The Passion Play of Christ, “Death of the Messiah,” is a moving portrayal of the last week in the life of Jesus.
The seasonal play, which is performed, directed and produced by the Companions of Jesus of New Mexico, will close out its theatrical season with two productions on Good Friday, March 29, at the Belen High School auditorium. The first performance begins at 4 p.m., and the second performance starts at 7 p.m.
The production begins with the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and ends with his appearance to the disciples in the Upper Room. Included are the powerful depiction of His trial, crucifixion, death and resurrection.
Therese Hidalgo, the director of “Death of the Messiah,” said the cast and crew in this year’s performance are very proud of what they’ve accomplished.
“We pulled together, and we did it,” Hildago said. “A lot of people did a lot of hard work, and they’re all volunteers. They have full-time jobs and families, and it’s hard to come every weekend to rehearsals and give up their time.”
Companions of Jesus of New Mexico, a non-denominational group, has presented the passion play for the past three years. This is the first year that a local resident has served as director.
The group was founded by Joe and Pat Brown of Michigan. Hidalgo said the couple, who were the originators of the passion play script, wanted to build a colony of people who would carry on the tradition.
“He empowered people to take on these roles, knowing he was going to move on somewhere else,” Hidalgo said. “We’re so grateful to the inspiration of Joe and Pat Brown to bring that light to us so we could carry it forward.
“That was his goal, and he accomplished it, and he should be recognized for it,” Hidaglo said.
With the all-local cast, Hidalgo and co-director Filomena Baca, have brought the passion play back to Valencia County for a third year.
Companions of Jesus of New Mexico is composed of 120 local men, women and children from the Belen and Los Lunas area. The group is made up of people from diverse ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds.
More than 70 individuals are in the cast, while another 25 form part of the technical and production crew.
Hidalgo said one difference the audience can expect from this year’s production is the number of youth involved. “I’m so proud of them,” she said. “They don’t know how to wait for the fruit of their labor to come as well as adults do, but they know it now.”
The cast and crew have worked hard for months rehearsing, making costumes and designing the set. An open audition was held in December in which people tried out for their parts.
“There’s a lot more that comes out of this than the play itself,” Hidalgo said. “It’s about the relationships that are built here. It’s hard work, but people know it’s work when it’s done.”
Because of the message of the play, Hidalgo said everyone involved is passionate about the production.
“The message is such a spirit-filled one that I know we do touch people’s hearts and souls,” she said. “People have come up and told us that this was the highlight of their Easter season.”
People go to watch the Passion Play of Christ, “Death of the Messiah,” for many different reasons, Hidalgo says.
“It’s an opportunity for people to search out their spirituality,” she said. “People come for different reasons. It does bring hope, and it gives you some strength to carry on and see things in a different light.”
Admission to the play is free, but donations will be accepted.
Hidalgo said no one involved receives compensation of any kind, and all money collected will be used to pay required costs, and to buy sound and lighting equipment for future productions. The donations will also be used to establish the group as a permanent cultural-religious organization in New Mexico, Hidalgo said.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.