Kenosha News correspondentNEW MUNSTER — Many people auditioned for “The Passion of our Lord” play simply because they thought it would be fun to act with their family members and friends. But dozens involved in the St. Alphonsus Catholic Church ministry might have learned more than they expected as they rehearsed the re-enactment of Christ’s final days on earth. This year, the 50-plus play members will remind audiences of the highs and lows Jesus experienced in rapid succession just before his crucifixion.
“Every year that we do this, there is no dry eye in the house,” said Robin Kasuboski, play director and parish choir director. “Everyone is just awed. They are taken aback by how real the crucifixion is. It is an amazing scene.”
This is the 10th year for the play, which has become a St. Alphonsus tradition. Its cast primarily is made up of St. Alphonsus parishioners, although some cast members belong to other churches in the area.
This year’s production is based on the Gospel of Mark, and it begins with Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, following his life through his crucifixion. Kasuboski has written the script each of the last nine years, with collaboration from Frank Slifka. Each year’s production is based on one of the four Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — and all incorporate music fitting to the scenes.
“I use music from all sources, such as regular church music, various arias, Andrew Lloyd Webber compositions, and “Pie Jesu” from the Requiem Mass (funeral mass),” Kasuboski said.
Incorporating Jewish music into the Last Supper scene seems to add a touching aspect and is a favorite of many who have seen the play, Kasuboski said.
“The lighting and music surrounding this scene really set the tone,” she said. “Even as Jesus is sent to the high priests and then to Pilate, the audience experiences the ridicule and persecution firsthand.”
While not visible to the audience, the sounds of Jesus’ scourging is emotional, and the crucifixion scene is most moving and realistic of all. After 10 years with the production and nine directing, Kasuboski acknowledged that each year creates a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the sufferings of Jesus Christ.
“It is such a neat experience to be a part of this, and it has brought me closer to God in my faith,” she said. “It’s given me a deeper and more profound understanding as to what Jesus went through. I want the whole audience and cast to experience that as well.”
In his 10th year performing the role of Jesus, parishioner Greg Volbrecht bears a striking resemblance to the most commonly accepted image of Jesus, with long hair and a full beard. Although, Volbrecht joked, he is aging a bit.
“I keep getting grayer every day, and I argue that I am too old for this part, but they won’t let me quit. They seem to still want me to perform this role,” he said. “I enjoy playing it because for me it brings to life a better understanding of what God and Jesus did for us.”
Children often tug on his arm or whisper and point, calling him Jesus, but Volbrecht is accustomed to their curiosity and welcomes their questions and concern.
“After the performance we always have a luncheon at the Community Center and parents often bring their kids up to me because they were worried that I was dead,” he said. “They are really cute in their comments to me, and I am just happy to know that we had an effect on them.”
So moved are the cast members with their involvement in the production that many come back year after year to participate.
“We aren’t just open to performers from St. Alphonsus,” Kasuboski said. “We have people who come from all over, and we have done this for so long that many cast members include their children in the production. It is a neat community project, and everyone who participates seems to have a deeper faith from the experience.”