Reader’s Theater

One Lent, I looked everywhere for a Reader’s Theater rendering of St. Matthew’s Passion Narrative.  I was unsuccessful, so I wrote my own script, which you can download here.  In subsequent years, I reworked the script to follow the Passion Narrative found in St. Mark’s and St. Luke’s Gospels.  I post them here in the hopes that if someone else is hunting online they might stumble across them and find them useful. Click the links below to download the files.

Reader’s Theater Matthew Passion Narrative

Reader’s Theater Mark Passion Narrative

With readers’ parts highlighted: Mark Part 1Mark Part 2, Mark Part 3Mark Part 4

Reader’s Theater Luke Passion Narrative

With reader’s parts highlighted: Luke Part 1Luke Part 2Luke Part 3Luke Part 4

A few notes about the readings:

The script has four parts, preferably two female (1.2) and two male (3.4) readers.  The congregation plays the part of the crowd and can be prompted by the reader to join in the drama.  Also note that the congregation stands when the people come to Golgotha.

If the division of parts is confusing, it may help to think of this as a fast-paced narrative, almost as though the different readers are stumbling over one another and cutting each other off to tell the story.

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24 thoughts on “Reader’s Theater

  1. Don Baird says:

    I look forward to using one of your passion narratives on Good Friday. On one of your pages you referenced slides. Are these projecton slides and if so can you mail or email them to me

  2. Sarah says:

    Could you send those slides to me as well? Thanks!

  3. Dave Meadows says:

    Thanks so much for making these available to us! I know my congregation will receive a blessing from them!

  4. Peggy Ellingson says:

    Would you please send the ppt slides to me. I was looking for a readers theater for Good Friday this year. Thanks

  5. Iolanthe says:

    Thank you for this. I am choirmaster at an Episcopal church in North Central California. Our choir did your St. Luke Passion as a choral reading this morning and you could have heard a pin drop in the church. After the service the response was enormously positive; our pastor said she heard the familiar words in new ways.

    Thank you for the time and effort you put into these adaptations.

    Elizabeth Crain

  6. Adonna says:

    Do you still have ppt slides available for your readers theatre? I would love to have them. Thank you.

    • marissaburt says:

      Hi Adonna! Ah, yes, the slides. I’ve been meaning to edit that. At the church I created this for, we used a powerpoint background. Hence the reference to the slides. I suppose the use of a slide is dependent on whether you typically use powerpoint in your service. In services where the entire liturgy was on powerpoint, we’ve had a slide with a few notes for the congregation and at other times have just included a bit in the bulletin at the appropriate spot, or a single-page insert to slip inside the bulletin. If you want the powerpoint file, I can probably hunt it up and send it to you, although it might be best to just craft a simple one that fits in with the flow of your liturgy. It wouldn’t need much on it, just a few prompts like the ones I’m including below.

      What we typically did is have one of the readers preface the reading by giving a short introduction like the one I’ve included below. Also, it can help to instruct the reader who will say the lines preceding the congregation’s response to look up at the congregation to cue them in to participate. For the rest of the reading, all the readers were looking at their scripts, so the eye contact can be an effective way to invite the congregation to participate at those key moments.

      Intro: During the Gospel reading, the congregation plays the part of the crowd. On the slide (or, in your bulletin), you will see the congregation’s responses along with the lines preceding them. Also note that the congregation stands when the people come to the Place of the Skull and remains standing until the end of the reading.

      And then the below bits can be on a single slide or inserted into a bulletin:

      Reader: Blasphemy!
      Reader: People, what is your decision?
      People: He deserves death.

      ***

      Reader: Crucify Him!
      Reader: People, what will you do with this Jesus who is called Christ?
      People: Crucify Him!

      ***

      Reader: And when they came tot he place that is called The Skull
      The congregation stands for the remainder of the reading

      ***

      Reader: This is the King of the Jews.
      Reader: People, hail your King.
      People: Hail, King of the Jews!

      Does this help? Let me know if I can be of further assistance. M

  7. Laura Hall-Schordje says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these. I am looking forward to the opportunity to bring these to my congregation as a great new option for worship.

  8. Emily Horrell says:

    I plan to use this Mark version for Palm/Passion Sunday. Thank you for sharing your gift with us!

  9. I am Chaplain at the Jamaica Defence Force and in searching for resources for Palm Sunday and Good Friday I stumbled upon your great work. I plan to use the resources for my services. Would you please allow me to have access to the slides?

    • marissaburt says:

      Hi Major Smalling! I’m so happy that these resources might be useful to you! First, let me direct you to this page at prayersofthefaithful.org where I’ve included a more polished version of the readings with highlighted parts for each reader. Also, I thought I had edited out all bits about the slides – alas! At the church where I wrote these, we used powerpoint slides instead of bulletins, and I unfortunately don’t have those files anymore.

      However what we typically do now is have one of the readers preface the reading by giving a short introduction like the one I’ve included below. Also, it can help to instruct the reader who will say the lines preceding the congregation’s response to look up at the congregation to cue them in to participate. For the rest of the reading, all the readers were looking at their scripts, so the eye contact can be an effective way to invite the congregation to participate at those key moments.

      Intro: During the Gospel reading, the congregation plays the part of the crowd. On the slide (or, in your bulletin), you will see the congregation’s responses along with the lines preceding them. Also note that the congregation stands when the people come to the Place of the Skull and remains standing until the end of the reading.

      And then the below bits can be on a single slide or inserted into a bulletin:

      Reader: Blasphemy!
      Reader: People, what is your decision?
      People: He deserves death.

      ***

      Reader: Crucify Him!
      Reader: People, what will you do with this Jesus who is called Christ?
      People: Crucify Him!

      ***

      Reader: And when they came tot he place that is called The Skull
      The congregation stands for the remainder of the reading

      ***

      Reader: This is the King of the Jews.
      Reader: People, hail your King.
      People: Hail, King of the Jews!

      Does this help? Let me know if I can be of further assistance.

      Lenten blessings+

      Marissa Burt

  10. Keep making Reader’s Theater scripts like this through the Bible! We’re going to use your Luke 22 Good Friday one this Friday. Looking forward to it! Been awhile since we’ve incorporated drama into our services. This seems like something perfect for the stage we’re at. Thanks SO much for posting!

    • marissaburt says:

      I’m so pleased to hear this! Thank you for your encouraging words and I pray that we all would grow in an awareness of God’s nearness this Holy Week.

      Marissa

  11. Ann Spitzenberger says:

    So thankful I found this! I plan to use one on Good Friday this year. Would you please send me the slides.

    Thanks.

    Ann

    • marissaburt says:

      Hi Ann! I’m so happy that these resources might be useful to you! First, let me direct you to this page at prayersofthefaithful.org where I’ve included a more polished version of the readings with highlighted parts for each reader. Also, I thought I had edited out all bits about the slides – alas! At the church where I wrote these, we used powerpoint slides instead of bulletins, and I unfortunately don’t have those files anymore.

      However what we typically do now is have one of the readers preface the reading by giving a short introduction like the one I’ve included below. Also, it can help to instruct the reader who will say the lines preceding the congregation’s response to look up at the congregation to cue them in to participate. For the rest of the reading, all the readers were looking at their scripts, so the eye contact can be an effective way to invite the congregation to participate at those key moments.

      Intro: During the Gospel reading, the congregation plays the part of the crowd. On the slide (or, in your bulletin), you will see the congregation’s responses along with the lines preceding them. Also note that the congregation stands when the people come to the Place of the Skull and remains standing until the end of the reading.

      And then the below bits can be on a single slide or inserted into a bulletin:

      Reader: Blasphemy!
      Reader: People, what is your decision?
      People: He deserves death.

      ***

      Reader: Crucify Him!
      Reader: People, what will you do with this Jesus who is called Christ?
      People: Crucify Him!

      ***

      Reader: And when they came tot he place that is called The Skull
      The congregation stands for the remainder of the reading

      ***

      Reader: This is the King of the Jews.
      Reader: People, hail your King.
      People: Hail, King of the Jews!

      Does this help? Let me know if I can be of further assistance.

      Lenten blessings+

      Marissa Burt

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