Hooray for the red, white, and blue! The 4th of July offers an opportunity for church production teams to re-capture the Godly principals on which America was founded.
Patriotic theatrical endeavors are usually full of readily available special effects producing plenty of pizzazz, glitz, and sparkle. But what happens when it comes time for Ben Franklin or a Colonial drummer to enter the stage? What can they possibly wear that will make it quick and easy to get into costume, yet hold the festive tone?
Some simple solutions may be closer than you think!
Let’s start with Ben. Ben Franklin was a distinguished gentleman, yet when gazing upon a portrait of this man the loving smile and small wire frame glasses on his face seem to distract you. Obviously a must for Ben Franklin – you will want to stop by your local thrift store and see if they have any old wire frame glasses lying around that fit the part.
Ben had long hair from what we know. Wigs are an essential part of any production. Check your local thrift stores for wigs as well. We have found several, for very reasonable prices, that have come in handy more than once.
Another great item Ben always seemed to wear was the famous tri-corn hat. Costume shops carry a wide variety of era hats.
If you do not have a seamstress on hand, take time while you are browsing the costume shop for the perfect hat and make sure to stroll through the rental items looking for the perfect long sleeve colonial coat and pants. Costume rentals can be a cost effective way to go when you only need the item once a year.
How about that white shirt Ben seems to be quite fond of? Once again, thrift stores usually have an entire rack of white shirts for men. Ruffles on the cuffs and a lacy jabot certainly add class! When time is running short, check with a costuming shop for these extra items. However, if time allows, you can check fabric stores for remnants of white fabric and lace to make your own.
Create your own cuffs by cutting the white fabric into strips that will wrap around the actor’s wrist. Like us, if you don’t sew, use a hot glue gun to attach the lace to the ends. Adhere velcro for fastening.
The jabot is just as simple. Glue the lace to the bottom edge of the first piece of white fabric (the first piece of fabric being approximately 8″ x 8″ square.) Glue the lace to the bottom of the second piece of fabric (the second piece of fabric being 6″ long x 8″ wide.) Using a hot glue gun, attach the first piece of fabric to the middle of a shoestring, leaving the ends of the shoestring for tying around the neck. Be sure and gather the fabric as you glue. Glue the second piece on top of the first so they are staggered. Wah-lah! A jabot for Ben!
Moving on to his fancy shoes, always check the thrift store for inexpensive men’s black loafers with a small heel. Don’t worry about the buckles- they can be ordered from any costume supply place, or made from cardboard and gold tinfoil!
Ben was friendly, but drab. How can you pizzazz him up to fit the sparkle of the overall mood, without really distracting from the era? Give him a large fake rhinestone/gold ring to wear! The large ring will make for glitz as he emphasizes his speech with hand gestures.
Make-up for Ben can also enhance his appearance. Use a base that matches your performers tone- perhaps one shade lighter for an elderly “pasty” look. Use a base that will dry to a matte finish, and a translucent powder to cancel any excess glare. Next, add in some age lines with a black/brown pencil across the forehead. Line his lips with a medium red pencil, and fill with one shade lighter than the pencil. Ben always seemed to have those rosy cheeks. Use a light pink blush for his cheeks. His eyes need to show up from behind his specs, so be sure and line the eyes with a black pencil.
You may want to consider taping Ben’s monologue to a “scroll” for easy presentation. To make an old looking scroll, you will need a regular manila file folder, coffee, paper towel, glue, ribbon, and a lighter. Dip the paper towel into the coffee (liquid form.) Gently rub the outside of the folder with the paper towel giving it a “stained” appearance. Burn the edges of the folder with the lighter, and holding over a trash can flick away the ash. Glue the monologue script to the inside of the folder and roll it up. Tie the rolled folder with a ribbon for Ben to remove once he is on stage.
OK- time for a colonial drummer. The colonial drummer we are going to describe was cast as a non-speaking part. The drummer stood on the stage as people were being seated. Moving in a mechanical/robot style, the drummer waved at the guests and shook hands with the children.
How did we dress the drummer? We used a colonial black and red costume jacket that was purchased from a costume shop. Of course, a white shirt, cuffs, jabot, white gloves, white pants, and black shoes with a buckle. We added a white George Washington style wig, and a tri-corn hat.
To add some glitz to the drummer, we constructed a fake drum made of clear corrugated foam board. The top disc was cut from wood, the bottom disc was made of 1″ thick Styrofoam. We attached the clear foam board to the Styrofoam disc first. We then cut a small hole in the top wooden disc for a cord to pass through, then stapled a set of 15 mini lights to the wood on the inside, and glued the clear foam board to the wooden disc. We added gold metallic ribbon for “brass” stripes, and used black gaffers tape to trim the top and bottom edges. We then installed two very small eyehooks on the wooden top disc to connect a neck strap. An extension cord for the lights came out of the hole in the wood, into the pants leg of the drummer, then out the bottom of the pants leg, and across the stage. The lit drum received several compliments!
Our drummer didn’t have time for make-up, so we improvised by painting a transparent mask with white spray paint. Once the white was dry, we added accents such as a silver star around one eye, ruby red lips lined in black, and eyebrows.
Following is a copy of the script we used for the 4th of July production performed by Ridgeland Community Church in Clermont, Florida. Written, technically directed, and produced by Don & Janet Beasley
4th of July:
“Hooray for the Red, White, and Blue”
(Copyright Don & Janet Beasley 1999)
Rehearsal Time: 4—6 weeks depending upon total number of participants. Choir and soloist rehearsals may vary.
Concept: This production will involve viewers from the minute they arrive at the venue. Patriotic greeters dressed in Uncle Sam attire can meet and greet the people and show them to the seat of their choice. Have on hand some mini flags either placed on the seats before the first arrival, or have the greeters hand them out as the people are seated. If you have a person who is good at posing as a statue, this can be great entertainment for early arrivals. Have them dressed as a colonial drummer or the Statue of Liberty, and place them up front on center stage during the seating time. They can wave and shake hands if so desired. You may wish to play fife and drum music in the background during seating time as well.
Pre-Activities: Children’s Church kids can make banners the week before your production, which can be carried in the grand finale.
Music: Fife and drum selections. This Land is Your Land, The Star Spangled Banner, Taps, Battle Hymn of the Republic, patriotic selections for background during dialogue.
People: Greeters (any number), Statue person, Flag carrier(s), Colonial/Ben Franklin figure (narrator), vocal soloist, choir, fife & drum corp, trumpet player (if no choir, vocal soloist, fife & drum corp, or trumpet player is available, simply use recordings – be sure to check copyright laws for both live and recorded uses), audio tech, lighting tech, special effects tech, kids, the pastor.
Props: 1 American flag, 1 crusader (Christian) flag, 1 state flag, (if you do not have access to all these flags, you could just use the United States flag) 1 scroll with narration script printed on it, scroll with portion of the declaration of independence, children’s church banners they have made, colonial chair and desk for Ben, quill pen, coat tree.
Costumes: Uncle Sam (greeters), Colonial drummer or Statue of Liberty, male Colonial or Ben Franklin outfit
Technical: Smoke machine(s), fog machine, 3 fog logs, hazer, curtain strobes, air bursts (optional – need to check on pyrotechnic operation laws within your state – air launched confetti may be used in place of air bursts), balloon drop, audio: mics for soloists, choir, and off stage audio bits, and a wireless headset or lapel for Ben, sound effects of a 21 gun salute, jets flying over, lighting: 2 Ellipsoidals – one with window pattern gobo for Ben -use color gel L103, desk lamp on a dimmer, PARs with bright color gels (moveables if you have them), 2 spot lights, 2 Ellipsoidals with gel color L162, and 2 Ellipsoidals with gel color L117.
Sets: Red-white-and blue fabric, stars (red, white, and blue – large to small), a large declaration of independence scroll, or large American flag for back of center stage, rolling flat for Ben’s office.
Greeters: (at the doors to greet and seat the attending people)
Living Statue (Colonial Drummer): (center stage waving to arriving guests, shaking hands with approaching children.)
Special Effects: Start hazer 15-20 minutes before performance, and continue until Ben’s entrance. Hazer sizes vary-operate accordingly.
Lighting: House lights up
Greeter: (general welcome from stage) “Hello! Happy 4th of July! We invite you now, to sit back and enjoy our celebration of freedom – Hooray for the Red, White and Blue!”
Lighting: Fade out house lights
Music: “This Land is Your Land” (play as an overture – no action going on. Statue figure may exit during overture. Flag carrier(s) take their place.)
Lighting: A light show number! Moveable lighting using red, white, and blue. If no moveables, use PAR cans with bump buttons or set a chase pattern. As music ends, use a 5 second crossfade to a scene of PAR cans at 1/3 power for a dim general stage wash.
Male voice: (When song is over – from a microphone off stage) “Color guard. Attention!”
Music: Fife and drum cadence – enter flag carrier(s)
Lighting: Bring up stage wash to full and spot fife and drum corp as they enter from back of auditorium. Continue spotting until after the Pledge of Allegiance.
Male voice: (When song is over – from a microphone off stage) “Would everyone please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.” (All stand) “I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America. And to the republic for which it stands. One nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”
Music: (soloist – acapella) “Star Spangled Banner”
Lighting: During drum roll: cut spot on fife and drum corp, bring up scene of Ellipsoidals with color gel L162 at a rate of 5-10 seconds on soloist, and PARs on to 1/4 power for a very dim stage wash. Spot the American flag
Male voice: (when song is over – from microphone off stage) “Let us now remember those who have given their lives, fighting for freedom, and pride of a nation that is blessed by God. May the blessing of freedom continue through the fervent prayers of believers throughout this nation.”
Music: (Trumpet player far stage right) “Taps” – at end: sound effect: 21 gun salute, jets flying over.
Special Effects: Drop dry ice (use fog log for even distribution) early on for trumpet solo.
Lighting: Using a fade rate of 5 – 7 seconds, crossfade to Ellipsoidals with L117 color gel on trumpet player. Fade out at end of song using a fade rate of 8-10 seconds. Remain dark.
Male voice: (wait for a moment of silence) “Color guard – Attention!”
Special Effects: Pull dry ice
Music: Fife and drum cadence – exit flag carrier(s)
Lighting: Bring up PARs to 1/3 power for dim general stage wash and spot fife and drum corp on exit.
Music: Fife and drum background during dialogue (enter colonial/Ben Franklin figure from back of room, shaking peoples’ hands on the way up)
Special Effects: Turn off hazer
Lighting: Crossfade from stage wash to Ellipsoidals with window gobo and color gel L103 focused on Ben, using a fade rate that matches Ben’s stage arrival.
Colonial/Ben Franklin Figure: (read from prepared scroll or old looking book – following is the dialogue to be printed in the scroll/book)
“You may now be seated. (pause) A nation founded on Godly principles. A nation where morals once held prestige among the masses. Where raising a family was once the focus of an entire country. A place where God and pride of a nation was acknowledged in school, the work place, and public gatherings.
Freedom – what was meant for good, has now turned sour. Morals are diminishing, broken families are common, we no longer see honoring God as a priority at public gatherings, and we have allowed God to be removed from our children’s most crucial years of learning.
A blessed nation? God intended it! How long will God continue to bless that which does not honor and obey Him? We do not know. We must ask ourselves, why do we continue to push God to the limits of His grace and mercy? Who are we to boast and brag of a free nation founded on Godly principles, when we have omitted the very One who brought us that freedom?
God’s grace is seen every second – in every breath we take – allowing us to live.
If God is allowing this nation to continue in its current state of turmoil, perhaps we need to WAKE UP, AMERICA – to the opportunity God is putting before us through His gift of Grace!
The opportunity to turn this nation back around to morally correct standards, strong family values, and respectable leaders.
We have all made mistakes in our lives. This is a real world, with real happenings of both good and bad. We have got to stop turning our backs on friends and family members who are in need. We must pull together as a Godly force, and show these hurting folks a genuine answer. If we can’t help individuals, how can we expect to change a nation?
Through prayer and unity, this nation can become, once again, an example to all. Through prayer and unity, this nation can continue in freedom. Freedom as it was intended to be on July 4th 1776. (exit – music continues on exit and entrance of pastor.)
Lighting: Fade out at rate of Ben’s exit. Fade up house lights.
Pastor: (enters – music fades) Sermon..with last words of sermon being: “let freedom ring.” (exit)
Special Effects: If haze has dispersed, turn on hazer approximately 15 minutes before pastor is through.
Lighting: After sermon, slow fade house lights to dark before music starts.
Cast Line Up: Children at back of auditorium with banners, Flag Carriers at back of auditorium, Colonial Living Statue off stage left, Ben Franklin figure off stage right.
Music: “Battle Hymn of the Republic”
Lighting:Fade up Ellipsoidals with L117 color gel for Ben at 1/3 power before the following narration.
Colonial/Ben Franklin Figure: (during music intro, enters into light, reads from far stage right from a scroll) “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. (exit stage right)
Lighting: Fade Ellipsoidals. Run programmed scenes using PARs and moveables, building through the end of song – ending with a spectacular lighting and special effects display.
(each to enter on 8 counts to designated stage position)
Enter colonial statue with fake drum (from stage left)
Enter flag carrier(s) (from back of room – center)
Enter colonial/Ben Franklin figure (from stage right)
Enter kids with self-made banners (from the back using all rows)
Special Effects: At the very end of music: smoke machines shooting through 2 upright fog logs, dry ice drop in fog machine to fog log covering stage floor with fog, stage strobes, and air bursts (or confetti – if you don’t want to clean up confetti, you may want to use small red, white, and blue fuzz balls as people will tend to pick them up for souvenirs on their way out), and balloon drop over viewing audience.
Special Effects: Kill all special effects
Lighting: House lights up
Pastor: (enter after applause) Closing prayer and dismiss
Music: Lively patriotic music selections in the background during exit of congregation.
We hope that this 4th of July will prove to be your best production yet. Remember, when budget doesn’t allow for what you are wanting, do the best with what you have! Excellence does not always mean more, but it is worth its weight in gold! As always, have fun!