Once a year for 13 years, 13 Catholic men have dramatized the story of the Last Supper in a Catholic parish.
This year, the players are the same, but the venue crosses traditional lines.
For the first time, the men will present the drama in a Protestant church.
(Courtesy photo) Men from St. Michael and St. Mary Catholic parishes in Hollidaysburg and St. Patrick Parish in Newry will present “The Last Supper” drama at the Hollidaysburg Church of the Brethren. The men and the disciples they portray are (from left) Judge Timothy M. Sullivan (Nathanael), John McIntyre (James the Lesser), Tim Gildea (Andrew), Dr. Greg Sweeney (Peter), Bob Muldoon (seated, Judas), Dr. Randy Patterson (John), Greg Scallen (Jesus), Jim Yeager (James), Steve Gildea (Thomas), Dave Madden (seated, Matthew), Erik Brown (Philip), Tim Casher (Thaddeus) and Stu Sibold (Simon the Zealot).
"It is something we all aspired to do at some point," said Bob Muldoon, co-director for the annual event.
"The Last Supper" will be presented at 8:15 p.m. April 14 at Hollidaysburg Church of the Brethren, 1028 Penn St., Hollidaysburg. It is based on the setting from the painting by Leonardo da Vinci where Jesus is observing the Passover meal with his disciples and has predicted that one of them will betray him.
Muldoon said the cast is not making a big deal out of the change. Hollidaysburg Church of the Brethren just happens to be the host church.
If you go
What: "The Last Supper" drama
When: 8:15 p.m. April 14
Where: Hollidaysburg Church of the Brethren
The Rev. Marlys Hershberger, pastor of Hollidaysburg Church of the Brethren, said Doug Rhodes, one of the church's members, was the impetus behind the request.
Rhodes of Hollidaysburg has seen the production several times.
"It's incredible, it's inspirational," Rhodes said. "The way they produce it, you feel like part of the show."
He said the show is professionally done, and the presentation at his church is a way to help the men spread their ministry.
Rhodes has seen it several times because family members and friends are part of the production. Rhodes explained that his wife, Margaret, is a practicing Catholic, and two of her brothers, Steve Gildea and Tim Gildea, have roles in the play. Tim plays Andrew and Steve plays Thomas.
Rhodes also has several friends in the play, including Judge Timothy M. Sullivan who plays Nathanael and Greg Scallen who plays Jesus, and Muldoon. Muldoon plays Judas Iscariot in the production that features actors from three Catholic churches - St. Mary and St. Michael parishes in Hollidaysburg and St. Patrick Parish in Newry.
Tim Gildea said Rhodes' desire to have the drama presented at his church came up a couple of times when the Gildea family men got together for their annual weekend get-together.
"He enjoyed it so much," Tim Gildea said. "He wanted to share it with others."
Perhaps more noteworthy than the production moving to a Protestant church is the fact that the same men show up year after year. Muldoon said with the exception of one cast member, who moved out of state, the actors don't change.
The bond was established years ago, according to Tim Gildea. He said the men in the play used to get together for fellowship and prayer once a month. He said at the time, they decided they wanted to do something for others, and Muldoon learned about the play.
Although the fellowship group has dissolved, the men continue to be committed to giving the community the gift of the play.
"We get so much enjoyment from it," Tim Gildea said. "And we get to get together as a group. The practice is fun, and we enjoy being with each other."
Each man has the same role each year. From the lesser known Thaddeus to the more recognized Peter, each expresses his thoughts based on what Jesus has previously stated about one of them being a betrayer. Each disciple questions whether he is the one who will turn on his friend and Lord.
Jesus, who is present, has no speaking role.
One man who has a speaking role but who is never seen on stage is the narrator. He is played by Dr. Rick Centar, who gives two talks. He introduces the drama and explains a little about the da Vinci painting. He speaks again when the disciples are passing the bread and wine.
When he speaks, Centar is usually behind stage, where he also works the sound system.
At Hollidaysburg Church of the Brethren, he will have the advantage of being able to watch the drama unfold, because he and one of the church's sound workers will operate the equipment from the balcony.
"It's a benefit and kind of neat," he said, adding that the church has a very good sound system for the voices and music.
Other members of the production team have been working on other challenges.
Centar explained that the table for the set is 12 feet long, but the church's altar length is only 13 feet. To make the stage area longer, risers have been built.
Expanding the space was necessary to give the actors room to move and prevent them from tripping over wires. They perform on stage with little lighting other than a spotlight on the disciple giving his soliloquy.
Centar said Muldoon and Bill Padamonsky, co-director, figure out the logistics and always try to keep the scene true to the da Vinci painting.
He credited the rest of the stage crew, which includes Andy Blazewicz, Dave Shrift and Jeff Stephens, with making the whole production come together.
"Everybody has their speciality," Centar said, explaining that some of the crew are good with carpentry work while others know about lighting.
Despite the extra effort, Muldoon said the men agreed that they wanted to make the stage work.
"We are so encouraged and excited about performing in a Protestant church," he said