Artistry: Christmas & Easter Music Theatre Productions
Mystery in the Manger / Crucible at the Cross
Two One Act Musical Plays to Tell the Story in Fresh New Ways
Scripts by Stephen Phifer
Music by Geron Davis and Lari Goss (Mystery) / Kyle Matthews and Camp Kirkland (Crucible)
Synopsis: Mystery in the Manger
More than 30 years after the first Christmas, Benjamin, an old man now but a shepherd boy then, returns to Jerusalem. He comes to find other witnesses who will prove that his story is true. With him are his son and granddaughter. They are divided over the old man: the son is embarrassed by his father and his constant ravings about angels and kings and a baby in a manger. His daughter believes in her grandfather’s story. She is torn between her father’s cynicism and her grandfather’s faith. In Jerusalem they encounter the church, post Resurrection, post Pentecost, witnessing in the streets, telling the Jesus story. The old shepherd and his family hear the story from Mary, James, and Paul. The climax of the story is a celebration of the Lord’s Table.
The songs are integrated into the story. The choir appears in costume as the church in Jerusalem. Here is the music list.
Mystery in the Manger
A Musical Play for Christmas
1. Glory to God*
2. Hope Has Come*
3. Go Tell with Go, Tell It on the Mountain**
4. Who Would Imagine a King?**
6. The Cradle That Rocked the World*
7. Isn’t It Amazing*
8. Agnus Dei with O Come Let Us Adore Him***
9. REPRISE: Go Tell with Co Tell It on the Mt.**
10. The Little Child***
11. Hope Has Come Finale*
12. Cradle Reprise*
Sources: *Hope Has Come, **Portraits of Christmas, ***Colors of Christmas
The mystery in this play is the wonder of the Incarnation. The Jesus story is told with awe and wonder at the truth of “God with Us.” As the unbelieving son and the hopeful granddaughter of the old shepherd hear the story they are led to confess the Lord as Savior. They can finally join the old man in his joyful, hopeful life.
This play was designed to me done in limited space by small choir and cast (4 men 2 women). There is a Prologue and an Epilogue with three scenes in between. Of course pageantry can always be added above and behind the stage or on the sides but is not necessary for the story and characters in the play to be understood. The running time is a little more than an hour.
Mystery in the Manger
Is a fresh approach to the story and the truth of Christmas. For me it was a wonderful pastoral tool for my company as well as an effective witness to the community. It is also a production within reach of a talented church production with limited resources.
“Hope has come in a Manger—let the whole world sing!”
Crucible at the Cross
A Musical Play for Easter
Synopsis: Crucible at the Cross
This story unfolds in a time of crisis similar to our world today, a crumbling society with enemies on the march. Another 30 years into the lives of our “Mystery” characters bring us to A.D. 70, the tragic year of the destruction of Jerusalem. In the intervening years, the Shepherd Benjamin became the pastor of the church in Bethlehem, assisted by his son, Caleb, but he traveled to the city and has been lost to the chaos. Ruth is now married and has a family of her own. Caleb has a sister who continues in her hatred for their father and her cynicism and bitterness with her husband. The walls of Jerusalem have been breached by the Roman army as refugees flee for their lives. A group of these displaced people arrive at the house where the Bethlehem church is meeting. This tiny group of refugees includes Mary, now 86 years old and here one remaining son, Simeon. Caleb and the church welcome them in for a worship service. Soon, a Roman centurion, Anthony, enters with his attendant, Cashua. Anthony has been charged with following Mary and Simeon. Is he the long arm of Roman law? As the church celebrates the Table of the Lord, the Jesus Story is told once again by these living witnesses. Soon we learn that Anthony was one of the soldiers who both crucified Jesus and witnessed the resurrection. As in the first play, their Lord’s Supper service tells the story.
The songs are integrated into the story. The choir appears in costume as the church in Bethlehem. Here is the music list.
1. Arise, (Our Great Savior, Christ the Lord Is Risen Today)
2. That’s the Heart of God (Hosanna)
3. Friend of a Wounded Heart
4. One at Your Table
5. The Day He Wore My Crown
6. You Thought of Us
7. Will You Worship?
8. Above All /Worthy Is the Lamb
9. FINALE: Our Great Savior, Christ the Lord Is Risen Today, Friend of a Wounded Heart
Source: All songs are from “You Thought of Us” by Kyle Matthews, arranged by Camp Kirkland
The crucible in this play is the crisis of the fall of Jerusalem. The Jesus story is told against the backdrop of a crumbling society as Rome finally conquers not just Israel but the religion of the Jewish People. Anthony the Roman Centurion wants to be a follower of Jesus but his extreme guilt has held him back. The bitter, unbelieving family of Caleb and Ruth are moved to repentance and faith in this climate of calamity.
This play was designed to me done in limited space by small choir and cast (5 men 3 women). The story unfolds in 6 scenes. Of course pageantry can always be added above and behind the stage or on the sides but is not necessary for the story and characters in the play to be understood. The running time is a little more than an hour.
The Cycle Concept
Over the first 20+ years of my career as a Music/Worship Arts Pastor I struggled with how to use the resources–people, equipment, schedule, money and facilities of the church–to tell the Jesus story at Christmas and Easter. There were many options but as a college student the Lord had directed me to learn how to write and produce musical plays. This approach is more difficult than buying one of the latest cantatas the publishers were producing. After many years of switching between concert-type productions and plays, I finally decided on the Cycle approach. I would write a set of two related plays telling the Jesus Story with Christmas as Part One and Easter as Part Two. This afforded me much more creative options to me as a playwright. I set them up on a 3-year schedule. Year one we would learn the new piece. Year two we would improve it. Year three we would enjoy it. The next year we would start the cycle of a new pair of plays. This was much easier on me and on our production teams. Our team was was not always learning new material every year. In some of the churches I served these were huge 3-act plays because we had the traditions, facilities and teams to do musicals on a large scale. The “Mystery/Crucible” cycle plays were written for a church with a smaller stage with fewer singers and players and a smaller production team. They are also designed to run about 1 hour instead of 2 or more. I hope you will consider this concept and enlist my assistance in telling the Jesus Story.
Stephen Phifer, Author
For more information on obtaining the rights to this play or for a portion of the script to read:
- by phone: (863) 512-3671
- by snail mail: 1400 Laurel Branch Place, Bartow, FL 33830 or
- by email: DrStevePhifer@Gmail.com
© 2016 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved Revised 9-18-2022