All together


David Bender (Photo: Gabriela Neeb)

For the performance, he always got a few Vienna sausages with mustard from his grandad. Peter Stückl still remembers that 70 years later: "That was such an experience, I can still taste them today." Today, he is a grandfather himself; he will act in the Passion Play for the tenth time in 2020. In 1950, he took part for the first time as a seven-year-old boy. The teacher led the schoolchildren in rows of two to the entry of the people of Jerusalem, which took place in the morning at that time. This was when he ate grandad’s Vienna sausages there - and there was an exciting theatre building to explore. On the way back to school, mostly only the girls were there, Stückl remembers and laughs: "The boys were no longer to be found in the big theatre.”

He has been taking part in the Passion Play every time since. In 1960, he was the youngest bass in the choir. That was the year he met and fell in love with his wife: "We have been together since day one, until today." After that, he usually played great speaking roles, several times Judas and Caiaphas. Seven regular plays, the Rosner rehearsal in 1977 and the play for the 350th anniversary in 1984 - like many in Oberammergau, Stückl's life is divided into Passion years and intermediate years. In 1970, he already had his three children, in 1990 the oldest, Christian, took over the direction of the play. "In 2010, I played the part of Annas, that's how fast you become the old man", says Stückl and laughs.

Peter Stückl (Photo: Gabriela Neeb)

David Bender is the youngest leading actor in this year's Passion Play. His last Abitur examination will be on 13th May, the premiere will be on 16th May. However, he is confident: "Since the rehearsals are usually in the evening, it is easy to arrange things with school," hopes Bender. "But in the end, it will be stressful." It is the very first time he is acting. His mother has been living in Oberammergau for a long time. However, since he lived in Ulm with his parents for several years, he was not actively involved in 2010. His grandmother took him on stage once: "I went along with the people of Jerusalem at her hand", he remembers. "I was fascinated, but did not notice much of the performance." This time he went to the audition to which Christian Stückl and his second director Abdullah Kenan Karaca invited the young people in the village. He was successful: Bender plays the part of the angel, a role his grandfather had in 1970.

The joint play connects the people of Oberammergau, the old and the young. "Since 1990, since women over 35 years are allowed to act in the play, the generations have really been coming together," says Stückl. "Previously, there were old men, but only young women. But everyone belongs to the people: children, young and old, women and men." Every ten years, they stage the Passion of Christ together, think together about Jesus and his message. Over the centuries, Oberammergau has thus become a village of theatre enthusiasts and the passion has become a profession for some: Stefan Hageneier is a set and costume designer, Christian Stückl is a director and the general manager of the Münchner Volkstheater. Peter Stückl is proud of his son and of what he has done with the Passion Play. That he has eradicated the anti-Semitic texts that Peter Stückl himself still spoke on stage and that he renewed the plays artistically: "Of course, many people said: Are they megalomaniacs? Can't they even wear the old costumes anymore? However, that is the only way. If you do not work on it all the time, it’s immediately outdated."

It becomes quickly clear where Christian Stückl got his critical spirit from when you hear his father complaining about the hypocrisy of the church and the exclusion of those of other faiths. "In principle, everyone is interested in the same thing," says Peter Stückl. "You should lead a decent life. I think it's so nice when the refugee children take part and just all are together." David Bender also appreciates the return to the core messages of Christianity: "What the priests preach in the church is something we young people tend not to identify with," he says. "But the Passion makes me feel closer to the whole thing again, the fundamental questions."

Ideally, the Passion is about people and their life together. "In Oberammergau, you grow into it from an early age," says Stückl. "Even as children, we had our own Passion Play, we made a cross, I was Jesus." He knew the text by heart when he was seven years old. "I still know it by heart," he laughs and gives a sample. Years later, a pretty woman once addressed him: "Peter, don't you know me anymore? I was your Maria!"


Anne Fritsch