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Youth bring new look to ages-old Passion play

By BY DIANNA WRAY
April 22, 2011 at 5:05 p.m.
Updated April 21, 2011 at 11:22 p.m.

Damian Vargas, 15, twirls his whip as Francisco Vargas, 14, guards Sergio Garcia, 17, who "hangs" from the cross in his role as the Good Thief in the annual Good Friday Passion Play at Trinity Chapel.

Zabdiel Vallejo looked younger than his 18 years as boys dressed as Roman soldiers nailed his hands and feet to the cross and hoisted it into place.

A murmur went through the crowd of more than 300 gathered to witness the annual "Passion of Our Lord" conducted by Our Lady of Sorrows and Holy Trinity Catholic Church on Friday afternoon.

Mary, played by 19-year-old Araceli Zubiate, wept as the soldiers pierced Vallejo's side with a spear.

"It's an honor to be part of this," Zubiate said.

Jesus was 33 years old when he was crucified, but the performers in this year's passion play ranged from 7 years old to 19 years old, youth director Pablo Lineras said.

"It's a way to get them really involved in their faith. By having this experience, they're not just acting out their faith, they're living it," Lineras said.

Teresa Diaz, 47, said she was thrilled to see so many young people in the production this year.

"It's wonderful how they are bringing youth and the children into this. It helps them learn about their faith now. If they don't learn about their faith now, when they're young, when are they going to learn?" Diaz said.

The performers huddled in the Holy Trinity Chapel on Friday morning, while more than 300 people gathered outside. The adults smiled and laughed, and musicians played guitars while they waited. They became solemn as the young people filed out of the chapel, dressed in their costumes.

During the course of the play, the youth re-enacted the Crucifixion, spending about four weeks rehearsing to perform the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. Vallejo, with Sergio Garcia and Francisco Herrera - cast as the good thief and the bad thief, respectively - practiced carrying their crosses twice in the week leading up to the event.

Just moments before, Vallejo had been laughing with Zubiate and the boys dressed as guards, but they were transformed into the roles they were playing as the performance began.

An audible wince came from the crowd as the soldiers flogged Vallejo. They watched as Vallejo hoisted his cross while Garcia and Herrera followed, toting large beams of wood on their shoulders.

When the soldiers lowered Vallejo's body from the cross, Zubiate turned her face away, visibly shaken.

"It was pretty intense," Zubiate said afterward, still dabbing at tears. "I really don't know how to express it."

Isaac Solis attends the play every year. He said it was wonderful seeing the young people take part in it.

"It's great for them because they get that experience, and it also gets their parents and everyone else to come out, and that's important," Solis said.

Garcia was laughing as he climbed down from his cross, rubbing his shoulder.

"I didn't know I was really going to get hit," he said.

Damian Vargas, 15, dressed as a Roman soldier, adjusted his scarlet cloak, a sheepish look on his face.

"Well, I didn't realize it was actually hitting you," Vargas said

Garcia was grinning, despite a bloody shoulder.

"It was pretty great," he said.

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