+++ On 31st March, the registration deadline for all Oberammergau citizens who are entitled to play has expired. 1,830 citizens applied to a place on stage in 2020 at the world’s most famous and largest Passion Play +++ The announcement of the roles is scheduled for 20th October 2018 +++
Once every ten years, the Oberammergau Passion Play attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from all around the globe. Inhabitants of the village in the Ammer valley already have to apply and have themselves registered for participation in the next Passion Play. A total of 1,830 of them followed the call of the Oberammergau municipality and declared their interest in participating. For the first time in the almost 400-year-history of the Play, an equal number of men and women wish to take part. Compared to the last Passion Play in 2010, the number of applications remained on a consistently very high level. Participation in the play is regulated by the ‘playing right’. Not all of the 5,200 inhabitants of Oberammergau are allowed to take part.
The playing right stipulates that candidates have to be born and raised in Oberammergau or must have been living in the village for at least 20 years. It is estimated that in 2020 more than 500 children will take part as well; however, their number will be determined at a later date. In total, the number of participants in the Oberammergau Passion Play will once again be exceeding 2,000.
The playing right for the Oberammergau Passion Play has always been subject to change. For instance, until 1984, married women and women over the age of 35 were excluded from participating. Following a rejected popular charge, three women of Oberammergau invoked the Bavarian Constitutional Court again in 1988. In 1990 the court ultimately decided that it was illegal to deny women the right of participation in the Passion Play.
For the Passion Play in 2000 the playing right was changed yet again. Until then, any participant had to belong to a Christian religious community. Ever since 2000, even undenominational citizens and members of other religious communities are allowed to take part. Thus, this year saw the first people of Oberammergau with Muslim faith participating.
In 2018, preparations for the 42nd Passion Play under the direction of Christian Stückl are well under way. One highlight leading up to the passion for every citizen of Oberammergau is the great church service on the large open-air stage of the Passion Theatre on 20th October of this year: The pledge of 1633 will be commemorated and the actors of the 42nd Passion Play will be publicly announced and introduced. Aside from the main roles of Jesus, Mary, Petrus, Judas, Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas, there will be 120 major and minor speaking roles as well as soldiers, priests and the people of Jerusalem. Rehearsals will start in November 2019, lasting eight months and involving more than 2,000 people.
The Play goes back to a pledge of the year 1633, when the people of Oberammergau pledged to act out the suffering and death of Jesus Christ in exchange for no further Plague deaths.
In total, the village of Oberammergau expects 450,000 visitors on 103 playing days. Ever since 1634, the world’s most successful amateur dramatic performance tells the story of the last days in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The next Passion Play 2020 will come in a completely new appearance, Christian Stückl explains. “The staging changes fundamentally every time”, says Christian Stückl, who will direct the Play for the fourth time in 2020. “Since the Passion Play takes place once every ten years, I keep having to write the text in a new way, tell the story in a new way. I’ll include things I learned from the previous Play and it always has to reflect the respective time period and its political circumstances”.
In a great community effort starting in Autumn, new costumes and set designs designed by Stefan Hageneier will be made. What is more, 120 new choir members and the 70-member-passion orchestra must be re-cast in the course of the next few weeks upon instruction by the music director Markus Zwink. The five-hour-performance with its three-hour-break begins in the afternoon with the entry into Jerusalem and tells the passion story from the Last Supper to the crucifixion. It ends in the evening hours with the resurrection. 103 shows are scheduled in total; the last show will take place on 4th October 2020.