By LINDA M. LINONIS
For the 15th year, Rising Star Baptist Church will present “What Love,” a Passion play, during Easter weekend.
Church members Jocelyn Dabney, James “Bo” Crosby and Henrietta Williams are directing the stage play written by former church member Betty McIntosh, who wrote the original play “I Won’t Forget.” She now lives in Columbus. Dabney supervises the creative arts department at the church and is known in the Valley as a talented storyteller.
Dabney said the play actually is a combination of “I Won’t Forget” and the “Emmaus Experience.” Both are Passion plays.
“We’ve been doing some form of the plays for some 15 years,” Dabney said.
The production “What Love” is a combination of the two, she said.
“By combining them we took the best from both,” she said.
About 70 cast members are involved in the musical production. Participants are children to adults, church members and community residents.
“This has become a tradition in the church,” Dabney said. “And some people have never missed a performance.”
And, some cast members have grown up in the show. Dabney said two cast members were 5- and 3-year-old girls when they started and now are 20 and 18. “They’ve grown up in the play,” she said. "For them, it’s a family event.”
Dabney said the sisters’ experience also reflects what has happened with other cast members. As cast members have gotten older, “we encourage them to try different roles,” Dabney said.
This year, tonight’s performance will include cast changes in some roles.
“It freshens up the cast and we see what people can do,” Dabney said. The play also will be presented Easter Sunday and was staged on Good Friday.
Dabney said the Passion play allows people to see a portrayal of events surrounding Christ’s death and Resurrection. “I think it helps people come to know Christ in a personal way,” Dabney said.
“The feedback always is positive,” she said. “One woman and her family said they come every year — it’s part of their Easter celebration.”
Dabney said she can’t argue with success. The first year, when the Rev. Gary Frost was pastor, it was decided to stage the play on Easter weekend. Dabney admitted she was unsure an audience would show up. But the then pastor told her “People come when God speaks to God’s people.” It was true that first year and has continued to draw a faithful audience.