Passion Plays Attract Religious Travel Groups

Passion plays depicting the suffering and triumphs of Jesus Christ draw the faithful from miles around. They come to these spectacles to be awed and inspired. Here is a look at some time-honored productions:

The Great Passion Play

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Since 1969, over 7.6 million people have seen The Great Passion Play. Located in the Ozark Mountains, the amphitheater presents the story of Jesus Christ’s life, betrayal, death, resurrection and ascension with a cast of over 250 actors and animals. The play has been named America’s No. 1 attended outdoor drama by the Institute of Outdoor Drama.

The Great Passion Play ground include Christ of the Ozarks, the third-tallest Jesus statue in the world. The Bible Museum holds over 7,000 Bibles in 625 languages and dialects. The Sacred Arts Center displays a diverse collection of Christian art. Visitors can walk through a life-sized replica of the eastern gate in Jerusalem for a virtual trip to the Holy Land, also on the Passion Play grounds.

The Passion Play and theme park were closed due to bankruptcy in late 2012, but a Christian radio network purchased the property and in early May opened the park and play for the 2013 summer season. Performances will be held two to four times a week through Oct. 26.

Other attractions in town include the Eureka Springs Historical Museum, which has a replica of an early 20th century parlor. The upper level is an art gallery.

Bear Mountain Riding Stables and Dude Ranch hosts guided trail rides and hayrides. Beaver Creek is a popular fishing, boating and scuba diving destination. It is also frequently visited for water skiing, sailing, wind surfing, house boating and canoeing. Its Belle of the Ozarks features sightseeing cruises along the scenic Beaver Lake shoreline.

Oberammergau Passion Play

Oberammergau, Germany

The Oberammergau Passion Play was first performed in 1634 after the Bavarian town of Oberammergau made a vow to God to perform it every 10 years if God would spare them from the plague. It was last performed in 2010. Join Oberammergau in 2020 as the mountain village continues its vow.

The American Passion Play

Bloomington, Illinois

The play on Jesus’ life, suffering, trial and death differs from others in that it presents Jesus’ entire ministry, not just events from the Passion Week. The production has changed to depict modern historical knowledge while remaining true to Jesus’ teachings. Marking its 91st consecutive season, the play will be presented in 2014 on March 29, April 5, April 12, April 13 and April 26.

The Living Word Outdoor Drama

Cambridge, Ohio

This performance takes place on a set that is considered America’s most authentic re-creation of Old Jerusalem. The audience will experience Jesus Christ’s teachings, trials, triumph and resurrection. The outdoor drama is the only passion play of its kind that invites the audience to be a part of the performance, as audience members are invited to join the cast as an extra. The drama is performed each Friday and Saturday evening from July 12 through Sept. 28, 2013.

The Passion Play

Union City, New Jersey

The Park Performing Arts Center is home to the longest- running passion play in America. The play has been performed since 1915 and is currently in its 99th season. It began in Union City when German and Swiss immigrants decided to present a passion play as an offering of world peace. The play was performed this year on March 16,23 and 21.

−By Carly Meminger