The Arch!

By Michele Pitman


A mime on the theme that Jesus is the capstone of the building.


1 Peter 2:1 ff ( “The building block and a Holy Nation” - The Good News version works best with this drama)


A large number of clowns


A group of clowns (up to 10) come clamouring up the aisle.  They don’t speak,  but communicate with different noises including whistles, gazoos, party blowers or bike horns etc.  Incidental music can be played during the drama if desired. The clowns proceed to stack the hobby boxes, covering them if required.
The coloured arch boxes are strewn about.  In between antics, the clowns proceed to try and build the arch to top the columns.
One very small clown attempts to get the capstone incorporated into the structure, but each time he/she presents it the other clowns reject it (Note: A simple sign with the word “REJECT” on it could be utilized here).  This happens three times.  The arch is a “failure”.
Finally they all agree to give the capstone a try, and behold!  The arch is successful.  It is carefully lifted onto the columns and the clowns celebrate as they leave.
The text is read.
Production note:
A large prop was made for this drama.  9 specially shaped boxes were created to form an arch supported on two columns of stacked hobby boxes.  It took a lot of time and effort to make the arch pieces but it was worth it.
First lay out 5 or 6 strips of blank newsprint approximately 3 metres long.  Stick these pieces together with masking tape, being careful to keep them from creasing as much as possible.  Measure at the bottom the centre point.  Measure out from the centre 75 centimetres to the left and 75 cms to the right.  This will give you the arch width.  Measure up from the centre point 1.5 metres and mark.  Measure up 1.5 m from each side point and mark.
Using a marking pen on a length of string fixed on this second centre point, draw a half circle.  The string needs to be long enough to reach the side marks.  Draw the half circle up around to meet the other side mark.  This should give you the inside edge of the arch.
Our arch was 40cms wide.  Measure 40cm from each side point out and mark.  This will give you the outside edge of your arch.  Do the same as the above instructions adjusting the string measurement to meet the outside marks.
Draw lines across each column at the 1.5m mark.  This is the starting point for your arch boxes.
Now comes the tricky bit.  You need to find the centre of the inside edge at top of the arch.  On this centre inside edge, measure an equal distance either side.  This is the bottom of the capstone.  Remember that the capstone bottom is smaller than its top, i.e. the top will be wider.  So from the centre top edge of the arch mark another slightly larger equal distance either side.  Draw straight lines to meet the two points top edge and inside edge on either side. This is your capstone shape.  It should be almost triangular, except with a flat bottom.
You will need to carefully measure the four boxes either side of this capstone.  Each box needs to have a mirror image of itself on the other side of the arch.  One way to do this effectively is measure one side, cut out these templates carefully.  Flip them over and match them onto the other half of the arch to get the mirror image box.  Number each of these boxes from left to right 1 to 4, capstone then 5-8.  Remember that the outside measurements will be slightly wider than the inside measurements giving the boxes angled sides with the smallest measurement forming the inside of the arch.
Once you have done this, cut out the shapes.  These are now your templates to create the boxes.  You will need heaps of good sturdy cardboard.  Old boxes are okay, but brace any folds or rough edges.  Cut out the cardboard shapes.  You will need two per box.
Take a shape and measure the sides, tops and bottoms. You will need to cut four rectangles to fit each side of your shape.  Use more sturdy cardboard.  We found 50 cms in length was plenty! With heaps of good strong (and wide) packaging tape, stick these around the shape in a daisy pattern.  Fold in sides toward each other so that the edges meet.  Stick the edges together with masking tape.  Stick the second shape on to the back making sure that all edges meet securely.  You might like to brace these boxes by filling them with scrunched up newspaper or other light material, but keep in mind that they need to remain very light and easy to “throw around”.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the bottom and top edges of your shapes will need to “squared off”, as matching rounded edges is intensely frustrating.
We paper mache'd one light layer of newspaper and corn flour paste around each of our boxes but we found that the sides shrunk when they dried.  So it may be prudent to just paper mache the edges of the boxes lightly to strengthen them.
Corn flour paste can be made as follows.  ½ cup of corn flour, ½ cup of cold water, mix until smooth.  Then, stirring constantly, add enough boiling water to form a thick, almost clear, paste.  A little bit of disinfectant can be added if the paste is to be kept for any length of time.
If the sides do shrink on your boxes after you paper mache them, like ours did, brace the sides that will be resting against each other with extra cardboard and plenty of masking or gaffa tape.  You need to ensure that these sides are reasonably flat, but the tops, bottoms, fronts and backs don’t really need bracing.
Paint your boxes however you wish, but as a hint, we painted the bottom boxes blue, next came purple, then yellow then green and the capstone box was bright orange with a green cross painted on the front. Don’t forget to keep track of the box numbers after each painting or you’ll get completely confused as to which box goes where!
Attach sticky backed velcro strips to the sides where the boxes will butt together.  You will need about 18 x 12 cm strips of both hooks and the fluffy bit of velcro!.  Stick them to the outside edges of your boxes.  HINT:  Put the velcro halves together then peel of the backing from ONE side of the velcro and centre it on a box.  Then match the next box to it, peeling off the other velcro backing strip just before they meet.  NOTE:  You will need a knife to separate the velcro as it is incredibly strong!  If the velcro peels of the box completely and won’t stick back on, have extra strips handy to replace them with.
Continue matching the boxes together until you have created your arch.  Then with two people, each end, lift carefully and balance onto the two columns of stacked hobby boxes.  The arch should be high enough for someone more than 6ft tall to walk under! Note: The bottom two hobby boxes may be weighted for extra stability if necessary.  The columns may also be covered with sheets or wrapped in paper onto which “bricks” have been drawn.
Optional extra:
We also used two tall banner stands onto which we hung a rod and sheer sheet.  On the back of the curtain we used gaffa tape to form the shape of a cross.  This was hung behind the arch with the light from the sanctuary behind it, so that the congregation could see through the arch toward the shadow of the cross.  The clowns set this equipment up as well.
The whole structure is left in place during the service, however the curtain may be removed as a part of the Absolution if desired.  If practical, the arch can remain in place during a communion service, and people can file through it for the Sacrament.
© Michelle Pitman 1999, all rights reserved
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any
entrance fee charged. In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what
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