Religious History Oberammergau Passion Play Part 4
About Oberammergau Passion Play in Germany, a long standing traditional reenactment of the crucifixtion of Jesus Christ.
A Ticket to the Oberammergau Passion Play
Since Pilate was the only redeeming feature of the play in official Nazi eyes, it was not surprising in 1940 that Nazism said no to the Oberammergauers. Officials characterized the play as sentimental drivel that would divert manpower and energy from the struggle for world conquest. But by 1950, the Nazi plague too had abated.
Wood-carvers and seamstresses are both indigenous to Oberammergau. The more than 500 carvers comprise the basic "between-plays" industry of the community, while the local seamstresses produce and maintain approximately 1,000 costumes in the Passion Play wardrobe. Six seamstresses begin work at least a year before each performance, making new costumes and altering old ones. Likewise, the village choir and orchestra are always busy rehearsing, and often carry off prizes from district music festivals.
The most famous portrayers of Christ over the years have been Josef Mayr, 1870-1890; Anton Lang, 1900, 1910, and 1922; Alois Lang, 1930 and 1934; and Helmut Fischer, 1970. At present, some 1,700 villagers are involved in any one production, and therefore individuals are not singled out for acclaim. Distinguished or not, the Christ impersonator must memorize 7,000 words and be onstage 5 hours for each performance in a role that demands at least stamina, if not always talent.
Presented originally in front of the church, the play has been performed on the Passion Meadow since 1830. Several theaters preceded the present one, which was built in 1900 and seats 5,200. Arrangements in the theater are such that the audience sits under cover while the stage remains open to the sky. The Alpine backdrop lends beauty, grandeur, and sometimes sound effects when thunderstorms break over the mountains between 4 and 4:30 P.M. during the crucifixion. When the play ends about 5:15 P.M., there is no applause, only a musical presentation of the Apostles' Creed.
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