Every year my church puts on the Lafayette Passion Play. We rent out a theater downtown and perform the three nights before Easter Sunday. It is a major undertaking, requiring more than a hundred people to pull it off every night. This is the twentieth year the church has presented the play. A version of the play will generally be performed for three years, and then a new version is done. This is the first year for this new version.
The general method is to present the Biblical story with a modern-day frame story to present it. In past years the frame story has been set in a college dormroom, an office breakroom, and even a tour of the Holy Land. This year the “modern” part is set in the late 1940’s, with a town presenting their own Passion Play. The set is built on a revolving stage, so the audience will see the backstage of that town’s play, with that town’s actors interacting while also presenting their Passion Play. I may be too close to it, but I think it’s a really neat idea, and some of the scene changes I’ve seen are really cool.
I tend to subject my acting to the same overly-harsh criticisms I subject pretty much any acting to, so while I don’t really feel I’m well-suited to the job, it is something I like to do, and being willing is half the battle, I guess. When I tried out, it was just a general try-out, not for any specific part. Later that week, the director contacted me about whether or not I’d be interested in playing the part of the the actor who plays Jesus. I eventually agreed, but I felt very strange about it.
The whole process has continued to be strange, and not just because I’ve been letting my beard and hair grow out. I’m very familiar with the life and teachings of Jesus, but to take those things on as a role puts it in a different light for me. I’ve always been concerned about what He said, but now I’ve been looking at how and why as well, and it’s been very interesting for me. During this same time, I’ve also been reading through A Harmony of the Gospels, which presents the first four books of the New Testament side-by-side and in chronological order. That has helped me to see things I hadn’t before, and given me a better overall view of the life of Christ.
The most stressful part of the process for me has been memorizing lines. I’m not as young as I once was, and the memorization isn’t as easy as it used to be! On top of that, the lines I say as Jesus come directly from the Bible, and … well, let’s just say I don’t want to be putting words into Jesus’s mouth that He didn’t say!
The play is this week, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. It is a good lead-in to Easter Sunday, a reminder of what we celebrate. This week is a lot of work, but it will ultimately be worth it.
If you follow me on Twitter or are a friend on Facebook, you’ve already seen me post this. This is the commercial we made to promote the Passion Play, and it is airing on our local channel this week.
If you’re in the area, I invite you to come see the play. Tickets are free and are available for reserve by calling the church at 765.448.1986. If you come, make sure to say hi after the play!