Local students prepare for "Passion" performance

by Michelle Relerford WNDU Correspondent

Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ" continues to create controversy on the big screen.  Now it is hitting center stage as students at a local university are set to perform the play in April. They say thanks to the movie, ticket reservations are already rolling in.  Students at Andrews University rehearsed a few scenes for NewsCenter 16 on Sunday in preparation for their April 10th and 11th performances.

It is the second year for the "Passion" play and now that the movie has set the stage they are expecting a blockbuster-sized success.  The 2003 "Passion" play performance was the first of its kind at Andrews University. More than 5000 people attended.  This year they expect even more.  “Interest has gone way up and no doubt the movie 'The Passion' has people's interest about the whole story of Christ," comments Executive Producer Ron Whitehead.

Creators describe their performance as a walking tour of the last moments of Christ. They believe this year will draw more than 10,000 viewers.  The added exposure and celebrated performances in "The Passion of the Christ" put a little more pressure on John Hood, who is set to portray Jesus in the university's play.  “There's going to be a lot of people that have seen the movie who will be coming here to see this for themselves, says Hood.  Criticism of the movie's accuracy has also played a role in the way this year's play is performed.  “We're very detailed with some of the scholars on campus to make sure we stay close to scripture, remarks Whitehead. 

The play is set outdoors and groups will be ushered through various scenes making members of the audience actually become a part of the performance.  Creators stress that much of the play's anticipated success comes from a great run last year. They say it is that momentum, coupled with the added interest in the movie, which is sure to make it a stellar show this year.