'AD33' celebrates Easter, Palm Sunday (w/video)
Jennifer Lee Preyss
April 11, 2014 at 11:03 p.m.
Updated April 11, 2014 at 11:12 p.m.
Sitting quietly on a chair backstage, waiting for Faith Family's worship band to kick off its Easter passion play extravaganza, "AD33," Jesus looks up at Mary Magdalene.
Jesus, portrayed by James Hough, and Mary, portrayed by Mikayela Whitmire, exchange peaceful glances, each of them readying for the 7 p.m. show Friday.
"It's an honor and privilege to play Jesus, and I just hope I can show people the love he had for people," said Hough, 52. "A lot of people see Jesus and how perfect he was and feel judged, but he wasn't judging. He's only about love."
Whitmire said the play - which opened with white-adorned trapeze artists, gold floor-to-ceiling glitter and dancing angels - changed directions this year.
Rather than focusing on the narration of John, the "most beloved disciple" - as "AD33" did last year - the play is told from the perspective of Mary Magdalene, who is about to share the story of Jesus at the palace of Caesar in Rome.
"I'm the narrator this year," said Whitmire, who begins her first monologue alone on stage while pretending to do a load of laundry. "She was a woman rejected, tormented; no one wanted anything to do with her. But she would have followed Jesus anywhere."
The Rev. Jim Graff welcomed the audience with words of encouragement and stories of Christian cinema portraying Jesus' life.
"For me, it's just so beautiful when the trappings of religious life are stripped away, and we can see Jesus for who he was. ... And that's why we celebrate Palm Sunday," Graff said.
Hundreds of viewers will see the nearly $20,000 play by the end of the weekend, ending Palm Sunday.
And the cast and crew hope audiences will leave with a clearer message of the passion of Christ.
"I hope seeing the crucifixion and resurrection solidifies their faith. It's a remembrance of what Jesus did for us," Hough said.