Sunnyside Church Presents Living Tableau In Last Supper Re-enactment

The lights go down, the church is dark. In the packed pews, the people cease their anticipatory chatter and squint at shadowy figures positioning themselves on stage.

Silence. Total silence.

And then a gasp of awe. In brilliant light and three-dimensional relief, The Last Supper comes alive. In its third consecutive season, the Sunnyside Church presented The Last Supper: A Living Tableau in two performances on March 20 and 22.

Produced by Jan Schmidt and directed by Herb Hill, the 13 actors take turns, step out of the scene, speak from the heart, then resume the seemingly unblinking, breathless pose of Leonardo da Vinci's magnificent fresco.

Russ Davidson, a civil engineer by profession, gives voice to Thomas: "Thomas is maligned. He is always doubting Thomas. He is never a role model." Davidson likes this disciple because "Thomas was a thinker. He tested things. He was grounded in reality—logical, not mystical. Thomas is the patron saint of architects. Which other disciple would you want to design a bridge, your office building or your own home?"

Judas Iscariot is the bad guy you love to hate. For three years, Tim Adams, president of Timato Productions, an independent media company, has played the traitor with a smoothly sinister edge. Adams says he is now ready "to pass the reins to a new villain."

Insurance agent Jim Newell is James. "I'm sure James was a rough tough person when he first met Jesus," Newell observes. "But Jesus brought humility to James' nature—and He brings it to me, too, because I know I can be very thunderous at times. I try to portray James as that gruff, rugged fisherman who becomes Jesus' humble servant."

John ben Zebedee—John the Beloved—the youngest disciple, is played by Paul Dragulin, a graduate student in physics. He sees John, once a bit of a rebel, as being "awestruck by Jesus and excited to have a relationship with Him. I can associate John's story with mine. I used to be a bit of a rebel too."

Conrad Gren, accountant/auditor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, portrays Philip. "A part of me," Gren says, "resonates with Philip, with his doubts and uncertainties. Philip's one of the first to proclaim ‘We have the Messiah!' But he is also slow to catch on. Same with me." Gren explains with his own Philip-like story: "When the doctors told us our son, dying of cancer at the time, would probably not make it through the night, I got very angry with God and asked Him to leave my life. For five or 10 minutes I was bereft of His presence—and I knew it. I asked Him back. Fortunately, God sticks in there and waits for all us Philips. I am joyously happy He does."

Jan Schmidt, producer and part-time nurse, takes care of planning, scheduling, and the 1,001 details. Schmidt says she loves to do volunteer work—such as The Last Supper.

Herb Hill, director of human resources at Adventist Medical Center in Portland, and Linda Hill, a bookstore manager and an academy development officer, have been directing performances of this tableau in churches in America and Australia since 1980. As costume master, Hill strives for Biblical authenticity and faithful integrity to Leonardo's original masterpiece. Hill enjoys "seeing the bonding of cast members. They get to experience a new understanding of God's love through a living drama."

May 01, 2008 / Oregon Conference