Holy cards in all sizes

Things are gradually getting serious in the Passion Play town of Oberammergau. There are still a few weeks until the 15. May. Then, after ten years, the curtain will rise again on the play about the suffering and death of Jesus.

At the beginning of January, the director of the play, Christian Stuckl, invited young people to rehearse for the first time on the open-air stage. Neither freezing temperatures nor rainy weather have kept the men and women from following their obligation since then. The tradition has been upheld in the Upper Bavarian community since the citizens promised in 1633 to stage a Passion play every ten years to avert the plague that was rampant at the time. With more than 2.In 2010, 500 women and men want to make as many inhabitants of the 5.000-soul town to play along as never before. This year's stage sets were designed by Stefan Hageneier. The 13 "Living Pictures" are also part of it. They present scenes from the Old Testament analogous to the Passion event. The expulsion from paradise" is presented in red and yellow tones. It is the end of February when this scene is set up. The archangel Michael is supposed to stand high above. Its wings, with a span of a good four meters, are already there and mounted on a metal stand – they would otherwise be too heavy for a human being to carry. Stage sculptor Armin Hecht climbs onto the narrow, wobbly wooden bench in jeans and hoodie and mimes the archangel. He can also get a halo to match. They are available in small, medium and large sizes. Hageneier has taken the precaution of saving the pictures on his cell phone. Now he wants to test the effect on the stage from the auditorium. In return, Hecht gets a flaming sword pressed into his right hand by a colleague. "Take it in the other one," shouts the set designer. In fact, this works better than before. The artist, who otherwise works for German and international theaters, is a perfectionist. In 1990, the native of Oberammergau played an angel himself in the Passion. After an apprenticeship as a wood sculptor, a period as an assistant at the Munchner Kammerspiele and in New York, he was responsible for the stage design of the Passion for the first time in 2000.

They sit in shifts at the industrial sewing machines Just a few minutes away from the theater, sculptors are at work in the materials yard. The carving student Tonette Eberspacher creates a huge snare out of white Styrofoam, which winds itself around a staff. The work is just over two meters tall. "It can take me up to three days," says Eberspacher. At the table next to them, stage painter Christian Huber is making sure that another snake is painted the right brown-yellow color. New wooden baskets also have to be trimmed to look old with a few brush strokes. The 14 seamstresses are also under prere. The women have been at work since May 2009. They sit in shifts at the industrial sewing machines, where, for example, the cloaks for the high council are made. Silvia Heinzeller sews on a pair of cotton trousers. A member of the pack will carry it later. Splendid robes have also passed through her hands. "Heavy fabrics that are not always comfortable to wear."So that none of the performers has to scratch themselves constantly on stage, we have taken precautions: "We are sewing a lining into it."On the table in front of Ingrid Jager, the head of the tailor shop, are the pieces of paper with the measurements of the two Pilate actors and their telephone numbers. From head size to calf circumference, everything is noted down. In the afternoon, play director Stuckl also arrives. With a wealth of gestures, he immediately directs the men on stage who, as Egyptian soldiers, follow the Israelites through the Red Sea: "Can you stretch up your arms and pretend that you are drowning??"And already the army and chariot seem to be sinking in the great waves. In between, Stuckl repeatedly gives interviews to teams of journalists from all over the world. They are supervised by Jesus actor Fredrik Mayet. The 29-year-old is not only busy preparing for the role of a lifetime, but also organizes the press work for the Passion Play in parallel. Before 2.000 years ago it was different: The apostles and evangelists did the PR job.

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