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Passion play draws thousands to Austintown



Published: Fri, April 2, 2010 @ 12:10 a.m.

By LINDA M. LINONIS

linonis@vindy.com

austintown

Filling 1,400 seats at five performances would probably challenge any amateur theater company.

But that’s the norm for the Passion play presented every year by Highway Tabernacle. The same attendance is anticipated this year.

The drama, begun by The Rev. Gary Hallberg, who now pastors a church in Steubenville, is marking its 10th anniversary.

“He had a vision to do an Easter musical,” said director Jason Fisher, worship and creative arts pastor. A graduate of Central Bible College with a degree in church music, he brings that expertise to the project.

“A lot I just picked up by doing this,” he said during a recent interview.

The Rev. Rich Hamm “made a big change” in 2007 by adding a narrator, John the Revelator. He is the Apostle John who penned the book of Revelation. Flashbacks recount the biblical story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

2008 was a transition for the play, which was supervised by a committee. The Rev. Jonathan Moore, senior pastor, who had directed, handed the duty to Pastor Fisher. The Passion play evolved from “The Promise” script. “It was done verbatim at first,” Pastor Fisher said. “Then scenes were changed or added, and songs were changed.”

“A lot of good ideas have been incorporated,” Pastor Fisher said of the script that uses material from “The Promise,” revisions by Pastor Hamm and current changes.

“We took out things that didn’t work,” said Nancy Wickham, production manager, who’s been with the show since its start.

The 150-member cast and crew began rehearsing in February. Actors with and without lines rehearse at various intervals. Cast and crew follow this PLAYbook: P for passion, be expressive; L for listening to take direction; A for adjust, be aware and attitude; and Y for what you would have done as witness to the Passion.

“Teamwork brings it all together,” said Pastor Fisher.

This play doesn’t focus solely on the Passion of Christ; it starts at his birth.

Musical selections include “All Things New,” “Glorious Impossible,” “Prepare the Way,” “Shalom,” “Cross of Calvary.” A vocal ensemble is showcased.

Play patrons are intrigued by scenes of Christ’s birth when Herbie the camel strides down the center aisle as the Three Wise Men visit Jesus. “He [Herbie] is really tall,” Pastor Fisher said. Herbie, along with Virgil, another camel, and other animals are provided by Dwane Felder.

“A toddler represents Jesus,” Pastor Fisher said, noting a toddler is truer to the real age of Jesus when visited by the Magi.

The play fast forwards to John the Baptist, a forerunner of Jesus. The audience is introduced to the adult Jesus when he is baptized and his ministry gets under way.

The Passion takes up much of the two-hour presentation. Crosses where Christ and the thieves are crucified are a focal point on stage.

“The tomb scene is somber,” Pastor Fisher said, and the finale takes place in heaven. The shows culminate with a message by Pastor Moore.

The show is a year in the making. “I live and breathe it,” Wickham acknowledged.

“It’s my passion ... I like everything about being involved with it.”

IF YO GO

Highway Tabernacle, 3000 S. Raccoon Road, Austintown, is presenting its 10th annual Passion play this Easter season.

When: 3 and 7 p.m. today, Good Friday; 7 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Easter. A show took place on Palm Sunday.

Admission: Free but a free-will offering will be taken. No reservations are accepted. Doors open 45 minutes before show time.

Details: Child care will be provided for infants to kindergarten age.

Information: Church office at (330) 792-3000.


Comments

1Harley_Guy(112 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

OK - can someone explain this to me?

The "Passion Play" is performed every 10 years by the people who live in Oberammergau. It started because the people who lived there wanted to show their appreciation of being spared from the Black Plague ... Keep in mind, it is the PEOPLE of the town performing - not a church.

How is it that Churches now use this on a yearly basis and use it for funding? I know, it's free ... BUT we will pass around a plate and expect you to put money in it.

Don't get me wrong, the people of Oberammergau do charge to see their Passion Play; then again, it is every ten years, it is where the original Passion Play stems from, it puts the local productions to shame and people make pilgrimages to see it.

Just my humble opinion...

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2lime60(3 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

My wife and I went to see this passion play on Good Friday at 7:pm. We were both totally moved and impressed with the performance. The actors and all the people behind the scenes did a fantastic job to reenact this age old story. They actually made us feel as if we were actually there in that time period. That is one of the biggest compliments they could possibly receive. My Congratulations goes out to all of them. What a great job! Also, the up to date technology with the sound system and lighting was superb. If you haven't seen this play yet, there is still some time to get it on your to do list. You won't regret it.

Emil J. Cerimele

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3YCSapologist(4 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Hey "Harley Guy". Lighten up already, it's a play for goodness sake. Do us all a favor and go see it. Then post a comment that carries some weight. For the rest of us normal folks, this play is breathtaking!! Rivals any professional production, and the cast members are from the church. Way to go Highway Tabernacle, nice to see something great in this valley for a change.
And by the way, if you actually have the courage to go see it. Put a few dollars in the plate. It's the right thing to do.

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4mskat1954(1 comment)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

The play was done by the Highway
Tabernacle Church members which I
am a part of and I was so honored and blessed to have been in the play. What a privilege it was to be a part of this great group. It was
my 1st year myself. Two of my
daughters and 2 grandkids were in it as well. Our mission is to present the Love
that Jesus Christ gave when He offered His life. Our Creative Arts and choir director just turned 27 and he along with his wife did an absolutlely tremendous job directing the music, singers, stage managers, the tech and lighting crews, the set designers,costume designers, makeup and food preps. That along with the parking issues is something to behold. Remember, none of us are professionals at any of this except some of the set design which was donated by the sponsers. As Pastor Jason kept reminding us,
It's all about HIM!!! Jesus! It's not about us!! To please check our egos and moods in at the door before entering.We had prayer meetings 30 minutes
before each performance to pray for the needs of those in attendance. And if you attended, we prayed for YOU!!Bob Little who played the part of Jesus, how he was on stage is how he is in person. A really nice guy. He's a member of Highway as well. Teen Challenge helped out. What a great group they are!!
Highway passed out cards in January to
begin in Feb with what anyone wanted to do or be.
We even had groups from an area shelter. Check out pics on Face Book
Remember , these people are not professionals. They just really love the Lord and want to serve to get His message out there to the community.
The play was not meant to impress but to confess "The Passion" Christ had and has for us. To those who saw the play and speak from experiencing it,
we are so glad you came. I would say see you next year but if you don't have a church home, visit Highway. I began last July and truly all roads do lead to Highway!! I have found a home and so many friends.

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