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Catholics to bring the Passion to the stage

Passion of Christ

FORT PIERCE  |  For the 18th time, members of St. Anastasia Parish and San Juan Diego Hispanic Pastoral Center are preparing to stage their popular Passion play that has grown from one performance during Lent to embody a ministry with more than 100 in the cast and crew.

“The Passion of Christ,” to be performed at 7 p.m. Sunday, March 10, at the Sunrise Theatre, 117 S. Second St. in Fort Pierce, began in 2006 in the St. Anastasia parish center.

As it gained fans through the years and sold-out performances were the norm, the schedule was expanded to five shows to meet the demand.

In 2016, the Passion play shifted to the Sunrise Theatre, which can seat up to 1,200. Ann Rise, producer of “The Passion of Christ,” said the play was at the Sunrise until the pandemic forced it back to the parish center in 2020.

“This is our first year back at the Sunrise Theatre. In the parish auditorium, we could only seat about 250,” said Rise, who has been involved in the production for about 15 years. She added that about 75 percent of the actors and crew have been with the play since the start.

Those involved usually begin work on the production in January, Rise said. “We usually have the play about two weeks before Easter. You meet once or twice a week, and you’re going through the Passion of Christ. Most of our cast members are deeply involved in the church. They’re either ushers or they’re Eucharistic ministers or in the outreach ministry. It’s a beautiful way to deepen your faith to walk through this.”

It’s inspiring to see the dedication of the actors and crew, with many family members filling various roles, she said. All members of the Scott family help stage the play, including Daniel Scott, who has portrayed Jesus from the beginning, his wife Alissa, photography crew member, and their children, Ashlyn, Clayton and Graham.

Other key actors are Maricela Carrera (Mary), Phil Wharton Sr. (Peter), Maximilian Kasprzyk (John), Omar Garcia (Judas) and Kenneth Langel (Pilate).

Marie Kerr, who has served as director since the start, is experiencing health challenges, so stage manager Carole Johnstone is filling in as director. Assistant stage manager is Candice Langel and costume designer is Sue Hilgers.

Kerr “lives the play all year-round,” Rise said. “She’s always looking for people to be in it. She’ll be in the chapel and she’ll see someone” and ask them to join the cast.

The Passion play opens with Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman (John 4:4-42) and ends at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Then Father Richard George, St. Anastasia’s pastor, leads a procession with the Blessed Sacrament and the audience spends time in Eucharistic adoration.

Rise said Father George is very supportive of the Passion play. “He was really committed from the beginning. He wanted this to be a true ministry that reaches out to all.”    

“The play itself is a good two hours, with no intermission because you can’t really have an intermission in this,” Rise said.

Tickets to “The Passion of Christ” cost $25 each, available by visiting or calling 772-461-4775.

Read this on the Florida Catholic