After a hiatus, the nearly 90-year-old Pawnee Rock Easter Pageant is set to bring the Passion story to life again this year.
As is traditionally the case, the play will take place on Easter morning, April 17, atop the Pawnee Rock State Historic Site, just north of the community of Pawnee Rock. The play will start at 7 a.m. and usually end at 7:45 a.m., co-host Tricia Prescott said.
Typically, the play, which has been produced every two years since 1936, would have been scheduled for last year, but Prescott said that for a myriad of reasons, including being at the height of the pandemic last year, the organizers have chosen to wait until this year to put on the manufacturing.
This year’s play will look familiar, with a full cast of characters, and will feature the same storyline, “The Stations of the Cross,” that contest organizers have used since the play began playing on the site in the 1930s.
The play, originally written in 1932, follows the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, told from the perspective of several familiar individuals in the story.
Viewpoints of the story include Roman soldiers, Pharisees, Women of Jerusalem, Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathea, and the Disciples.
“They just tell and tell how the resurrection story unfolds,” said Prescott, who also plays one of the women who finds the empty tomb near the end of the show.
The story is told by “the Stranger”, played by Scott Loving, an outside observer who witnesses events as they unfold throughout the Passion story.
The production is directed by Great Bend’s Dan Heath, who directed the play for more than 20 years, and is only the third director in the competition’s nearly nine-decade history.
Heath’s wife, Kim, has family ties to the New Jerusalem Church in Pawnee Rock. Shortly after returning to the area two decades ago, Heath said Kim’s grandmother asked him to lead the pageant.
Heath said he was honored to be part of the production, which many participants have been part of for much of their lives.
“At first I think I might have tried to add artistic elements and theatrical stuff, but this production is really based on the strong faith and family tradition that these people bring to it,” Heath said.
Heath sees himself as a production steward put on my extremely dedicated cast.
“Most of the people involved have been playing it since birth and have the script genetically imprinted in their DNA,” Heath said. “I just showed up and said, ‘OK everyone, let’s do the show!’ and they do.
Prescott said this year’s production will feature a soloist, Lisa Guevara of Larned.
The production will also feature a choir made up of members from Larned, Pawnee Rock and Great Bend churches. The choir will sing several hymns that accompany the production of the “stations of the cross”. Gary Parr of Parr Sound and Lighting will provide the sound for the event, helping to amplify the sound for the outside production.
Prescott said members of the public will need to bring lawn chairs or blankets, as they will be seated in the grassy area on the east side of the historic site.
With Easter falling later this year, Heath said they were hoping for warmer weather for the early morning production.
Heath said each year’s production was worth the trip to see. “There is something truly inspiring about seeing the sun rise on Easter morning. I encourage everyone to come and be a part of this tradition. You won’t regret it.