Lights, Camera, Passion: Ohio group brings the story of Jesus’ trial and death to Bay City church

This Easter season, area residents will have the opportunity to be immersed into the trial, death, and resurrection of Jesus through “Tetélestai,” a moving musical portrayal of the Passion.

Performing for the first time in Bay City, the Cleveland Performing Arts Ministries (CPAM) will bring the production to Trinity Episcopal Church, 815 N. Grant St., for three shows: Fri., March 24 and Sat., March 25 at 8 p.m. and Sun., March 26 at 1 p.m.

“Tetélestai,” the Greek word for “It is finished,” was written in the 1970s by two college students, Russ and Joel Nagy, from Upper Arlington Lutheran Church in Columbus. According to the “Tetélestai“ website, the pair created the music and script by “laying out the Gospels side-by-side,” and, while the play presents a historically accurate setting, the message feels contemporary.

The Rev. Sue Rich, Rector at Trinity, says, “It is a powerful and moving way to prepare for the holy season of Easter. When you are sitting in the congregation, the cast members will be walking up and down the aisles and having conversations, and you feel like you are part of the action. You get a sense of what it might have been like in Jerusalem.”

CPAM brings along its own professional sound and lighting systems, as well as full theatrical staging that will be set up inside the church. The large interdenominational cast and crew of the ministry are volunteers and amateurs who are passionate about the show and its message.

Rich was a former cast member herself in the 1990s and has been working for several years to get the Northeastern Ohio-based production to this area, a task made more difficult by COVID-19 and the ministry’s schedule, which only permits traveling productions one to two weekends per year.

“I was in the show for about eight or nine years, and I was a cast member with several different roles over those years. I was a townsperson, one of the women (women disciples), and a temple vendor,” Rich says.

“I am pretty jazzed because I have wanted them to come here for a long time. It has been four years in the making. I loved the show, and when I lived in Cleveland I had seen it a lot.”

The show is approximately two hours in length and includes a 30-minute intermission. At the conclusion of each performance, attendees are invited to join the cast and crew for a reception. Cookies and punch will be served, and there is an opportunity for the public to meet with the cast to take pictures, have a conversation, or pray.

All ages are welcome, but, with some graphic depictions included, Rich advises that parents use their discretion.

Parents know their children best. The crucifixion is very realistic and very powerful, as well as everything leading up to it. Prior to the show, one of the property managers will call those 12 and under up to the stage … they will show them the crown of thorns, the fake blood, and then one of the stakes used, so they can see that this really is acting. The actor is not injured.”

“Tetélestai” is a free show and open to the public, though there will be a free-will offering opportunity. Any donations received will be used to cover costs, such as costumes, stage purchase and maintenance, props, storage, insurance, buses for travel, and rehearsal costs.

Because no advance tickets are sold and nearby parking is limited, Rich recommends getting there when the doors open, 30 minutes before each show starts, to guarantee adequate seating and parking. The church normally seats 500, but with the cast and stage set-up, the performances this weekend will accommodate 300 to 400 audience members per show.

Friday night is youth night, and Rich invites any youth groups that would like to come to call the church directly at (989) 892-5813 to set up reserved seating.

Rich looks forward to sharing the show’s message with the local community: “I was in it over 30 years ago, and some of the people that were in it with me are still in it. It will be so nice to have the ministry here. It (“Tetélestai”) is so powerful. I am excited to share the gospel.”

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