First Assembly's passion play tells timeless story This is third year for performance of elaborate musical production

August 27, 1993|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,Contributing Writer

For two weekends, the hill overlooking Cranberry Mall will be transported back to biblical times as First Assembly of God Church presents "Immanuel -- God is With Us," an outdoor passion play.

This is the third year the church has performed the play, which chronicles Christ's last days. According to Dirk Staubs, producer of the play and musical director for the church, the play offers something fresh each year.

"The play will be from angels' perspective this year," said Mr. Staubs. "It was from Christ's perspective last year."

The musical production features live animals and elaborate sets as well as more than 100 cast members. Rehearsals are filled with fun and laughter as cast members embrace and greet each other -- but everyone takes the task of re-creating holy events very seriously.

"The whole idea is to present Christ," said Mr. Staubs.

unites us on one accord," added Bill Jones, who plays a townsman and a disciple. "We put this on to reach out to the community."

Mr. Jones has been a church member for three years and travels from his home in Emmitsburg to the rehearsals with his wife, Cheryl, and 7-year-old daughter, Katie, who are also in the play.

Cast members have had the script for several months to learn the songs and dialogue. Official rehearsals began at the end of July.

The church invites members of other congregations to join the cast.

"People from other churches have come forward and asked if they can participate," said director Jan Hagedorn.

Mrs. Hagedorn also does the casting and relies on divine direction to guide her selections.

"She [Mrs. Hagedorn] does a lot of praying about it [casting]," said Mr. Staubs. "She does it as the spirit leads her."

Her method of casting worked out well for George Smith, a New Windsor resident who plays Simon.

"I was blessed with this part," said Mr. Smith. "I always wanted to play this part."

"When it first started, I was supposed to be a soldier," he said. "I told one of my co-workers that I would love to play this part [Simon] and, sure enough, Jan called me."

Everyone has pulled together to ensure that everything runs smoothly. There are several committees that are handling everything from costumes to parking.

"Everyone has been so wonderful to work with," said Mrs. Hagedorn.

What started as a small production three years ago has grown to a full evening of celebration. There will be interpreters to sign the performance for the hearing-impaired. Attendance last year was about 3,000.

The church hopes that this year's attendance tops that as people come to enjoy the refreshments that will be for sale and the fellowship.

Troy Carver, who plays Jesus, has singing experience. He has performed at weddings and other social engagements.

He believes that the events of the play are very relevant to today.

"I think seeing the re-enactment of what happened 2,000 years ago touches us all today, whether we are Christians or not."

"Immanuel -- God Is With Us" will be presented tomorrow and Sunday, and Sept. 11 and Sept. 12 at First Assembly of God, 30 N. Cranberry Road, Westminster. Food and drink will be available at 6 p.m., a singing celebration at 7 p.m., and presentation of the play at 8 p.m. Admission is free and there will be a free-will offering. Information 848-8982.

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