This Sunday, St. Mary of the Snow will present its 11th Passion Play, and this year’s performance will be “100 percent different,” says director Jonathan Delgado.
The focus will be on those who were guilty for putting Jesus on the cross and the bystanders who did nothing to intervene. The story will be told through a series of flashbacks in which the guilty parties and the bystanders will, in front of the congregation, deliver soliloquies about their guilt and past sins. Jesus will be present and suffering throughout, as dedicated actor Richard O’Gorman agonizes on the cross after being beaten thoroughly by Roman guards and castigated by Jerusalemites who only moments earlier were lauding his presence.
That’s all pretty rough, but Delgado has one solid gut punch left for the congregants.
“This year, everyone in the audience will get a nail to drop into buckets at the end of the cantata. It’s pretty intense,” said Delgado. “It makes this big, resounding sound. And as these narrators go up and speak, they talk about how they’re guilty and they drive their own nail, with a hammer, into the cross.”
Narrators will include Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, and average crowd members who attended the crucifixion.
“To go outside the box is one of my goals actually,” said Delgado. “There’s so much criticism with having it acted out in the Catholic Church. A lot of people think it’s not a place for performance. I think that’s 100 percent wrong… It’s really important to see what’s going on. We have all the services for Holy Week, but there’s nothing really going on in front of you.”
The play has been a hit; Delgado has seen attendance increase steadily over the past decade.
“The cast has gotten younger in the past years— And by younger, I mean 45. Still, I mean, that’s younger,” said Delgado with a laugh. “At first the average was 70 and over. We’ve brought it down.”
Aside from the actors — all church volunteers — the show will feature a full orchestra and chorus.
O’Gorman, who in a brown wig and a robe and sash can do an uncanny Jesus, has had his role dialed back a little in 2014, but he doesn’t object.
“Before, we did a lot of different things,” said O’Gorman. “I would go before Pilate, carry the cross around the church. This year, they want to put me on the cross and have them look back and talk about how they must be feeling. They’re going to be digging deep. They’ll give the perspective of how they feel about seeing Jesus crucified. It’ll be good.”
O’Gorman puts his heart and soul into the role. His preparation verges on method acting.
“You think a lot about Jesus, try to give an isolated feeling about him being all alone on the cross,” he said. “You try to get a feel about what Jesus was and why he was here. I go to different masses, where the deacon emulates certain characters. He did Peter twice, he did the Good Thief. And I’ve been going to discussions at St. John’s about Catholicism. Of course I go to the Stations of the Cross on Friday. Saturday I’ll go to confession before we actually do the play — that’s what we call being in the state of grace.”
The play will be held at St. Mary of the Snow Church on Cedar St. Tickets are $10. Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 7:30. Reserved seating only. 845-389-4152 for tickets.