The Alapaha, Ga., community is proud to officially welcome folks to the 18th Alapaha Passion Play, a drama and cantata focusing on the final hours of Jesus Christ's ministry on Earth. Entitled O What a Savior, the play will occur on March 24 at 8 p.m., one week prior to Easter. The historic Alapaha Gym, located directly across from Jernigan's Farm Supply on Hwy. 82, will host the faithful dramatization. Admission is free and open to all ages, regardless of denomination.
Hollywood has intermittently attempted to chronicle Christ's 33 and a half years with mixed results. Until the early '60s, Christ was relegated to the periphery, best exemplified by William Wyler's epic Ben-Hur , where Charlton Heston's valiant slave meets Christ and is truly touched by the encounter. However, movie-goers only hear Christ's voice and briefly see his imposing shadow.
Nicholas Ray's underrated King of Kings [starring Jeffrey Hunter, 1961], Max Von Sydow as The Greatest Story Ever Told [1965, best known for John Wayne's head-scratching cameo as the Roman centurion], Johnny Cash's little-seen The Gospel Road , Jesus of Nazareth [a 1977 miniseries], and Mel Gibson's box office blockbuster The Passion of the Christ  are the most notable films in the past 50 years.
Unlike these glitzy adaptations, the Alapaha Passion Play is a living, breathing document of God's chosen son. Seeing dedicated actors and passionate singers pouring their hearts out up close is an experience that can't be replicated on the silver screen.
Scenes depicted in the vivid representation include Jesus’ triumphant arrival in Jerusalem, Jesus miraculously healing the afflicted, the Last Supper, the Garden at Gethsemane, Jesus’ betrayal by Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ trial by Pilate and the freeing of Barabbas, Jesus’ crucifixion with the two thieves, and his resurrection and ascension to Heaven.
Former Berrien High School teacher Gail Powell, who originally joined the play upon its inception in 1994, has graciously agreed to debut as director of the 20-member choir.
Valerie Horten and Iraman Vickers will duet on "Who Am I", a Southern gospel standard composed by the extraordinarily prolific Rusty Goodman and covered by Elvis Presley, Mark Davis will sing the confessional “I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy”, and high soprano Angie Cornelius is set to deliver a powerful rendition of the traditional title song.
Jeremy Hyers, quickly becoming a favorite among play-goers, always gives a heartfelt and accurate representation of Jesus, a part he has perfected with tremendous dedication for nearly a decade.
Other actors who have been associated with the play for a number of years and deserve special mention include Greg (the disciple John) and Robin Exum, soldiers Jason Owen and Mike Shoupe, Staci Jernigan (Mary, Lazarus’ sister), disciples Marlon Harris and Dave Dillingham, and Joey Copeland (Pilate). Many have children who have been unknowing actors since they were infants.
The Alapaha Passion Play production team looks forward to seeing you there on March 24. Scenes that are almost certain to elicit enthusiastic responses from the crowd incorporate the moment when Jesus heals the little dead girl and the blind woman. Later, as Jesus is led to Calvary by the Roman soldiers, a hush tends to come over the crowd. Each sickening crack of the brutal whip, witnessing the agony on Jesus’ face, and the soldiers relentlessly mocking Jesus are all reminders of Christ's undying love for humanity.
Last but not least, don't forget to browse the 20-image slideshow accompanying this article. Unveiled for the first time, the eye-opening set spotlights the 2010 Alapaha Easter Drama during a dress rehearsal that was closed to the public.
Author's Note: Rodney Dillard was a member of the Dillards, aka the Darling Family on the beloved Andy Griffith Show. He granted a heartfelt interview to this column in 2012 about his long and winding path to becoming a born-again Christian. Dillard originally grew up in a Baptist church in Salem, MO. But the bright lights of show biz beckoned, and he lived the rock and roll lifestyle in Los Angeles for nearly 20 years. In essence, he followed the example of the prodigal son, attempting to run away from God. For the rest of the story, visit "The Christian Walk With Composer Rodney Dillard: His Life-Changing Experience."
Exclusive Interview: Did you know Steve McQueen was a Christian? The King of Cool actually rivaled John Wayne as the most popular actor of the '60s and '70s, scoring with audiences in such iconic films as "The Magnificent Seven", "The Great Escape", "Bullitt", "The Getaway", and "Papillon." Noted evangelist Billy Graham visited McQueen and inscribed his personal Bible to the star. His widow, Barbara Minty McQueen, recently sat down and spoke about her husband's faith and how it became his bedrock during his painful struggle with mesothelioma. Their charming wedding day also receives much attention. Read more by visiting the following link: "When You're In Love With The King of Cool: Sweet Memories With Barbara McQueen."
Exclusive Interview No. 2: Retired Alapaha Fire Chief Steve Brown has risked his life on multiple occasions, and his experiences are far from being make believe. In a wide-ranging interview, the resilient gentleman shed much light on his distinguished and interesting career. Shortly after his family moved to the quaint South Georgia community and settled near the town’s railroad tracks in the early ‘60s, one early morning at 4 a.m. his father was awakened by the whistle of an approaching train. Walking into their small living room, he soon realized the house was on fire. Visit the following link ["Walk A Mile In His Shoes..."] for the rest of the inspiring tale...
*****Whether you enjoyed or disliked this article, don't hesitate to leave a comment below to join the discussion. You can also immediately receive email alerts when new articles by Jeremy are available. Just click on "Subscribe" above. Thanks!
© Jeremy L. Roberts, 2013. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed in full without first contacting the author. Headlines with links are fine. In addition, posting any links to Twitter or Facebook is sincerely appreciated.