Plays seeks humanity in Jesus Christ

April 01, 1994|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,Contributing Writer

When Carl Freundel questions something, he may write a play about it.

While many theologians and worshipers have focused on Jesus as a spiritual entity, Mr. Freundel, 34, wondered about Jesus as a man.

"I think it was a search within itself," he said. "I was confused at the whole humanity behind Jesus."

As an attempt to answer his questions, Mr. Freundel wrote "The Gardener," which will be performed at 8 a.m. Easter Sunday at Landon Burns Park in Westminster.

"The play was really an extension of me as a child wondering about this man Jesus," said Mr. Freundel, who also portrays Jesus in his play. "It was a way of exploring my own faith within the confines of the theater."

The play, which Mr. Freundel wrote in 1988, focuses on Jesus' struggle with temptation while in the garden of Gethsemane. It uses music, dance and dialogue to convey some of the emotions Jesus may have been grappling with before his crucifixion.

Mr. Freundel is a drama teacher at Linganore High School in Frederick County and has written three other plays, and has performed in numerous productions.

The performers in this play include director and University of Maryland Baltimore County professor Sam McCready and his wife, Irish actress Joan McCready.

The play follows Jesus from Holy Thursday to the resurrection on Easter Sunday. While praying in the garden, Jesus encounters three tempters who are sent to convince him he does not want to die for the sins of the world.

"The tempters are the hardest roles because of the change in rhythms," said Mr. Freundel, who cast the play. "Going from happy to sad to angry. I knew that I needed really good actors."

Mr. Freundel found the talent he was looking for in actors James Brown Orleans, Jacob Zahniser and Jason Bohner.

"What I like about this play is that for me it's truth," said Mr. Orleans, who portrays the first tempter. "Just the power behind it.

"As a Christian, I feel like God can use," Mr. Orleans added. "I think that we become instruments and he will do with us whatever he has to do."

Mr. Freundel agreed.

"The play has reached a level where I don't feel like I can take responsibility for this as a writer or an actor," he said.

A Westminster resident, Mr. Freundel and his wife, Cathy, are members of the Westminster Church of the Brethren. He said the congregation has been supportive of his production.

Mrs. Freundel plays Mary Magdalene, the first person Christ reveals himself to after his resurrection. The play seeks to show how important both men and women are in the scope of religion.

"The second half deals with a lot of questions that people have problems with," Mr. Freundel said. "A great many people tend to believe the stories and myths about Jesus."

He said "The Gardener" has served as a "prototype" for the three other plays he has written.

"I like to deal with the natural world in the things I have written," he said. "The ladder that we use [as the crucifix] connects the two worlds so we can climb up and look, and God can come down and touch us."

If the weather cooperates, nature will play a part in the production.

"The outside area [Landon Burns Park] looks like a cathedral," Mr. Freundel said. "It really is God's natural theater."

Admission is free. Bring a lawn chair or blanket. Rain location will be the Westminster Church of the Brethren, Bond Street and Park Place. Information: 876-0904.

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