Are we Jesus?

It is now exactly one year since the two Jesus actors of 2020/22, Frederik Mayet and Rochus Rückel, stood together on the Passion Play Theatre stage almost every day. In the morning they were taking photos, but at noon they were instructed to stop rehearsals for the time being. "It was clear to me that we were not stopping 'for now', but completely," recalls Rochus Rückel. "Then came the lockdown, and I felt kind of useless." Unlike other main actors, the 23-year-old aerospace engineering student didn't take a semester off to be on stage for the summer. He would have written his bachelor's thesis on the side. And now? "It fits just as well." Rückel's laugh also sounds a little bitter. "In 2022, I'll write my master's thesis during the Passion Play."

Actually, he'll be playing Jesus for the second time and Frederik Mayet for the third, he jokes. But of course this topic is also accompanied by melancholy. The Passion Play will be a different one - only about 25 staging photos remain from 2020. "Quite sad was the moment when I hung my costume back on the hanger after the last photo rehearsal."

A drastic experience. And yet: "It's good to have a goal in mind again with the Passion Play 2022," says Frederik Mayet. "You can look forward to rehearsing together again and being on stage together. I am sure that we will play in 2022. A lot of things will change until then - hopefully for the better." A play with a safe distance remains unimaginable for both of them: the joyful state of exception during the time of the Passion Play arises in Oberammergau precisely because of the social proximity.

The Jesus actors Rochus Rückel and Frederik Mayet (Photo: Sebastian Schulte)

Nevertheless, the hard work was worth it. "The time is not lost," Rückel says. "We now have a certain basis and a lot of time to review - we will benefit from that in 2022." Mayet, who works as artistic director and press spokesman for the Munich Volkstheater, also emphasises, "I always find the rehearsal process exciting when making theatre. It was an exhausting but beautiful time, of course you take a lot away from it. But it's definitely the conclusion that's missing: being able to show what we've worked on together as Oberammergauers."

Is it worthwhile for all of us to think about God and the world even between the Passion Plays? "I think the message of the Passion Play is always relevant," says Frederik Mayet. "Even if it's just the Christian basis: take care of each other, treat your fellow human beings well. One of the first lines is: 'It's a hard time for Israel, poverty and disease are ravaging you.' When rehearsing, you just went over it. But the crisis shows us again what poverty and disease mean, how small people are and, despite medical progress, not much further ahead than 2000 years ago - or 400 years ago, when the plague broke out here in Oberammergau." Rochus Rückel nods: "I believe that in 2022, above all, the healing Jesus who speaks about illness will be a different one. Of course, illness has always existed - but now there is a major illness that affects everyone equally. As a result, the understanding in the auditorium will also be different." Mayet joins in, "I don't know if the world will be a better place after the crisis. But I hope so, because it makes us question many things." A pause ensues. Both hang on to their thoughts. Then Mayet says: "Sometimes you also feel a bit desperate about the stupidity of people."

Text: Teresa Grenzmann
Photo: Sebastian Schulte