School today, premiere tomorrow

David Bender (Photo: Gabriela Neeb)

What it means to play a leading role in Oberammergau

Actually, he wanted to be a Roman. For the sake of his mother. Finally she would have had a boy with short-cut hair, for a whole summer. But unfortunately this is not going to happen now. David Bender, 16, smiling under his wild curls, doesn't look as if he would regret it very much. He doesn't have to either. His mother is happy nevertheless. Very much so. For he has been given one of the 42 leading roles - and a very special one at that.

Like everyone who wanted to take part in the Passion Play 2020, David also filled out the questionnaire with which the people of Oberammergau had already been able to apply since the end of 2017: for the theatre workshops or the technical staff, as ushers or in the dressing room, as firemen or paramedics, as musicians, singers or as an actor. "Abdullah called me - if I wouldn't like to come by for an audition." Said, done - in small groups Christian Stückl and his 2nd director Abdullah Karaca tested "how our voices work out" in the Passion Play Theatre. After all, in Oberammergau it's not just a matter of carrying the text over a 70 metre wide open-air stage, but also into a huge auditorium, where each of the almost 5,000 spectators should feel addressed.

At the time the performers were announced on October 20th, 2018, David was sitting in school, 11th grade. When his mother called him, he had to hurry: "I'm an angel, I have to go on stage immediately". The fact that David's grandfather in particular was moved by this good news has a reason: "My grandfather is totally happy, because he was an angel in 1970. He said it is a total honour. Especially because Christian Stückl turned the former "Mount-of-Olives-Angel" into a leading role not until the Passion Play 2010. That means for David: a lot of stage presence, mostly as a silent witness, but in some scenes also as a powerful messenger figure.

As far as the big stage is concerned, David is cool - after all, he is used to perform with his band. "But I already have respect. I hope I can do it." The fact that he is by far the youngest leading actor - except for him, only 19-year-old Judas actor Cengiz Görür still goes to school - is not an issue for him. He just enjoys being there - and thinks it's nice that the community gets closer together during the Passion Play.

In addition to the two pupils, ten students or trainees are among the 21 leading roles with double cast; the remaining 30 performers are employed. So David won't be the only one who has to jump between everyday life and rehearsals - that's what you're used to here. But there's one small thing: "On May 5th I have my final maths exam." Eleven days later Oberammergau celebrates its premiere.

Text: Teresa Grenzmann

Paradise Lost - Tableau vivant of the Passion Play 2010 (Photo: Brigitte Maria Mayer)