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When drama is used effectively in public speaking, there are many advantages. But all of us have been in a service or at an event where the drama didn’t play out quite so well. So, this week, we provide you with a few important things to consider when planning to utilize the dramatic arts! Also, see below for resources to get you started!
There are some disadvantages of drama in public speaking. Both the audience and the speaker may struggle with creativity in communication. When taken to the extreme, any of these factors can become disadvantages of the dramatic arts in public speaking.
- Overuse – Drama should be used occasionally as a special feature rather than using it often.
- Mediocrity – If used, drama should be well done. The only thing worse than no drama is bad drama. “Bathrobe drama” is the term for bad drama, implying drama by untrained performers using ideas and materials at hand.
- Overspending – Expenses for dramatic productions mount rapidly. Avoid exceeding the budget and causing financial pressure.
- Shock Factor – Dramatization should be used in good taste to avoid making the audience uncomfortable. Shock usually detracts from the message.
- Special Effects – “Bells and whistles” as well as props and noisemakers should be used to enhance drama not distract from the message.
- Embellishment – Drama should not alter the Scripture text or overstate the message. The truth should be creatively but accurately presented.
- Manipulation – Emotions are a part of well-done drama. Healthy expression of feelings is recommended rather than extreme emotional control.
- Camouflage – The point of the message must be clear through the drama, not lost in the creative expression.
- Mismatch – The type of drama should be appropriate for the audience. Know the crowd and select drama personally for it.
Beware of these risks of dramatic expression. Adhere to the cautions and benefit from the advantages of drama.
One of the advantages for dramatic expression today is the availability of resources. There are many reference books, internet websites, and professional organizations for the dramatic arts. The most important resources for Christian drama are the Bible and life experience. The following resources for drama are helpful also. They offer general information as well as scripts, training, and networking.
- Actors Not Included: The Complete Works of Matt Tullos by Matt Tullos
- Art for God’s Sake by Philip Graham Ryken
- Christian Playwriting and Self-Publishing by Cleveland O. Mcleish
- The Complete Guide to Church Play Production by John Lewis and others
- Create a Drama Ministry by Paul Miller
- Developing the Church Drama Ministry by Paul Miller
- Devoted Through Drama: Monologues, Plays, and Skits for Christian Youth Groups by Kimberly Smiley
- Drama: Church Drama for Church Folks by Barbara Dudley
Many children’s books and classic works of literature provide excellent scripts for drama.
- Christian Drama Resources (www.christiandramaresources.com)
- Christian Plays (www.christplay.com)
- Creative Pastors with Ed Young (www.creativepastors.com)
- Drama Share: Your Christian Drama Resource Center (www.dramashare.org)
- Online Journal of Christian Communication and Culture (www.ojccc.org)
- Wordspring Creative Resources (www.wordspring.com)
These drama websites were active at the time of publication. Other websites may be developed to provide resources for different forms of drama.
Drama and the creative arts have been a part of the church for centuries. In New Testament times, the church led the culture in developing the arts, specifically drama. Though banned from the church at times, the dramatic arts have been powerful tools in worship when used appropriately. Dramatic arts in ministry today can reach the lost world with the gospel and the saved followers of Christ through discipleship. According to David Taylor: “Our emotions, bodies, and imaginations have a vital role, and the arts serve to bring them into an intentional and intensive participation.”
 “Christian dramatists form new association,” http://bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=4819 (cited 20 March 2013), Baptist Press, (Baptist Press, 2013).
 http://www.wordspring.com/?page_id=1416 (cited 20 March 2013) Wordspring Creative Resources.
 Julie W, “A Biblical Perspective of Drama in Ministry,” Online Journal of Christian Communication and Culture, entry posted December 11, 2011, http://www.ojccc.org/2011/12/a-biblical-perspective-of-drama-in-ministry/ (accessed March 20, 2013).
 David Taylor, “Discipling the Eyes Through Art in Worship,” http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/april/art-in-worship.html (cited 20 March 2013), Christianity Today (Christianity Today, 2013).
So you’ve been convinced that drama can make your public speaking come to life and touch the lives of many. Now you’re wondering, “Well, how can I do it?” Today we’d like to share several different approaches to incorporating the dramatic arts into your speaking!
In the realm of communication, the word “monologue” may carry a negative connotation of a long, boring speech or a speaker who monopolizes a conversation. However, a monologue is a dramatic expression used by a public speaker. The dictionary defines a monologue as “a dramatic soliloquy (oral discourse); a continuous series of jokes or comic stories delivered by one comedian.” Talk show hosts on television often begin the program with a monologue.
Everett Robertson writes, “The dramatic monologue involves one actor portraying one character in a crisis situation.” Monologues may present biblical characters, such as Ruth or Mary the Mother of Jesus, or portray an inanimate object, like the manger which held baby Jesus or the alabaster jar which held the perfume used to anoint the feet of Jesus. Monologues may be short or long, presented during a portion of the message or as the entire speech. Speakers may wear costumes and makeup for dramatic effect. The script may be written originally or taken directly from the Scripture or another text. Monologues are most effective when they reveal a truth to the audience in dramatic details.
Dramatic reading is defined as “a public reading or recitation of a work of literature with an interpretive use of the voice and often of gestures.” A speaker reads aloud a poem, essay, story, or Scripture passage with animated voice, facial expression, hand gestures, and body movements. The reader portrays the dramatic, physical, and emotional aspects of a situation. If several characters or perspectives are included, the speaker may identify them with changes of voice, posture, or gesture.
Material for dramatic reading must be selected carefully. The content must have a clear focus and appropriate emotional appeal. The audience needs to identify with, understand, and enjoy the work. Delivery requires practice and timing. Careful pronunciation and phrasing as well as a rhythmical pace enhance the presentation. Facial expression, eye contact, and gestures add to the oral expression.
One of the oldest forms of drama, storytelling is “reciting tales or relating anecdotes in a captivating manner.” While a monologue involves a character directly, storytelling includes the character indirectly. Storytelling is typically spoken in second-person, and monologue is first-person. Vivid description and animated expression is a part of storytelling. A real account is often exaggerated and amplified for effect in storytelling. Robertson encourages the storyteller to “use every possible technique to communicate the story creatively.”
For years, teachers and speakers have displayed inanimate objects to explain a lesson with dramatic effect. Visual aids are helpful to most listeners. They enhance a narrative, facilitating comprehension and identity. In delivery, the speaker should carefully connect the object and the idea. Creative interaction with the audience and object may foster application.
Role play is a form of drama used successfully in many areas of ministry as well as public speaking. It is “representing in action the thoughts and feelings of another person” During a message, a speaker may pause in her own discourse to assume the position of another person in order to emphasize or clarify a point. In teaching or training, role play may be used to demonstrate different responses or simulate varied emotions. Role playing is a creative and revealing way to present a range of emotions, values, and beliefs without threatening the audience.
One of the most creative forms of drama is pantomime, the process of silent expression. It is “conveying a story by bodily action or facial movements only.” The term “mime” may refer to the performer, though it usually refers to the more formal, classical discipline. Marcel Marceau was the famous French mime who introduced the art form into the world stage. Dick Van Dyke premiered pantomime on one of his earliest television shows as humorous, physical comedy. Pantomime communicates visually what cannot be communicated as creatively with words.
Pantomime may be used by speakers as a means of visually expressing specific actions and traits. According to Robertson, “it involves a universal language of gestures which is understood by all cultures and ages.” It can be serious or humorous and is often performed to music. Costumes and makeup may be worn. The audience often relates personally to the movements and emotions of the mime.
Clowns are known for entertaining in circuses and rodeos, but they can also be found ministering in churches and communities. By definition, clowning is “entertainment by jokes, antics, or tricks in a public presentation.” Christian clowning communicates biblical truths in a creative, non-threatening form, often in evangelistic outreach. “A Christian dressed as a clown breaks through many of the barriers placed by the secular world against religion. The joyful nature of the clown also makes it easy to tell others about the joy and colorfulness of Christ.
Do you have any other ideas for incorporating drama into your public speaking?
 Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry, 12.
 “Dramatic Reading,”www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dramatic reading (cited 13 March 2013), Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2013).
“Storytelling,” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/storytelling (cited 13 March 2013), Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2013).
 Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry, 21.
“Public Speaking,” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/public+speaking (cited 13 March 2013), Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2013).
 “Pantomime,” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pantomime (cited 13 March 2013), Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2013).
Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry, 12.
 Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry, 15.
“Drama captures the minds, the imaginations,
and the emotions of the audience.”
God is theatrical. It has been said, “All of creation is a theater for God’s glory.” Numerous biblical accounts demonstrate that God is powerful and mighty in His actions and purposes. He created everything from nothing: the heavens and the earth, the sky and land, the birds and fish, man and woman. He continues to perform supernatural miracles, signs, and wonders to work in the world and gain attention from His children. His dramatic demonstrations of power are seen today in nature, during hurricanes, earthquakes, and blizzards. God is all–powerful; He is omnipotent in His being and His behavior.
The Old Testament records numerous wonders of God. Moses experienced the dramatic work of God when the angel of the Lord spoke to him from the burning bush that was not consumed. When the Israelites fled Pharaoh’s army, God manifested His power in dramatic fashion by parting the Red Sea, allowing His children to cross safely to the other side. Balaam’s donkey talked. The walls of Jericho fell down. The widow’s son was raised from the dead. Elijah was carried into heaven. The widow’s oil was multiplied. Elisha’s bones were revived from the dead. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were delivered from the fiery furnace. Daniel was protected in the lion’s den. Jonah was saved from the belly of a whale. God demonstrated His mighty power in dramatic miracles in the Old Testament.
The New Testament also contains many accounts of God’s dramatic intervention, often through the ministry of Jesus. Though Jesus refused to give a miraculous sign on command to prove His authority, He performed miraculous signs during His ministry. Jesus changed water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. He healed Peter’s mother-in-law. He calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. He healed the woman with a hemorrhage, and raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. He fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, and He walked on the water. He healed a stooped woman, and He raised Lazarus from the grave. Jesus demonstrated His mighty power in dramatic ways in the New Testament.
God has exhibited His power through wonders and signs, and Jesus performed many miracles in His ministry. These dramatic demonstrations accomplished divine purposes, met human needs, and evidenced the truth of the gospel. As God’s instruments, Christian communicators may use dramatic presentations to convey a biblical message or illustrate a spiritual principle. Consider how you may be able to integrate drama into your public speaking as you continue reading!
Drama is the “compression of human experience into a story we can view on the stage.” The word “drama” actually comes from a Greek word meaning “to do.” It implies action, involving a performer and an audience. Drama is a form of literature and can be prose, verse, or dialogue. It illustrates a message and can be presented from a script, by improvisation, through mime, or spontaneously during a speech. According to Lewis and others in The Complete Guide to Church Play Production: “Drama shoots darts into the hearts of the audience and pulls them out with emotions attached.” When drama is used by Christian speakers, it should be God-glorifying and Christ-centered. The message, not the medium, is the focus of a biblical truth presented dramatically.
Drama is a powerful method of expression. It speaks to the total person—physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. The body performs the actions of drama. The mind conceives and interprets drama. The emotions express feelings and portray passions. The spirit convicts through the verbal and nonverbal message. Christians can use drama to stimulate and persuade the audience to consider their personal relationship with Christ. Therefore, Christian speakers should be open to drama in certain public presentations.
Oral interpretation is a dramatic art, also called interpretive reading or dramatic reading. It is the presentation of a literary work with feeling and expression, for the purpose of enlightenment. Oral interpretation and dramatic performance are similar in public speaking though slightly different in academic contexts. Oral interpretation is taught typically in speech communication programs, while drama is taught in the departments of theater arts. Both are appropriate for public speaking.
Oral interpretation began 3,000 years ago with the classical Greek philosophers who used formal oratory to teach and persuade. Eugene and Margaret Bahn wrote a History of Oral Interpretation to document the development from the classical Greek through the ancient Roman, Medieval Period, and Renaissance as well as the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. The oral interpretation of literature has continued into the 21st century, though its nature, practice, and trends have varied. Oral interpretation and dramatic presentation can be effective and essential tools for a public speaker!
 “Oral Interpretation,” http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/oral+interpretation (cited 20 March 2013) American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).