The school Nativity is one of the most important events on the social calendar at many primary schools. The excitement starts to build towards the end of October as the teacher's gather to delegate roles and start building the manger. The children wait anxiously to find out whether they will get the esteemed roles of 'Mary' and 'Joseph' and the parents are waiting nervously to see if they need to buy tinsel for a halo or a tea towel for a shepherd's headdress.
I have distinct memories of my primary school Nativity. I was six years old and, after a successful performance at nursery school in the role of 'The Star', I was ready and excited to finally claim the role of 'Mary' and make it my own. Casting day arrived and I was furious. The role I was given was not 'Mary' or even the 'Angel Gabriel'. Instead I was to play the role of the 'Innkeeper'. The costume was not glamorous (a night shirt and a night cap) compared to Mary's blue dress or Angel Gabriel's golden halo and I only had one line that I had to repeat approximately five times: "Round the back!"
I wasn't the only disgruntled member of the cast. My classmates cast in the roles of 'Sheep' weren't overly pleased and 'Donkey' was distraught. We wanted the glitz and glamour that came with being one of the kings. We wanted to be the ones holding the baby Jesus. We would have settled with wearing a tea towel on our heads.
However, as rehearsals started and the story began to form I had a change of heart. What I came to realise was that every role in the Nativity is important. Every character is vital to the plot. Without the innkeeper Mary, Joseph and Jesus would have nowhere safe to stay. Without the donkey they would not have made it to the inn at all. Without the sheep the shepherd's would not have been on the hill when the angels appeared to them. With my new found sense of purpose I delivered my line "Round the back!" with confidence. The sheep boldly bleated and the donkey proudly led Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.
This is why the Christmas Nativity is an important tradition to keep going. It's not just about the story but also about the sense of teamwork the children performing learn. By the end of the performance every child feels like they have been a part of something significant and they worked together to deliver the important message of the story. Something that will remain with them long after the curtains close!
So if your son is a sheep makes sure he bleats with pride. If your daughter has been cast as the donkey, reassure her that she is a vital part of the story. And if your child, like I was, has been given the role of the innkeeper tell them to direct people "Round the back!" with purpose!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at Stagecoach!
H.Davis - Stagecoach Theatre Arts Head Office