100 days with Jesus


Jesus' dressing room (photo: Anne Fritsch)

The Jesus dressing room is the smallest of all. But it is also the only single dressing room. Directly opposite, a large sliding door leads onto the stage. Later on, the people will enter Jerusalem through this door, together with the donkey and Jesus. One hour before the Play begins, Sylvia Heinzeller goes on duty. She is the dressing room attendant in the Jesus dressing room. She used to be in the Play herself, and she was particularly enthusiastic about the Rosner rehearsal in 1977: "The colourful costumes and the allegorical figures - that was exactly what I wanted!” In 1980, she was no longer allowed to participate because she was married and the rules of the Passion Play at that time only allowed unmarried women to participate. When this was overturned in 1990, she returned to the Passion Play, although she has been working backstage ever since.

In the tailor shop (photo: Anne Fritsch)

As a trained tailor, she is already busy making the costumes during the preparation period, and then in the dressing room during the season. There is still plenty of sewing to do there, too. Not only Jesus' robe, which is torn from his body during the scourging, has to be mended every evening. With so many people involved, a seam always comes undone somewhere, a costume is too long or - as on this day - Moses' shawl cannot be found shortly before the performance. So Sylvia runs up the two flights of stairs to the tailor's shop, picks out the right one from the spare fabrics and quickly sews him a new one.

Cengiz Görür (Judas) and Frederik Mayet (Jesus) (photo: Anne Fritsch)

Sylvia is at the theatre on every one of the more than one hundred performance days. In 2000 she was in the dressing room with the Romans, now with Jesus. "You'll get bored," some have predicted. She can't confirm that: She likes it here very much. Next to the door of the Jesus dressing room she has hung up a detailed schedule. Just in case she should ever have to cancel. It lists exactly what needs to be done, when and how. In the calendar above, the two Jesus actors Frederik Mayet and Rochus Rückel have noted who is playing which performances in the current week. The players make this arrangement on their own responsibility, agreeing their wishes among themselves: on this day, friends or relatives of one are there, on that day the other has a work appointment and is unable to attend. Since this autonomous system applies to all the main roles, the ensemble constellation is different every day of the Play. Which Mary or which Magdalene Jesus will meet and when, is also a surprise for him.

When Frederik Mayet, whose turn it is that day, arrives in the dressing room at 1.45 pm, Sylvia has already prepared the two microphones for him. Unlike the others, he gets two microports as the lead. If one fails, the sound technicians can quickly switch to the second. Sylvia attaches them to his cheek and back, then Mayet gets dressed. The two of them are a well-rehearsed team, every hand is in place, the kippa is pinned in his hair, and then everything is ready. Mayet doesn't care that the sandals don't fit properly: they are the ones he wore as Jesus in 2010. Somehow he is also a bit superstitious. So Sylvia starts thinking about how to mend them if the worst comes to the worst. Because unlike Rochus Rückel, Mayet has no spare slippers on the shelf.

Before the people with the donkey arrive for the "Entry into Jerusalem" through the corridor in front of the dressing room, the Judas actor Cengiz Görür stops by for a sage tea. The apostles' dressing room is right next door, and Jesus and Judas' tea time together is already a tradition. "Cengiz is always allowed to come," says Sylvia. "I always have a cup of tea for him!" Görür has a clear stance on the question of sandals: "Barefoot is not an option at all, after the merchant scene there are all these little shards on the stage!"

Waiting for the Entry into Jerusalem (photo: Anne Fritsch)

At the end of the interval, the stressful part begins for Jesus and his dressing room attendant. Now all the utensils necessary for the upcoming crucifixion are fetched from the cupboard. (By the way, the vodka in the back corner is not there to relieve stress, but rather to reduce odour: sprayed on the non-washable costume parts, it eradicates unpleasant smells). Before the wrapped loincloth is applied (which sometimes happens in the corridor for reasons of space), Sylvia applies the marks of the scourging with make-up on Mayet's back. This way they can dry and are not immediately wiped off by the clothes. But that is only the beginning: after the scourging it gets really bloody in the dressing room, Sylvia lays a towel on the floor. Frederik Mayet handles the "blood bladder" to apply blood running down his chest and knees, while Sylvia generously spreads more blood and dirt all over his body and finally dusts everything with healing earth. After that, Mayet opens the window for the time being before we all start coughing. While he makes his way to the stage with his cross for the last time that evening, Sylvia goes to the sewing machine once more, sews up the torn robe. The seam is left incomplete so that it can be easily torn again the next day.

After the crucifixion, Jesus takes a shower. Sylvia soaks the crucifixion cloth in cold water and puts the loincloth and shroud in the washing machine. The next morning she hangs everything out to dry, so that by noon everything is ready for the next use. And the Play can begin anew.


Text & photos: Anne Fritsch

Jesus' costumes (photo: Anne Fritsch)