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Famed tableau leaps from canvas

Published April 5, 2007

[Times photo: Julia Kumari Drapkin]
Stanley McCoy puts on his reading glasses to check his script while rehearsing his role as Jesus Christ on Sunday. The production, known as a tableau, features a final scene in which Jesus and the disciples gather at the table as depicted in the painting The Last Supper.

SPRING HILL -- Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece The Last Supper comes to life tonight as local actors recreate the first Communion of Jesus Christ and his disciples.

The Maundy Thursday event at the First United Methodist Church of Spring Hill begins at 7 p.m. The public is invited to the hour-long program that will portray the Passover meal in advent of Jesus' crucifixion on Good Friday.

The production, known as a tableau, features a final scene in which Jesus and the disciples gather at the table as depicted in da Vinci's painting.

"A tableau is a play that ends in a picture," explained director Patrick McCulloch.

Narrator Walter Dye will tell the audience, "We have no record of his thoughts. But we do have a record of what he said."

While the disciples, other than Peter and Judas, have minor roles delineated in the Gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, tidbits of their lives have been gleaned from other books of the New Testament to round out their personalities. These details help create their imagined conversation at the Passover meal, McCulloch said.

As the leads, Stanley McCoy will portray Jesus; Lynn Bergman, Peter; and Dane Lynch, Judas.

In the first scene, Jesus appears alone at the table in the Upper Room, which he had ordered for the Jewish observance. He explains that someone who dipped into the bowl with him will betray him.

"Peter" stands up suddenly from the audience, throws on a period costume, walks around and explains ways in which he might betray his allegiance to Jesus, "three times before the cock crows," Christ has predicted.

Peter joins the table, then the disciple Andrew jumps up and suggests similar circumstances. Each of the disciples in turn admits his past or potential failings.

Finally, Judas speaks. "It's too late to ask, 'Is it me, Lord?' " he says.

Jesus responds, "What you are about to do, do it quickly." Judas exits, only to return after telling the Romans he will betray Jesus with a kiss.

Says the narrator, "All of us are a little like the disciples." Included with all their human foibles are Peter, Judas, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, Philip, Thomas, Nathaniel also known as Bartholomew, James the Lesser, Thaddeus and Simon the Zealot.

The Rev. Bill McLoud will invite the audience to take Communion with elements from the table that was the focus of The Last Supper. "Characters will stay in pose of The Last Supper on stage," director McCulloch said.

The tableau was written by Dr. Richard Neal, who was pastor at the church many years ago and now is director of the Jacksonville district of the United Methodist Church.

The tableau had been performed from the mid 1970s to the mid 1990s, took a 10-year hiatus, then returned to the stage last year, McCulloch said.

It will include original guitar and vocal music written for the tableau by former congregant Ted Reynolds, now a local nursing home patient.

The church at 9344 Spring Hill Drive has a seating capacity of about 800.

Beth Gray can be contacted at

IF YOU GO: The Last Supper
A stage production.
When: 7 p.m. today.
Where: First United Methodist Church of Spring Hill, 9344 Spring Hill Drive.

[Last modified April 5, 2007, 20:18:12]

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