Thursday, June 24, 2010

Passion Play in Oberammergau...

Being in Oberammergau was really special. I was familiar with the Passion Play but couldn’t being to grasp how powerful it was until we came. Not only the performance, but this town and the history behind it is something I will really cherish experiencing. Since I’m not an eloquent writer and I have a lot going through my head, I’m going to list out some highlights and some of the things I learned that stood out to me. I’ve been looking forward to jotting down these things and organizing it together…


Oberammergau is a town of about 5,000 people surrounded by mountains.

· In 1634, the people made a vow to the Lord to perform a play on the passion of Jesus’ life (ever 10 years) if He spared them from the Black Plague that had already taken a portion of their people. No one received the plague thereafter.

· You have to have been born of lived in the town at least 20 years to be in the play.

· Woodcarving is the #1 trade here in the town. There are only about 50 word carvers left in town that have learned the trade from their ancestors. It’s amazing the work they do. More love about this later…

· The city lives and dreams the PP but they are centered on the quality of their wood carvings.

· Until 1990, women who were married could not perform in the play. Women were putting off marriage so they changed that in the 90’s.

· The P.P (Passion Play) has been performed every 10 years since except on two occasions—during WWII.

· Hitler actually attended the play after being appointed and used it as propaganda. The depiction of the Jewish people in the play has since been changed since Hitler’s approval at that time.

· The Passion Play is a symbol of strength and perseverance despite wars and diseases and anti-Semitics.

· Every 10 years they perform the play 5 times a week from May 15ish to the start of October. The theater fits 4,500. The play is about 6 hours long with a 3 hour intermission.

· It can be tough and tricky to get tickets. They sell tickets in a package deal with a hotel room and dinner plans. Or to get a ticket you have to prove you plan on staying the night in at least a nearby town.

· The visually attractive Frescos make the village so charming from religious things to fairy tales with a 3-D look as opposed to 2-D.

· Some might think I’m a bit starry eyed about it because no doubt they make a ton of money on the PP but I really think the people perform as a matter of faith as opposed to a solely a money maker.

· About the actual PP… 50% of the town people are directly involved with the play. There are horses, camels, and sheep in the play too. It’s amazing how great the voices are for such amateur performers.

· The people grow their beards and hair out 1-2 years before.

· Although the entire play is in German, the biblical account is familiar to where you aren’t lost at all. And there is a book given to follow the words in English.

· This is the first year the first act was in the afternoon and the second at night. Usually it is morning and afternoon. I loved the second act being in the evening as it got dark. Although the crowd sits indoors, the stage is outdoors but with a protective overhang. The way the light shines in at night and then it gets dark just about the time Jesus is condemned and suffers in the Garden of Gethsemane.

· Every year the play is a little different—different director. This year they added static scenes in between the larger accounts. They were Old Testament accounts. White angels would come out and sing the depiction of the Old Testament set up which with portrayed with bright colored backgrounds. It was amazing. And then they would walk off and we were on to the next account of Jesus’ life.

· Although the play is 6 hours, it doesn’t seem that long at all. Each scene is amazing. From Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to the last week of Jesus’ life to the Last Supper, Gethsemane, the betrayal and arrest, mocking, scourging, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Exaltation.

· The only thing I would change is more work and emphasis on the Resurrection. At the ending, I thought ‘Is that it?” As grand as they made the crucifixion, I thought they could do the same with the Resurrection.

· - Those performing in the play do not get paid. It is volunteer.

Because the play is so long everyone goes really casual. The first act we were way to overdressed. The second act I had on leggins and a sweatshirt and we brought a cushion and a blanket to wrap up in there at our seats. We had a little light to follow the program translation too.

- e


TeamWatkins said...

I love following all your vacation moments. It will be a long time before I can make it to Europe (I don't know how I could manage any major trips with 2 little ones) so I get to enjoy it vicariously through your blog. Thanks for sharing!

Jessica (Karr) Swendsen said...

Wow! I have never heard of this. This sounds like a definite must see. I love your skirt in the first pic!

Crystal said...

This is amazing. I loove your skirt btw. Thank you for posting about your adventures. We miss you and I am so glad you guys are having such a great time!

Heather and Taylor said...

I must have just missed you guys! I was there last Friday! Wasn't it amazing?!

Dayna said...

wow. it sounds amazing. seriously, incredible. that is so awesome you got to see it for yourself.

you look so beautiful in every picture btw. i too love the skirt on you in that pic!

JenSwen said...

Hey, I recently started reading your blog and have loved following your travelogue. It is so cool that you guys went to this Passion Play because we met a religious group that was headed to it on our flight to Europe and we wanted to know more about it. I really enjoyed reading this post. Also, you look beautiful in ALL of your pictures!

-Jen Swendsen

Ana Lee said...

I love that town! And the Passions play is an incredible experience. I went in 2000. So glad you guys got to do that!!