“It is an incredible interpretation of the last days of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection,” confirms Alapaha Easter Passion Play co-director-producer Norma Gaskins. “You will be touched with the beautiful musical and amazing talented actors and actresses as they perform.”
On Sunday, March 20, the 21st edition of the volunteer-driven community play that perpetually packs the rafters of the renovated, historic Alapaha Gym debuted in glorious Technicolor in Alapaha, Georgia, one week prior to Easter.
The brainchild of the late Marian Dixon, In Christ Alone welcomed all folks and consisted of over 80 non-denominational cast, choir, and crew members united in chronicling the oft-tension-fueled final days of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry according to New Testament scripture. Many participants hold claim to current high schoolers who were unwittingly cast as actors during infancy.
Scenes faithfully recreated during the vivid drama-cantata included the Son of God’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his miraculous healing power, the Samaritan woman’s transformation at the well, the Lord’s Supper, Jesus praying to his Heavenly Father for leadership in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas Iscariot’s incomprehensible betrayal, Jesus’s crucifixion alongside two thieves of dissonant repentance, and Christ’s burial, resurrection, and ultimate ascension to Heaven enlivened with 15 contemporary and traditional songs performed by a live 28-member choir.
Cast for the past decade in the crucially demanding role of Jesus is Jeremy Hyers, who always gives a heartfelt and accurate representation of the risen King of Kings. As Jesus is led to Calvary by imposing, relentlessly mocking Roman soldiers, a hush tends to envelop the crowd. Each cruel crack of the brutal whip exemplified by the agony on Christ’s face reminds one of his eternal love for humanity. Seeing dedicated actors and passionate singers pouring their hearts out up close and personal is an experience that can’t be replicated at home on a stiff-backed recliner.
Coordinating all aspects of the Alapaha Easter Passion Play is no easy stroll through the park. “The planning is the most time consuming and having everyone at practice at the same time is probably the most difficult,” says Gaskins, who previously helmed countless school and church plays and was asked by Dixon in the late 1990s to take over for departing director and brother-in-law Mark Dixon.
While conversing with former Berrien High School Business Education teacher Gail Powell, the four-time choir director and choir member since 1994 registers utter amazement “at how God can use ordinary people like us to produce something so extraordinary as the Passion Play. It is unbelievable how it all seems to just come together, with the drama and choir practicing separately, on the night of the performance. God blesses everyone involved through our hard work and effort by evolving us into a very close, loving spiritual family.”
Wardrobe designer and virtual jill of all trades Gayle Tucker has been on board the Passion Play team since the start and retains a passionate view from the catbird’s seat. “When Marion mentioned the play I told her I would make costumes,” reveals Tucker.
“At the beginning we painted all the men’s legs—that was part of my job. As the years went by I started going to every drama practice. I sorta drifted into helping Norma with the drama. Then we started working together on the planning of it. We added the task of decorating the stage several years ago. I wonder why I continue sometimes but I cannot imagine not working on this project. It is very close to my heart, and I get a lump in my throat just telling you about it. The hours of work and frustration melt away on performance night. All the actors and choir perform at a ten plus…when the last costume is stored I start thinking about the next year’s program. This program is very special to me. It is a gift to God, and I am blessed to be a part of it.”
The winning finale of contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Chris Rice’s “Go Light Your World” received a literal, heretofore unseen interpretation from both actors and vocalist Mark Davis alike. And last but certainly not least, a shofar, otherwise known as an exotic ram’s horn, was blown to announce Jesus’s victory over the power of sin and death.
So come on down to the next unveiling in March 2017 and finally experience the spiritual regeneration that your neighbors have been urging you to attend. If you’re not astounded and sharing the gospel for days afterward then you will be missing out on the greatest gift you’ll ever receive—the blessings of Jesus Christ!
- DON’T GO ANYWHERE YET! The Pointer Sisters effortlessly blended sweet, gospel-laden harmonies on a plethora of pop nuggets during the ’70s and ’80s including “Fairytale,” “I’m So Excited,” “He’s So Shy,” and “Slow Hand.” Ruth, the eldest Pointer, bares her soul in a far-reaching conversation tracing the African American group’s roots in gospel music. Along the way, Ruth uncovers strict parents who refused to let her wear makeup, jewelry, or attend dances, what it was like to attend a Sunday service at West Oakland Church of God, her favorite hymns and whether the trio has considered cutting a gospel album, getting pregnant at 19, and why she disagrees with the theory that posits women marry their father.
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