In a meal that has lasted through centuries, plenty of food for thought comes out right at the table.
Gordon Starr will tell you as much about First Lutheran Church’s Easter-season drama that filled the nearly 300-person-capacity church last year, and included groups from other churches and guests from out of town.
“We all know the words of Jesus,” Starr said. “But what do we know of Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, or even Judas?”
Starr plays the Savior in “The Living Last Supper” opening at 7 p.m. Sunday at the church, 3600 E. 25th St. in Columbus.
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In this haunting presentation, each apostle reacts to Jesus’ dinner-time prediction that one will betray him, wondering: “Is it I?”
“The first time I saw this, I was very moved,” said Mark Pillar, who views his character of the disciple Thomas as more of a strong questioner rather than a spineless doubter. “It became personal. And it brings out the humanness of the apostles’ self-doubt.”
The one-hour presentation hinges on the 12 disciples’ brief monologue reflections on Christ and his impact on them.
While each character speaks, the figures behind him freeze to match painter Leonardo da Vinci’s depiction of them in his famous work, “The Last Supper.”
First Lutheran member Dave Kromphardt organized the event after he saw it in done while living in Illinois.
The drama was first presented on Palm Sunday 1954 at a Methodist church in Portsmouth, Virginia. It’s been repeated many times since.
Last year’s local, full-house performance convinced First Lutheran organizers that the public would respond to two added Holy Week performances, said Kromphardt, who is directing, producing and also playing Simon the Zealot.
“I think people want to know more (about the faith),” he said. “And our church is using this as a way of sharing some of the more. And in the process, it’s a lot of fun for those doing it, and that includes those behind the scenes.”
Soundman Bill Haas is among them, having loved last year’s event.
“It just seems so authentic,” he said.
For instance, at least two of the disciples — Mark Pillar as Thomas and his son, Matt Pillar, as Peter — grew real beards to dispense with any of the stick-on variety.
“It’s incredibly humbling for me to be able to do this — to take on the persona of someone that close to Jesus,” said Matt Pillar, whose background, includes theater experience.
He mentioned that he especially likes the way the script addresses “that dismay, that panic, that fear and that anger” when Jesus addresses loyal friends and followers with an ominous message about an impending betrayal.
One viewer last year told the cast afterward she was moved to tears considering her own moments of turning from Jesus.
“You do have to consider, ‘What have I done in my own life to betray Christ?’” Matt Pillar said.
The production intersperses congregational hymns and worship tunes between the soliloquies to make it more than just a show.
Cast and crew, true to Biblical humility, hardly seem to be prepared to take credit for the production’s polish or impact. In fact, one actor hinted just before heading home after the rehearsal that more unfolds on stage than the lights will show, thanks to spiritual intervention.
“I think,” Mark Pillar said, “that we may have a little extra help.”
And amid the show’s serious topic, members of the production have made room for humor.
Starr smiled and responded Scripturally and Christlike when someone asked if he can use his Jesus influence at home to avoid tedious chores such as taking out the trash.
“Oh, no,” he said with a chuckle. “I came not to be served — but to serve.”
What: The free presentation of the drama, “The Living Last Supper,” highlighting Jesus’ impact on each of the 12 apostles. The presentations finish with communion.
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, plus April 12-13.
Where: First Lutheran Church, 3600 E. 25th St. in Columbus.
Fellowship: Snacks served before and afterward.