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The Perfect Gift
Cast of Characters
Yellow denotes a singing part
Visual "Angel" Effects
One of the more difficult aspects of staging a Christmas play or musical is creating the visual effects for the Angels. In our play, we are utilizing an "Angel Choir". This Angel Choir surrounds the outside perimeter of the stage throughout the play. Their presence is not concealed, but rather only "highlighted" during their particular performance during the play. I will try to describe some suggestions for costuming and special effects that will be used throughout the play.
These are simple white "choir" robes or "monk" type robes. For those of you who want to hide or lessen their visibility on stage when they are not performing, the back/front style of costume can be easily incorporated. To explain this, imagine your robe .... one side is pure white (the front), the other side black (the back). When the Angel choir is performing ... they face forward exposing their "white" side and are glowing under blacklight .... when not performing, they turn around and become a "shadow" of nondescript black. More imaginative productions will even make the backside more elaborate.... painted like foliage or trees, you can use camouflage to create "rocks" and scenery.
For our play, I am suggesting a much more simple approach. Pure white costumes ... and the Angel Choir simply sits down when they are not performing. These chairs surround the outside perimeter in a semi-circle surrounding entire stage area. The Angel Choir simply does not move to distract from the on-going play.
A spectacular costume effect that works well for creating Wings is to take a dowel rod (about 3' long) and sew on layers of light, white fabric formed in the shape of feathers. These feathers can be tipped with gold glitter or other reflective metallic particles to enhance their beauty. Wings should be tapered and outlined in the shape of bird wings. Even paper, like tissue paper, can be used and glued onto the dowel rods as feathers. Lightweight is the key word here and the illusion can be spectacular.
The Angel then simply holds the dowel rods wings with their hands, raising them up, when you want to create the "flying" effect for the wings. These lightweight wings can then be easily lowered to their sides when the Angel Choir melts into the background.
It is not necessary to create these "wings" for all the Angel Choir, but simply for 3 or 4 of them. Angels like "Gabriel" that have speaking parts or solo parts should be equipped with these wings and a few others spread around the semi-circle of the Angel Choir.
One of the more important special effects will be to make our Angels "glow". Being dressed in all white, blacklight can create this wonderful effect. Here are some cautions though about using "black" lighting. Women's makeup and contact lenses can create some unusual and almost "eerie" effects under blacklight. Contact lenses can create eyes "glowing" like a mad dog or wild animal and can ruin that angelic mood you're trying to create..... almost making them look demonic. Some shades of brown, red or pink lipstick or eye shadows (especially those with glitter particles) can turn lips and eyes into wild, green or orange disgusting facial features.
So here are your choices ..... you ask that no one wear their contacts and you apply all the stage make up. To give your Angels a more surreal look, white powder over white makeup will create a nice effect and make your Angels appear all the same. Another technique that works well, is to cover their heads with a simple sheer white scarf that goes down to their shoulders, removing all the facial features completely. Halos made from gold garland, flowers or glitter can be sprayed onto the top of their heads to give them a "crowned" effect. This is also a nice way to "hide" people that are doing multiple parts during the show.... everyone in the Angel Choir looks the same.
Don't forget the hands and shoes. I'd suggest white gloves or white plastic surgical gloves. Make black shoes mandatory for your Angel Choir. Colored shoes - especially red or pink shoes -- tapping to the beat of the music that are glowing orange or green under black light can be distracting and almost comical.
Flying in the Wind
Another effect that will enhance the effect of our flying Angels .... are a few, well placed fans to russle their wings and costumes. I only suggest them to be blowing on the Angels that you've outfitted with wings. This is an effect that you don't need if you have overhead ceiling fans. If they can be turned up selectively, they should create enough air-movement to give your Angels the effect you’re seeking. Fans can be loud ... so disregard this effect if you can't do it without the noise.
To give your Winged Angels a more dramatic stage presence. Have them stand on the 3rd step of a 6' step ladder. This will raise them about 30" above everyone else and give a nice illusion to the audience and storyline. The step ladders can be easily placed on stage, easy to mount and easy to remove. Naturally, they will need to "backup" the steps so that their full costume is seen. If I were staging this play, I would do it for all the winged angels (left & right) on the 2nd step, and Gabriel at center stage on the 3rd step with the Angel Choir filling in between -- a nice balanced effect.
Smoke or Fog machines
If you want to create a special effect for Gabriel .... smoke drifting out from under his feet, could give a nice illusion of him standing in mid-air or on a cloud. In Scene 5 (the Angels Visit the Shepherds), the smoke could then drift down towards the Shepherds and surround them. The blacklighting will make the fog light up as well.
All ceiling fans should be stopped to prevent air movement within the room. Ventilation is a key to using a smoke machine and can be easily created using flexible 6" plastic drainage pipe with the holes. This pipe is attached to a "shop vac" that is outside the building. The drainage pipe would be positioned where you can to "stop" the flow of your fog. The holes in the drainage pipe will suck up the fog, expelling it outside.
If you decide to use a fog or smoke machine to enhance the scene, please use caution. A smoke filled room is often less appealing afterwards and not worth it. If you can't properly ventilate the room, don't use this effect at all. Although professional fog won't choke and gag your audience or actors