Town Continues Passion Play Tradition

<b>Town Continues Passion Play Tradition</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – We all engage in little traditions, but we usually do so on a family-basis — rarely does the whole town get involved. And yet, that’s exactly what happens in the village of Oberammergau in Bavaria, Germany, where townspeople come together every 10 years to put on a huge Passion Play, involving over a thousand actors.

How did the tradition start? In 1633, the plague was taking a harsh toll on Oberammergau’s inhabitants. To save their town, the villagers promised God that they would perform a Passion Play — the story of the last days, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ -; every tenth year. From that day on, the plague deaths stopped. And so the villagers have kept their promise for the last 375 years.

It truly takes a village to put on the show. Participants must either be native to Oberammergau or have lived there for 20 years or more. Of the village’s 5,300 inhabitants, about 2,500 will be involved in the production, whether they be actors, ushers, stage hands, seamstresses or musicians. No wigmakers are allowed — on the Ash Wednesday the year before the play, women start growing out their hair, and men begin growing out their hair and beards for an authentic look.

The performers, both on stage and in the orchestra, are not professionals, but they undergo rigorous training and rehearsals. For example, the 55-piece orchestra will begin weekly rehearsals almost a year before they’re required to perform. By opening night, the actors and musicians can put on a professional-quality performance.

The play is performed against the backdrop of the Ammergau Alps in a custom-designed theater. The actors — there are up to a thousand on stage in the mass scenes — are exposed to the elements, but the symphony-sized orchestra and audience stay dry in case of inclement weather. The theater can accommodate 4,700 audience members.

The next Passion Play will take place in 2010, with performances lasting from May 15th to October 3rd. The production will see a revised text, new stage designs and music, and new costumes. In 2000 more than 150,000 Americans travelled to Oberammergau. For more information, visit www.oberammergau-passion.com.

Psychologist By Day, Jesus By Night

<b>Psychologist By Day, Jesus By Night</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – By day, Andreas Richter, 32, works as a psychologist. But starting in 2010, he will lead a cast of 1,000 actors in the role of Jesus Christ, opposite a flight attendant playing Mary Magdalene and a public administrator playing Judas.

And this isn’t amateur theater. Richter and his castmates will endure rigorous training and rehearsals, not to make it big, but to carry on their hometown’s 375-year-old tradition. Every 10 years, almost half of Oberammergau works together to put on a Passion Play depicting the last weeks of Christ’s life, his death and his resurrection. And they’ve been doing it since 1633.

How did such a thing get started? In the autumn of1632, the plague struck Oberammergau, killing 84 people by the end of that year. No one knew about rats and fleas or how the plague was spread — the common theory was that God had decided to punish his people with pestilence. Making an appeal to God was only the next logical step.

So in 1633, Oberammergau’s leaders went to the local church and vowed that they would perform a Passion Play every 10 years. And from that day on — it’s on historical record — no Oberammergau citizen ever died of plague.

At the time, Passion Plays were common throughout Bavaria. But Oberammergau’s unique in having kept up the tradition. And in performing the Passion Play on such a large scale — the town’s theater sits 4,700, there can be a 1,000 actors on stage at once and about 2,500 of Oberammergau’s 5,300 citizens will participate in one way or another. And of course, this massive, one-of-a-kind event only takes place once a decade. No wonder tickets sell out long in advance.

The dedication the actors display is astounding. Both men and women grow out their hair before the play. Eva-Maria Reiser, the flight attendant playing Mary Magdalene, is taking a summer off, without pay, to play her role.

No one can participate in the play unless they are native to Oberammergau or have lived there for at least 20 years. Both the director and the composer can trace their families back to 1633 — their ancestors made the original vow. Talk about a family tradition.

For more information and to get tickets for the 2010 Oberammergau Passion play (it won’t be held again until 2020), visit www.oberammergau-passion.com.