Posted by: Mark Nielsen | December 7, 2007

25 Ways to Screw Up a Christmas Pageant

We’ve seen it in churches. We’ve seen it in schools. Probably many of the same dysfunctional dynamics listed below occur in non-pageant scenarios too, like planning a holiday party, a fundraiser, you name it. There are plenty of us who can tell stories about bad experiences. But hey… it’s the most wonderful time of the year, isn’t it?

Here’s my list of no-no’s, in no particular order:

  1. Let the person who’s seldom around be the one to make all the important decisions.
  2. Put people used to working with grownups in charge of a bunch of kids.
  3. Too many de-facto directors, none with enough authority.
  4. Too many directors, none with enough theatrical experience.
  5. Too many eg0-involved adults getting territorial about their “contributions”.
  6. No director, stage-manager, or responsible authority to keep the big picture in mind.
  7. Let a music director –or someone else with little concern for staging, pace, movement or visual elements– run the show.
  8. Cannibalize a published original performance piece, using only the bad narration instead of the interesting music upon which the whole shebang was supposedly based.
  9. Pull stuff out at the last minute and expect everyone to learn it.
  10. Don’t write anything down or share information. Except on the audience’s program sheet, at the last minute, leaving out several important names and thank-yous.
  11. Stress out, hold grudges, make snap judgments… but don’t talk about it.
  12. Reminisce and wish it could be as good as it used to be.
  13. On second thought, stomp on anyone who tries to make present choices based on past experience instead of re-inventing the wheel.
  14. Cancel planning meetings.
  15. Alienate co-workers through abuse of power.
  16. Brood & pout when wronged.
  17. Leave.
  18. Bury all the physical materials and equipment in unmarked boxes in back rooms. Put non-functional material (aka garbage) in the box side-by-side with functional.
  19. Delegate a task, then take it back again.
  20. Get sick.
  21. Cross-schedule the physical rehearsal/performance space.
  22. Cast performers who don’t show up, or show up an hour late.
  23. Lose important papers, props, costumes, etc.
  24. Forget your lines.
  25. Mumble off-key and expect others to cover for you.


  1. worse than number 4 is one with too much real experience, and not enough volunteer experience… expecting perfection from a random group of kids looking to have fun and enjoy the experience.

  2. Yup. THat’s sort of what I meant by including #2.

  3. lol ok… for some reason i read number 2 as a not experienced in keeping kids, well, under control. lol not sure why… wait, yes i am, its probably cuz i have a 5 year old and have seen how easily groups of kids can form short mobs.

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