When Caesar Augustus decreed that a census should be undertaken of the whole Roman Empire, he may well have known that there would be logistical challenges in undertaking it, and he may well have known that it would involve upheaval for many people as they returned to their places of birth. But what he couldn’t possibly have known is that the census would also be the driving force in probably the most famous story the world has ever known. Without the census, Mary and Joseph would never have made their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, would never have found shelter in a little stable, and would never have placed baby Jesus in the humble manger of the animals. The nativity story owes everything to the census, and in this playful version, we celebrate that fact.
Our two television presenters, Abi and Seth, introduce us to their programme ‘IT’S A CENSUS, GET ME OUT OF HERE’ set in BC Bethlehem. They zoom in on The Outback Inn where the locals are discussing the recently-announced census. They are far from positive about the arrival of newcomers to their town (IT’S A CENSUS, GET ME OUT OF HERE).
The presenters tell us about the challenging journey that some of the new arrivals have undertaken, zooming in on Mary and Joseph, who have made their way via donkey (WALKING AND WALKING).
The presenters interview a local innkeeper, Caleb, about how busy Bethlehem is getting and whether there are any rooms left for latecomers!
Back in Bethlehem, it is indeed feeling very full. Joseph knocks on door after door, but only has bad news to tell Mary (NO ROOM AT THE INN, MARY).
The presenters introduce a stable, within which the animals are feeling rather complacent as they haven’t really been affected by the census at all, contrary to the rumours. But then Mary, Joseph and a donkey are shown in (JUST AN OLD BARN).
The presenters announce that there will be some new arrivals shortly too. We see the shepherds visited by some angels, announcing the birth of Jesus (SO WE COULD SEE THE BABY).
The presenters introduce the Three Kings who have turned up at the inn, telling the people there of their journey (THE THREE WISE MEN). The Kings exit towards the stable, followed by the increasingly curious residents of Bethlehem.
At the stable, baby Jesus is asleep in the manger, surrounded by all of the visitors. Some of the residents of Bethlehem enter, including those who have been most vocal about the impact of the census. The presenters ask if anybody still wishes to “get out of here”, but now everybody wishes to stay (SING IT OUT).
The play has been written with 36 speaking parts, though this could easily be adapted (see p9). There is also plenty to do for a large ensemble. The parts fall roughly into the following groups:
- Presenters and Production Crew
- Residents of Bethlehem and Roman Soldiers
- Animals within the stable
- Shepherds and Angels
- The Three Wise Men plus entourage
- Mary, Joseph and the donkey
All characters could be played both by boys and girls, with names altered to suit if felt necessary.
The editable WORD script, available for £9.95 when the performance licence is also purchased, will make the process of adjusting quite straightforward.