A week of celebration for many faiths

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    The Passion Story is the first of many ways Malibu enjoys this season.

    By Caroline Thomas/Special to The Malibu Times

    Spring is a time of celebration for many cultures and religions. Ancient Greeks and Persians brought eggs to spring festivals as symbols of birth and life. In Pagan times, eggs were colored during celebrations, which became adopted as an Easter ritual.

    Passover is the eight-day celebration of the deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. Jewish families unite for prayer and feasts during this time.

    For Christians, the Holy Week leading to Easter commemorates the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

    A unique group of professional and amateur actors gathered to bring the Holy Week story to life for Malibu’s United Methodist Church. About 20 cast members, along with the church choir, performed “Witness to the Light,” under the direction of Janice Johnson.

    “It touches people because it makes it so real,” says Johnson. “The best thing about it is the depth and utter sincerity of all the actors, especially Larry [Peacock].”

    Rev. Peacock gracefully plays the role of Jesus.

    “This is the most powerful story around,” says Peacock.

    On preparing to play the part of Jesus, Peacock understates, “It helps to be familiar with the story … and trust your director.”

    Palm or Passion Sunday, as it is called, marks Jesus’ heralded entry into Jerusalem. The production began with the traditional waving of palm fronds with disciples and followers gathering for wisdom and healing. A mixture of modern language added lightness to the story; commentary on the Last Supper mood included, “The tension was so thick in this room you could cut it with a knife.”

    Scenes were punctuated with stirring monologues, narration and song. Musical director Joellen Friedkin led the choir in several moving songs, including a beautiful rendition of Mary Magdalene’s “How Can I Tell You?” sung by Carol Logan-Feikls.

    Johnson has been involved with the Palm Sunday play since its conception in 1992.

    “We never have a full cast until the day before,” says Johnson.

    Brodie Greer, who played Judas, says, “Janice hooked me because we’re buddies. There was an inner conflict for me to play the worst guy who ever walked the earth.”

    Greer and several other cast members, including Byron Jenson, are veterans of Johnson’s acting class, which also take place at the church.

    Actor/church member Claudia Uretz returned for her fourth year in this production.

    “We only had one full-cast rehearsal and it turned out as good as any professional production,” says Uretz. “My kids get excited about it, and it touches people.”

    The story ends on a somber note: Good Friday, the day of crucifixion. The audience and cast were moved to tears as Jesus’ death was impassionedly depicted.

    Before the play, Peacock had promised his congregation that the brighter side of this story would unfold in the coming week.

    “It is about bringing life out of death, ” says Peacock.

    He imparts the messages of the Holy Week are, “Love is stronger than death. Hope is stronger than despair.”