By: James & Karen Williams
THE INITIAL IDEA: Every skit begins with an idea. Usually the ideas are:
A Message. We wrote The Big Bad Wolf on Trail because Karen wanted to write a skit on justification.
A Theme. Our skit, The Little Princess, came about because we needed a skit for Honey, I Shrunk The Kids Night.
A Character or Story. Our skit, Ain’t I A Stinker?, came about because we had a six foot tall Bugs Bunny to give away.
BRAINSTORMING: Once you have a basic idea, you need to flesh it out more by Brainstorming.
Here are four methods we use to brainstorm
Word Association. Another Awana Program wanted help writing a Council Time for Crazy Sock Night. I looked at the three words and decided to begin doing word associations with “sock”. Within a minutes, I came up with the term sock puppet.
Try Your Idea with Known Characters or Stories. James likes to take our ideas and try placing them in various fairly tales.
Work Backwards. We wrote The Little Princess for Honey I Shrunk The Kids Night. So from the very start we knew that we needed one thing in the skit – the main character had to shrink. We kept looking for different methods to make it look like one of us had shrunk and different reasons someone would shrink.
Look For Parallels. When Karen wanted to write a skit on justification, one of the first ideas which came to her was a trial and a judge where the judge took the penalty. This idea became The Big Bad Wolf on Trial.
There are five things you need to keep in mind while brainstorming.
1) The Message. Every skit must teach a Biblical truth.
2) Your Actors. How many actors do you have and what are they comfortable doing?
3) Your Audience. One of our skits stars Dora, The Explorer. We’re never going to perform it for T&T. Two of our skits mention drug and alcohol use, we’re never going to perform those for Sparks.
4) Your Audience’s World. Make the message relevant to your audience’s world. Try as hard as you can to get into their head and think like they do.
5) Teaching/Learning Methods. The more teaching methods you use, the more kids you’ll engage.
Here are three examples:
1) Music: Christmas Through The Years and The Little Princess both have the main character signing a song. Faith Overcomes Doubt contains a version of Jesus Calms The Storm set to music.
2) Visuals: Faith Overcomes… uses a ton of visuals.
3) Interaction With The Audience. Saul, Paul & Paul and Faith Overcomes Peer Pressure use a scripted game show. Bible Memorization Techniques Game Show and Faith Overcomes Fear use an unscripted game show. The Big Bag Wolf on Trial and Mulan & Adopt-A-Club use kids as actors. The Little Princess has the characters in the skit interacting with the audience.
WRITER’S BLOCK: When you’re finished brainstorming, you should have enough ideas to begin writing. If you get stuck, use the brainstorming methods listed above but this time brainstorm specifically on the piece you’re stuck on.
VARIOUS TIPS AND TRICKS: Now that you have your basic idea, here are a variety of tips and tricks to strengthen your skit.
Establishing Your Characters Quickly. We don’t use fancy costumes or sets and we have the same actors playing multiple roles, so we have to establish our characters quickly. Here are some easy ways to do this.
- Have another character establish who you are through their dialog.
- Establish your character in the first or second lines of your dialog.
- Establish who you are by interacting with audience. See The Little Princess for examples.
- If a character appears multiple times, use the same intro for the character. A good example of this is how we established Joe Richards each time he appeared in Christmas Through The Years.
How to make two actors seem like a full cast
- The number of actors determines the number of characters which can appear on stage at one time. One actor can play multiple parts just not at the same time.
- Have one person play the key character and have the other person play all of the other characters. The Little Princess, Stuck on Christmas, and Christmas Through The Years are good examples of this.
- Use kids to play bit parts.
Using Kids As Actors.
Kids love to act and kids love to watch other kids on stage. Here are ways to use kids in your skits.
- Hand them a script with their lines highlighted and have them read their parts. See Saul, Paul & Paul and Faith Overcomes Peer Pressure for examples.
- Have a narrator or adult explain during the skit what the kids are supposed to do and then have them act it out. See Faith Overcomes Pride for an example.
- Don’t script the kids. Bring them on stage and interact with them. If the kids don’t know you, then I strongly recommend not doing the unscripted approach.
Using Simple Costumes & Props
- Props can be as simple as a hat to establish a character
- Use a piece of cloth which you can slip over you as a costume
- Kids will notice props, so make sure your props/visuals are clearly identifiable
- Use props to help drive your point home. See our clown skits in Faith Overcomes… for examples.
Scene Changes. Scene changes are the most difficult part of a skit. Each time you go offstage, you loose the audience’s attention and you have to reestablish the setting and characters.
- Minimize dead stage time.
- Practice your scene changes.
- Reestablish characters and settings as quickly as possible.
- Don’t use elaborate props if they have to be moved onstage or offstage between scenes.
- If an actor has a complex costume change, have another actor on stage while they’re changing costumes.
- Divide the stage in half and have each half be a different setting. This way you don’t have to leave the stage to change scenes.
Clearly Distinguish Between Reality and Fiction. A blatantly fictional character such as The Big Bad Wolf or Bugs Bunny shouldn’t mention God. There are two easy ways to frame a fictional story such that it can tell a Biblical truth. First, use the skit as an analogy and after the skit have a adult explain the analogy and the Biblical truth. Second, set the fictional story as part of a larger play. For example, maybe the fictional story is a story a parent is using to explain a Biblical truth to their child.
There are two types of characters: main characters and characters who are comedy relief or are used to relate to the main character.
There can be more than one main character in a skit. For example, in The Little Princess, Li’l brothers are minor characters, but both Li’l and King Stephan are main characters.
Main characters must be fully developed.
- Develop their background story
- Know what the character is like when they are off stage
- Know their emotions/feelings and likes/dislikes
Show, don’t tell. Whenever possible, show what is happening or what a character thinks. Minimize characters telling what is happening or what they think or feel.
Words speak louder than actions.
- Bad dialog will ruin a good skit.
- Conversations between characters hold the audience’s attention better than monologues.
- Don’t be a slave to the script. If you can’t remember a line, try to remember what is happening and make up a line which moves the skit along. Chemistry is more important than the script. We routinely add dialog in the middle of our skits.
Practice, Practice, Practice. We can’t stress practice enough.
Know Your Limits. We routinely scrap ideas or scenes because they are too complex for us to do well. The skits we’ve provided are everywhere from entry level to extremely complex. Don’t start with The Little Princess or Christmas Through The Years.
Pray and never forget that your skit is all about God.
There are several skits written by James & Karen Williams available in the resource download area under large group time.