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DL church brings 'Last Supper' to life

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 (Cleo Johnson) 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.

"It's extremely dramatic, and very powerful," said Vicki Welke, a member of the stage crew who is handling publicity for the event.

The production will be staged just once, this coming Thursday, April 13, at 7 p.m. Though the 14 actors involved in the production were cast a couple of months ago, they didn't begin rehearsing as a group until today (Sunday).

"They'll put up the sets and start practice after the service," Welke said. "But they've been rehearsing lines on their own for a couple of months."

The production is staged just once every three years. Some have portrayed their roles for several years, while at least four members of this year's cast -- including Trinity Lutheran Pastor Dan Babine, who plays Jesus -- will be participating for the first time.

"The ages range from high school boys to retired men," Welke continued. "It's fun seeing the high school boys and the older men working together."

There's even a father and son participating in this year's event: Bill Simmons, who plays Thomas, and his son Marly, who plays Nathaniel.

Welke said there is always someone sitting just offstage, waiting to "feed" the actors their lines if necessary -- this year, that role is being filled by Kayla Cox.

"Every year, the guys are nervous about forgetting their lines, so they have a kid sitting on the floor (next to the stage) to feed the lines to them," Welke said. "They've never needed it yet... it's just a kind of security blanket for them."

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

Jesus... Rev. Dan Babine

Nathaniel... Marly Simmons

James the Lesser... Dave Aune

Andrew... Jim Langemo

(replacing the late Chuck Setter)

Judas... Rich Ziegler

Peter... Roger Josephson

John... Stan Richter

Thomas... Bill Simmons

James... John Schott

Philip... Ron Zeman

Matthew... John Kerzman

Thaddeus... Steve Morben

Simon the Zealot... Jim Velde

Narrator... Cleo Johnson

Director... Carol Winskowski

"Gopher"... Vicki Welke

Lights... Allen Sperling, Chuck


Makeup... Betty Carlisle, Deb


Line feed... Kayla Cox

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454