By DAVID MAY
Parents Tobiah and Esther, along with their children, Livya and Avri, are about to celebrate a Passover feast the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, about 33 A.D., when a group of strange-looking guests walk into their stone, first century dwelling.
The surprised family welcomes their visitors, asking where they come from and where they obtained their odd clothing and footwear. They interact and talk to their guests, even wanting to wash their feet as is their custom, but they don’t know how to remove their boots and tennis shoes.
The guests are from the year 2013, taken back in time nearly 20 centuries to observe and imagine the period when Jesus went to Jerusalem to turn himself in and share his Last Supper with his disciples before being led to the cross, where he would die, only to rise again.
The first century family are volunteer actors Matt, Robin and Rhema Maxwell, all from Noble, Okla., and Jordan Puckett, of Weatherford Acting Academy, and the scene is played out within the confines of Capernaum First Century Village, about 11 miles northwest of Weatherford, where for the next two weekends adaptations of the Passover and Easter stories will be played out for groups of visitors.
For Christians, Easter is the most important holiday and observance. Tammy Lane, of Tammy Lane Productions, who wrote the scripts and produces “The Passover Experience,” said she wanted to combine the Old Testament Passover story with the New Testament Easter story to show how the two are intertwined and how some of the old Jewish customs and traditions remain a part of Christian customs and observances today.
“What I would like for people to take away (from the performance) is that Easter started with the Passover, and there are so many things in the Passover that pertain to Easter, so I want people to see that because there is just so much involved in it,” Lane said.
A cast of 75 actors, dressed as Egyptians and Israelites performing in and around the replica Biblical-era village with its true stone buildings, gardens, statues, pathways and displays lead people through an interactive and truly personal experience of the period, beginning when Pharaoh first enslaved the Israelites through the time of Jesus’ betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection.
It is a walking tour (accommodations are made for those with limited physical abilities) that one can do in whatever order they wish. There is a statue garden with 13 statues that takes visitors on a path from God’s creation of heaven and earth to the tomb of Jesus’ resurrection.
Inside a pavilion, a Jewish scholar is on hand to provide a 20-minute program educating participants about the Passover Seder, a Jewish ritual feast that marks the beginning of the Passover.
The Path of Plagues is a guided, interactive experience that whisks people away to the time of the book of Exodus, leading them through the 10 plagues God cast upon the Egyptians, which had enslaved Jews under the rule of the Pharaoh. The trail includes several surprises, including an actual hail storm (don’t worry, you will be safe under shelter) and a long, pitch-black tunnel to experience the plague of darkness. That leads to a home of an Egyptian family to experience their angst and fear and hear their wails as the plague of death of the first born passes.
From there, people will be led to the first century village, moving ahead in time to the New Testament period of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, his surrender, death and resurrection. Groups are guided through several buildings and homes in the village for portrayals of various stories during this period, with the actors interacting with their “strange visitors” from another time.
This leads to a live portrayal of Jesus attending his Last Supper with his disciples in a re-creation of The Upper Room. At that point, the experience ends inside a theater to view an emotional video of Jesus being brutally led and bound to the cross, his death and his resurrection three days later.
Lane said going through the entire experience takes about two hours. She said watching the movie requires parental guidance for children.
“It is realistic,” she said. “When you show the crucifixion, there are some parts parents may not want little ones to see, but it is short, like a 5-minute deal.”
The video was filmed on site several years ago. Lane said incorporating the movie into the experience was necessary because re-creating the crucifixion live would be too difficult, but had to be part of the experience.
“There are some great actors, and it portrays a true crucifixion scene,” Lane said. “It also explains more about the Passover as well, something we still celebrate today.”
“We want people to experience it like they are here, back in time.”
There is also a marketplace, where food and concessions from Taco Villa and Texas Burger will be sold, and where people can sit and rest if they wish.
The Passover Experience
•Performances are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Good Friday and Saturday, March 29-30.
•Tickets are $16 for adults, $13 for seniors ages 60 and over, $11 for children ages 3-12 and free for children under 3. A family pack of four (two adults, two children) is $48. There are 15 percent and 20 percent off discounts for groups of 10-19 or 20 or more, respectively.
•Tickets can be purchased online, and more information about the Passover Experience and its location can be found at www.tammylaneproductions.com.
•Capernaum First Century Village is located on the Cox Ranch about 11 miles northwest of Weatherford on Peaster Highway (Farm-to-Market Road 920). Go past Peaster approximately 2 miles to East Dry Creek Road and turn right.