Together again at last


Play director Christian Stückl at the first reading rehearsal 2019 (Photo: Andreas Stückl)

In March 2020, the rehearsals for the Passion Play 2020 had to be interrupted due to the Corona pandemic, and the Play had to be postponed to 2022. Now, on January 6, it finally continues: for the reading rehearsal, all actors and actresses with speaking roles meet in the Ammergauer Haus to read the text together. "Everyone, even if they only have a very small sentence, comes together," explains play director Christian Stückl. "It's the only time the actors hear the Play together." Afterwards, individual and scene rehearsals take place with the main actors in small groups, and from February onwards, it's supposed to be off to the Passion Play Theatre stage for the rehearsals with the people of Jerusalem. Everything takes place under strict hygiene conditions, depending on the situation: All participants are tested before each rehearsal.

Although some rehearsals were held in 2020, a lot of time has passed since then and even more has happened in the world. So it will be a new beginning of rehearsals rather than a revival; some things will appear in a different light after the experience of the past two years. Christian Stückl has continued to work on the text, and will also take a new look at the figure of Jesus in his fourth Passion Play production. Together with his actors, Stückl wants to explore the question of what it means to follow an idea with such consistency. Again and again, Jesus is faced with the decision to give up or to continue: "Do I continue on this path ... or do I go to the Sea of Galilee for a bathing vacation?", Stückl formulates the options. It is the inner conflict between the mission as Messiah and very human feelings that interests him about the Jesus figure.

How do I position myself in relation to social problems? How do I encounter those who are marginalized? How much courage do I have? How much fear? These are questions that everyone has to answer for themselves. That's why Stückl wants to give the audience more room for their own interpretation in the Passion Play 2022. He has eliminated the prologue speaker, who until now has morally classified the “living images”. They show scenes from the Old Testament, without any current references. This time, Christian Stückl and stage designer Stefan Hageneier focus on the theme of flight, illustrated by the Jewish people. They find timeless questions that are inherent in the Bible stories. It's "about human situations we get into and the question of how we deal with them," Stückl says. "Often the Old Testament is simply a history book. The Israelites were slaves and walked through the desert for forty years because of that, because they weren't taken in anywhere, didn’t find a foothold." History is brought down to earth even more than in previous decades. Away from the heavenly, to the human. To the question ultimately of how we live our lives. "Is it really about the religious laws that Jesus supposedly broke?" asks Stückl. "Or isn't it much more about the annoyance that he had with people who apparently don't fit into our society and therefore have no place there? And to what extent has that changed to this day?"

Thus, the choir 2022 will not float angelically in other spheres, but will perform in the costume of the Oberammergauer of the 17th century. These vowed in 1633 to perform the Passion of Christ every ten years in order to be spared from the plague. This vow will stand at the beginning of the Play this time, anchoring it more firmly in the town and its history. Even if science has now replaced religion, the way out of the pandemic today is not in a vow, but in the vaccination decision of each individual. Corona changes the way we look at the Play, but the big story behind it has been the same for centuries. It has survived wars, bans and epidemics - and will also survive Corona, Stefan Hageneier is sure of that: "There will not be a day X when the pandemic is over. But I think when the Passion Play takes place again in 2022, that will be a great moment, then it will be enough in itself as a statement."

Text: Anne Fritsch

Photo: Andreas Stückl