Four area churches joined together to commemorate the events of Holy Week with “The Living Last Supper,” a drama centered around the Last Supper.
Members of River of Life Church in Dundee, Mich., New Life Church in Petersburg, Mich., and CityLight Church and Master’s House Church in Toledo, all part of the Open Bible denomination, staged a 75-minute original drama that covered the highlights of the Passion Week from Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, with palms waving in adulation, to his betrayal by one of his apostles.
About 100 people attended the drama on Thursday night (April 17) at the Ohio Theatre on Lagrange Street in the Polish International Village neighborhood. Admission was free and an offering was taken to go toward ongoing restoration of the historic theater. After the play, audience members were given bags with groceries and a take-home Communion kit.
The play was written and directed by Dianne Earl, wife of the Rev. Ron Earl, pastor of River of Life Church. This year’s production was the fourth annual, she said afterward, and each year it has gotten bigger.
“The first year all we did was the Last Supper, which was kind of boring, really,” she said.
The current version of “The Living Last Supper” was a mix of dialogue — some right from the Bible — and music, highlighted by several powerhouse vocalists including Rachel Doyle, who played the part of a servant girl and sang the closing song. James Mann played Jesus, and Ryan Charnock gave the role of Judas more depth than in most Passion Plays, telling the audience that he started out “as a good guy” but betrayed Jesus to the Romans because he had to look out for his own interests.
Peter, played by Dan Martin, talked about the time he got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. “I’ve got one word for that: Sweet!” he said.
The Rev. Tom Rupli, eastern regional director of Open Bible Churches, narrated with an effective mix of reverence and drama. The Rev. George Williams of CityLight Church, holding a Bible aloft, said a prayer for the audience at the end of the presentation.
Dianne Earl said afterward that “God just placed it on my heart” to create a Holy Week drama. “Churches do a good job for Easter but the week leading up to it is kind of foggy,” she said.
Ron Earl said this was the first year the Living Supper drama was performed outside of a church, with the goal of reaching people who normally don’t attend religious services. “Too often we make church out to be a showroom for the saints instead of an emergency room for the sinners,” he said. “We’re all sinners. We’ve all got what I call ‘junk in the trunk.’ We really wanted to bring this drama to people who don’t go to church.”
Jan Czernik, the Ohio theatre’s manager, said the building, built in 1921, recently underwent a $1.5 million renovation which was phase 1 of a long-term plan to restore the theater. Phase 2 will include fixing the cove lights, repairing areas damaged by a leaky roof (fixed in Phase 1), and replacing incandescent bulbs with more efficient LED lights. In addition, restoring the signature marquee, which was destroyed by lightning in 2004, will cost between $300,000 and $500,000, Czernik said.