Rehearsal is one thing for men bringing world-changing history to life in the form of drama. But one other bit of preparation means even more to Terry Trautman.
He and his castmates in First Lutheran Church’s annual “The Living Last Supper” production set for 4 and 7 p.m. on Palm Sunday clasp hands. And, one by one, each offers a prayer just before stepping out to take their places to recreate Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting of the biblical story scene.
“To me, this really solidifies that what we are doing, we are doing together, helps to calm nerves, and frankly, puts us all into a proper perspective,” said Trautman, once a veteran of the local Theatre Arts Guild shows. “I feel like I become (the apostle) Matthew right then.”
The free, one-hour presentation hinges on the 12 disciples’ brief monologue reflections on Christ and his impact on them — just after he mentions that one of them will betray him. While each character speaks, asking, “Is it I?’ the figures behind him are frozen, similar to da Vinci’s depiction at the table.
Perhaps one of the most jolting lines in the script comes from the character of Judas: “My soul isn’t as black as some think it is. Nor is yours as white.”
The drama was first presented on Palm Sunday 1954 at a Methodist church in Portsmouth, Virginia. First Lutheran member Dave Kromphardt organized the event locally in 2016 after he and his wife saw it in done effectively while living in Illinois. For the past two years, it has attracted people from a range of other churches and moved some audience members to tears.
A few hymns are sandwiched in between scenes to give the work an even more worshipful feel.
For this year, Trautman has compiled a small, free booklet highlighting each disciple’s background, with help from national Bible teacher John MacArthur’s book, “Twelve Ordinary Men.” Each person who attends the dramatization will get a booklet to learn more about how Jesus of Nazareth made his everyday followers extraordinary.
“It’s simply a bullet-point summary of what these people were like beyond the stories in the Bible,” Trautman said.
Book author MacArthur’s research took him to the works of Jewish historians such as Josephus and others. It made Trautman appreciate the human foibles of Matthew.
“He originally was pretty bad character, a bit of a scoundrel,” Trautman said of the tax collector, a profession generally regarded as highly unethical in the day.
Trautman acknowledged that he can relate to Matthew’s general financial background, having worked in corporate finance. When Kromphardt initially presented that specific role to Trautman, the Cummins retiree humorously quipped, “That’s typecasting if I’ve ever seen it.”
Kromphardt emphasized that the booklet is important “so people simply can have a better idea of who these people are.” While most of the cast remains the same as the first year of the local presentation, organizers are excited to welcome two new actors, both First Lutheran teens.
“They’ve jumped right in (to their roles),” Kromphardt said.
And even younger individuals can connect to the drama, said Barbara Kromphardt, David Kromphardt’s wife. She recalls watching small children watching in rapt attention, both from the Illinois productions they helped with and the ones now in Columbus.
“They’re stone silent,” she said. “They’re just so engrossed, whether or not they fully understand all the words. It’s clear that they pick up on the passion of these men.”