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Last Days pageant overcomes challenges

PERFORMERS RECREATE a scene from the Last Supper in a 2013 performance of the Last Days of Jesus.

PERFORMERS RECREATE a scene from the Last Supper in a 2013 performance of the Last Days of Jesus. Contributed photo/Tim Fein

Last Days Auction

The annual dessert auction fundraiser for the Last Days of Jesus Pageant is set for Friday, March 15 at 6 p.m. at Covenant Christian Community Church.

A taco salad bar, run by the Child Evangelism Fellowship, will sell dinner, and all proceeds will benefit the Child Evangelism Fellowship ministry.

The auction begins at 7 p.m., and will feature silent and live items.

“The theme this year is Easter baskets,” said Marcus Morgan, chair of the pageant committee. There are already about 12 baskets ready to be auctioned off, including a wine basket and a cherries, chocolates and honey basket.

Desserts up for auction will range from simple homemade chocolate chip cookies to an extravagant strawberry torte with chocolate ganache. The Anzac Tea Parlour will again be donating a dessert to the auction.

“She’s been doing a dessert every year for it,” Morgan said.

The auction usually nets $3,000 for the annual pageant.

As recently as a few weeks ago, it was looking like the Last Days of Jesus Pageant might not happen this year, a first in its more than 35-year history.

But God has provided, said pageant chair Marcus Morgan, and the event — recently beset by a lack of volunteers, money, venues and storage space — is still set to go on as planned.

Marcus described the setbacks as “it’s been a tough year and basically the sky is falling in on Last Days of Jesus.”

That was almost literally the case in terms of its venue, since the pageant was told by The Dalles Wahtonka High School that its longstanding venue for the Last Supper, the high school auditorium, might not be available this year because of a problem with falling ceiling tiles.

But the pageant has a potential Plan B, since Calvary Baptist Church has offered to host the Last Supper scene if the auditorium is not yet reopened. If it can, the pageant does want to stay in the high school auditorium, since it seats 900, and has filled the auditorium in the past. Calvary Baptist’s venue has a capacity of 400 people.

Both the Last Supper and garden scene could potentially take place at Calvary Baptist, he said, as well as the practices for those scenes.

Traditionally, the garden scene takes place at City Park and then the pageant performers and audience walk to the high school for the Last Supper.

As for money, the pageant was struggling, since it had $4,000 in its bank account, but the pageant costs about $8,000 per year. But First Christian Church, Seventh-day Adventist and Harvest Foursquare Church have pledged to help out financially, he said.

On casting, the roles were not filling up like usual, but in just the last few weeks people have stepped up.

“Now we have filled all of our casting except for a priest and temple guard. When we have only four practices left before the main show,” he said.

“We have six different scenes and we rotate them so one week it will be the Last Supper, the garden scene and resurrection practices and then the following Sunday is the other three: the trial, crucifixion and burial.”

Easter this year is April 20. The Last Days pageant runs on Thursday, Friday and Sunday of Easter week.

Thursday is the garden scene and Last Supper, Friday is the trial, crucifixion and burial and Sunday is the resurrection.

A change of schedule is planned this year in that the trial, which takes place on the Wasco County Courthouse steps, will be moved up an hour, from 8 p.m. to 7 p.m. One concern was having the audience walking from the courthouse to the public library for the burial scene when it was getting dark, Morgan said.

Also, in an effort to hew more closely to the Biblical events, the trial of Jesus happened during the daytime, so it was felt the trial in the pageant should also be in daytime, he said.

Finally, the extensive costumes for the pageant have always been stored at a building next to First Christian Church known as the White House. But the building, owned by First Christian, is slated to be demolished soon.

But the pageant just found out this week that the demolition won’t take place until after the pageant, removing a big worry.

Having the costumes available in such a central location to all the venues where the pageant takes place is a big time saver, Morgan said.

The church has discussed creating storage space for costumes in the new building it plans to build in the place of the White House, Morgan said.

All the trials facing the pageant this year aside, the pageant is doing a new thing with its volunteers. It’s encouraging them to read the Bible daily, to get an understanding of their role and what was really happening in the last days of Jesus.

They are asked to pair up with a buddy, in a program called Six Weeks With a Friend, and check in with them to discuss assigned Bible verses.

“The parts of the reading of the Bible specifically have to do with the times of Jesus’ ministry, his last days. So I hope it also helps them to see who their character is and what they were doing and the scenery and the settings and the feelings they were feeling during this time,” Morgan said.

“To be a good student, what do you have to do in school? Well, you have to read, you have to study. We want our cast members to study the Bible, to read it daily and to be good students of the good book,” he said.

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