties!

  2. […] her NaCoBakMo cookie baking (which was very successful, thank you to those who participated), to directing the Sunday school Christmas pageant at her church. She managed it all with her usual combination of sleep-deprivation and almost […]


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