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RICH ZIEGLER plays Judas.in 'The Last Supper.'

'The Last Supper': The 12 apostles speak their mind

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Once every three years, the actors portraying the 12 disciples in the Trinity Lutheran Church Easter drama, "The Last Supper," begin growing out their beards in preparation for the one-night-only presentation.

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A couple of months before the Maundy Thursday event, they are presented with their scripts, so they can memorize their lines.

But it's not until Holy Week begins, when the set is put up in the Trinity Lutheran sanctuary on the evening after the Palm Sunday service, that the actors actually begin formal rehearsals.

"It's a pretty big commitment -- they're here every night of Holy Week," says Vicki Welke, who serves as production manager for the Easter-themed drama. "They come here straight from work, and they even eat supper here. They're giving up their family life for that week."

But for many of them, it's become a tradition that they don't want to miss being a part of, adds director Carol Winskowski.

"Our 'disciples' are willing to make the commitment because it's such a powerful experience," she says. "It's very moving ... not just for them, but for us as well.

"I think that's why everyone wants to volunteer their time to do it, during such a busy week."

"You walk away from it feeling very fulfilled," Welke agreed.

It was more than 15 years ago that the congregation at Detroit Lakes' Trinity Lutheran Church began staging an Easter drama in which one of the world's most revered religious paintings, Leonardo Da Vinci's "The Last Supper," was brought to life.

The mural painting, which can be found in the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy, is based on a Biblical verse, John 13:21. In that verse, Jesus announced that one of his 12 disciples would betray him; the painting specifically portrays the reaction given by each apostle when Jesus said one of them would betray him.

All 12 apostles have different reactions to the news, each displaying varying degrees of anger and shock. In the Trinity Lutheran interpretation, the action unfolds with each of the 12 walking into the church sanctuary and taking their place at the table, forming the pose depicted in the painting.

A narrator sets the stage for each of the 12 apostles to "step out" from the painting and introduce themselves, talk about their relationship to Jesus, and then explain their varying reactions to their teacher's declaration.

Though some of the participants have played the same roles since the drama's inception, others will be participating for the first time this year.

"One of the things I like is that we get people of all ages involved -- from men who are retired all the way down to ninth-graders," Welke said. "To watch these people band together is amazing."

Welke and Winskowski have been filling the production manager and director's roles since 2003; the first person to direct the play was Charlene Johnson.

"It was her idea," Winskowski said.

She gives full credit to Welke for all the work she does in preparing the set, the costumes, the props, and lining up cast and crew to participate.

"It's a big job -- it's all encompassing," she said. "I do the directing, but she's my sounding board, and she takes care of all the organizational stuff."

This year's "Last Supper" presentation will take place on Thursday, April 5 at 7 p.m. It will begin with a short community service, followed by the dramatic presentation, and last but not least, the cast will serve Communion to those members of the audience who wish to participate.

The opening service will include performances by the church choir and two soloists, Emma Wood and Dave Aune.

Though the presentation is hosted by Trinity Lutheran, the event is free and open to the public.

"Everyone is welcome -- please come," Winskowski added.

The entire event lasts approximately an hour and 15 minutes, Welke said, including the opening service, the drama and communion.

The cast and crew of this year's production includes:

Jesus: Pastor Bob Possehl

Nathaniel: Ryan Wendt

James the Lesser: Earl Johnson

Andrew: Tim Hagen

Judas: Rich Ziegler

Peter: Roger Josephson

John: Stan Richter

Thomas: Bill Simmons

James: Tom Koppe

Philip: Ron Zeman

Matthew: Bardie Skjonsberg

Thaddeus: Steve Morben

Simon the Zealot: Jim Velde

Director: Carol Winskowski

Production Manager: Vicki Welke

Lights: Allen Sperling and Woody Blasing

Makeup: Betty Carlisle and Pam Mortenson

Sound: Corey Hanson

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers and editor of MN Boomers magazine for the past 13 years. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 847-3151
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