On Jesus' sofa

“The Passion Play? That's conservative nonsense.” This is what many pupils and students think when they hear of the Oberammergau Passion Play. And: That this was only for Catholics who are older than 50 years. Christian Stückl intends to change this image for the Passion Play in 2020 and has started a large campaign for the younger generation without further ado: the Youth Days.

Trailer for the Youth Days 2020

At the age of 24, Stückl was the youngest director of the play in the history of the Oberammergau Passion Play in 1990. Right from the beginning, his desire was to get young people, his age group, back into the Passion Play, to inspire them again for the collective play. “If you do not take every generation with you, but rely on established actors, there will immediately be a generational gap in this 10-year cycle,” he says. In 2020, he will stage his fourth Passion Play. His commitment to the younger generation has not become smaller, on the contrary. At the age of 19, Cengiz Görür will be the youngest Judas actor; at the age of 23, Rochus Rückel will be Jesus - and in other ways as well, the director relies on the youngest Passion cast of all time. The rejuvenation he has been promoting on stage is now to spill over to the audience: “We have managed to involve young people in the play. Inviting a young audience is the next logical step.”

After the anti-Semitic accusations of the 70s and 80s, the questions about the currentness of the Passion Play and the processing of one's own past had priority for a long time: How can Jesus’ story be told so that it becomes relevant again? How does the current social situation change our view of Jesus? - With all these necessary content-related considerations, too little attention was paid to the audience’s education, explains Stückl self-critically: “We have so many young people on the stage, but in the audience are only older people. That cannot be.”

Pressconference for the Youth Days 2020: Frederik Mayet (Jesus-actor and press spokesman of the Passion Play), Dr. Angelika Winterer (pastoral assistant), Christian Stückl (Play Director), Arno Nunn (Mayor of Oberammergau)

So, a quota of student cards is offered for the first time, which are 30 % lower than the normal price. Above all, there will be an extra youth weekend at the beginning of the season. From 7th to 10th May 2020, Oberammergau will turn into a large youth camp. Everyone between the ages of 16 and 26 can not only watch the Passion Play at very favourable prices, they can also book 2- or 3-day packages with board and lodging at a special price. 9000 young people shall not only spend the night in the village and be provided with food, but shall feel welcome. A mammoth task for the whole of Oberammergau.

“The people in the village feel like it,” says Stückl. That this is the case is probably thanks to the good experiences made with the annual Heimatsound Festival in the Passion Theatre. If 3,000 young people can camp here, why shouldn’t this be possible during the Passion Play? Anyway, Oberammergau’s mayor Arno Nunn thinks that it’s “brilliant, what happens in our village”. The “peaceful, intergenerational atmosphere” at the festival has finally convinced those who were initially critical of the hustle and bustle.

Now the village is getting ready: hotels and guesthouses provide low-priced rooms, there will be collective accommodations in schools and the actors and participants vacate their guest rooms. The young guests can choose whether they want to sleep in a hotel, in a tent, on Jesus’ sofa or in the nursery at the mayor’s house. It was a little bit as if the adult children came to visit with their friends: chaotic, little sleep, but above all a good atmosphere and nice memories. An organisational challenge that the village likes to face, says Nunn: “We are in love with the success,” he says with a grin.

To make the weekend not only young but also international, introductions will be held in German and English. Stückl attempts to enable also young people from poorer regions of the world to come to Oberammergau. As far as at all possible, there should be no financial impediments to a visit. A accompanying programme with audience discussions, local explorations, an interfaith prayer for peace, sports offers and, of course, a party should complete the whole thing. Stückl’s express wish is to attract young people from all over the world, with different religions and backgrounds, to come to Oberammergau: “Everyone is invited. No one has to be or become a Catholic.”

Pressconference for the Youth Days 2020: Frederik Mayet (Jesus-actor and press spokesman of the Passion Play), Dr. Angelika Winterer (pastoral assistant), Christian Stückl (Play Director of the Passion Play), Arno Nunn (Mayor of Oberammergau) Walter Rutz (Managing Director of the Passion Play)

Text: Anne Fritsch

Photos: Jenny Greza

Youth Days of the Oberammergau Passion Play 2020

7th to 10th May 2020

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