An interview with a playwright: we chat to Angie McEvansoneya about all things Christmas
An interview with playwright Angie McEvansoneya, author of The Shepherd Spy, about Christmas traditions and the keeping Christ at the centre of the celebrations.
Christmas season is a time for celebration, reflection, and of course nativity plays! So who better to chat to about all things festive, than Angie McEvansoneya, the playwright behind The Shepherd Spy, a wonderful collection of nativity plays?
You are the playwright of a wonderful collection of nativity plays, why do you think it is important that nativity plays are still put on?
It is essential that we can put on nativity plays in this country, in schools and churches, while we are allowed. Children these days have very little idea of what Christmas is really all about and those who do, tend to get the details muddled.
Putting on a nativity play brings in parents and families to watch and gives what may be a unique opportunity for them to hear the Gospel.
These plays can have a profound impact on children’s lives, adding in a positive way to their childhood memories. Having a part may help them to remember the nativity in later years and be an important link in the chain which leads them to Jesus.
Were you in nativity plays as a child? What was your favourite character that you played?
Yes, I was in nativity plays as a child, both in primary and secondary school. The ‘honoured’ part was to play Mary, which I never did (think you had to be really well behaved and good to do that). I was the ‘Reader’ one year and had to stand in the pulpit (it was in a church) and read the story from the Bible which I felt was incredibly important. I loved doing that.
Have you always been interested in writing?
At school I loved English language and literature. I like writing essays and poems. What has been a great help is that we were taught grammar and I learnt Latin, both of which gave me a fascination with words and their origins.
This developed into playwriting when I was newly married and I entered my Junior Covenantor group into the local Drama Festival. I thought I would write a purpose written play for them (it was a secular play) rather than use someone else’s material. Things have gone on from there.
Other than nativities, what else can we do to keep Christ at the centre of Christmas?
Teach the real Christmas story, Alongside the nativity play we do with the children at church each year, I teach the Christmas story as it is in Scripture, without the trimmings and donkeys and all that.
For the majority of children who don’t attend any form of church, this would ideally be done in schools, but sadly isn’t.
I inherited a lovely legacy from my parents (my father was an Anglican vicar) which was, that on Christmas Day the order of things was: church, dinner, presents. So I grew up knowing that the most important part of Christmas was Jesus and not Santa (he came specially to us on Boxing day when I was a child), presents, glitter, drinking, etc.
If only we could put that across to children and families, what a difference it would make to Christmas. Christmas Dah services would be packed!
I do like the Real Advent Calendars that are now available and Scripture Advent calendars – that can help get things into perspective. Sadly this year you seem to be able to get every variety of calendar and the included gifts are getting bigger and bigger.
We just need to keep pointing children in the right direction I guess.
What other Christmas traditions do you love?
I love the Christmas and Carol services, singing carols (and new worship songs about the Incarnation). I love the special food, preparing it for my family, Christmas shopping, decorating the walls with a peel and stick wallpaper, wrapping the presents, all of it really as long as the traditions don’t take the place of the central nativity. I don’t like the drain on my December finances though! I tend to try and save as much as I can so that I’m not needlessly throwing money away, and I use discount vouchers like the ones you can find on Raise.com to bag myself a bargain – I just hate the commercialisation of the season and I’d rather it be all about giving to friends and family instead of big companies taking from my purse.
I love Christmas Eve (the anticipation), seeing all my family at some time over Christmas and looking for anyone we know who might be on their own for Christmas so that they can be included in the family on Christmas Day.
This year for us it will be a buffet Christmas tea for a few lonely refugees from Derby and an Indian family. That will be both a pleasure and an honour.
A huge thank you to Angie for chatting to us!
About the Book
The Shepherd Spy is a collection of 12 nativity plays, for children of all ages and for groups of all sizes.
Each play presents a different slant on the Christmas story, with the author’s licence as to some of the surrounding details. We look at the nativity through different eyes – those of mice, a young spy of Herod’s, the national news channel, the stars and others. Every play has been tried and tested and can be performed in a small church building with a small stage and no curtains or spotlights.
Most children today have only a very limited knowledge of what Christmas if really about. By actually taking part in a nativity play, the story can become a central part of the children’s memories of Christmas.