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Story of Easter takes stage, draws a crowd

Calvary Chapel Worship Center attracts 700 nightly to a multimedia drama and musical.

[Times photo: Brendan Fitterer]
Tracy Hudson performs as John the Baptist for the audience gathered at the Calvary Chapel Worship Center during "Forgiven -- The Story of Easter."


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2001

NEW PORT RICHEY -- In a world of laws where stoning was commonplace, a revolutionary individual introduced forgiveness and the pardoning of sins to a people without hope. His name was Jesus.

This is the message that pastor Brad Kidwell, director of productions at Calvary Chapel Worship Center, wanted to portray through the production Forgiven, the Story of Easter.

"People are overwhelmed and get smothered with so many elements in the world today," Kidwell said. "They need to have the refreshing hope of Jesus' pardon."

Kidwell said that while writing the script for this multimedia music and drama production, "the Lord kept saying forgiveness is the theme."

The production was held this past week at Calvary Chapel Worship Center. The sanctuary seats about 700 people and was filled nightly.

The senior pastor, Bill Strayer, began each evening leading the crowd in the song Jesus Is Alive.

"The reason we do these performances is so people will come to know Christ, have eternal life and have a purpose in life," Strayer said.

The production had a cast and crew of 130 people. Among them was Tom Buyea, who played a Pharisee. In Christ's time, Pharisees made the religious laws.

Buyea said he has known the ways of "the world" and now that he has been a believer for seven years, he feels that Jesus is the only way.

"The sooner people accept this message, the better your life will be," Buyea said. "Realize there is no other way."

Joe Skipper, who played a Roman soldier, said portraying one of the men who took Jesus to the cross made him think about what it means to be forgiven and free.

The production portrayed various biblical examples of Jesus showing mercy and grace. One of the lines spoken by Kelly Courtney, the actor who played Jesus, was "forgive as your heavenly father forgives you, so that you may also be forgiven."

The drama included solos, people dancing and waving brightly colored scarves, and the later years of Jesus' life. Pastor Kidwell said that because of limited stage space and time, videotaped clips were used to show the message of forgiveness or to help complete a certain act.

The clips were taped in various locations in the community, such as an old abandoned building, an open field and a renovated building with large columns that resembled the era when Pontius Pilate reigned. The scenes were then displayed throughout the production on two large screens.

A platform was specially built for the show. The crew used a scrim, a transparent fabric used in theater, in front of the elevated stage. When a light is shined on it, the audience cannot see what is behind it. When a light is shined in back of it, the audience can then see the props.

That upper second stage was used as the scene of Jesus' last supper with the disciples, and then used again as the setting for his crucifixion. The cries of Jesus' mother and followers echoed along with the loud sound of a hammer pounding nails into the cross. All the while, Charlie Stamas, who played the disciple Peter, sang Mercy Said No.

The production ended with the resurrection of Jesus, and the cast came out wearing white robes and singing. Clips of the cast portraying angels singing praises in heaven were played on the video screens.

Pastor Strayer closed with telling people that the death, burial and Resurrection convey the message that the only way to get to heaven is through Jesus Christ. He led the sinner's prayer, and ushers handed out salvation pamphlets to people who wanted them. Kidwell said that as of Wednesday, 100 people had filled out salvation cards.

A group from Lakeview Baptist Church in Hudson, led by pastor Bob Hope and his wife, Brenda, came to watch the performance.

"This was biblically accurate," Brenda Hope said.

Sindy Bezuidenhout, who came with her husband, Wynand, said watching the performance "was very emotional."

Glenn Gordon, an usher at the production, said Calvary Chapel's performances had a purpose.

"(Easter) gets too commercialized," Gordon said. "This brings people back to the reality of what (Jesus) did."

- Angela Miller covers religion news in Pasco County. She can be reached in Dade City at (352) 521-5757, ext. 29, or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6108, then 29. Her e-mail address is

If you go

Calvary Chapel Worship Center is at 6825 Trouble Creek Road, New Port Richey. The phone number is (727) 376-7733.

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