By Kevin Wilson
As it was recorded in the Bible, Jesus had a small audience to eat with him in his final days before his crucifixion and rebirth.
In what is now regarded as The Last Supper, reenactments across the world work to draw bigger audiences to the things that Jesus told his 12 disciples on what is believed to be a Thursday night.
Portales has one of these reenactments, with the combination of efforts from four Portales churches. The show was Thursday night at First United Methodist Church.
The show had 13 actors playing Jesus (played by John Lowery-King) and his 12 disciples. In the hour-long event, each disciple is characterized before the supper.
Other churches involved in the event were the First Presbyterian Church, University Baptist Church, and Church of the Nazarene.
According to the Bible, during the supper Jesus said, “I tell you the truth — one of you will betray me.”
Each disciple wondered who it could be, or if it was them. That is acted out, and many people involved said that the combination of the message and the production elements (lights, costumes and scenery) make it hard to distinguish between acting and learning.
“When you get the lighting and the costumes and the whole effect, you feel the power of Christ in that room,” said Jan Smartnick, who is a co-director along with Don Criss. “It’s just an awesome feeling. It’s a very powerful dramatization.”
Smartnick has seen the show many times before, as her husband Web is a regular in the show. Thursday night saw Web Smartnick play Matthew, a tax collector who left his business to follow Jesus.
When Web is on stage as Matthew or any other apostle (he once played James the Lesser, who was played by Kenny Prince this time), he never feels that he is really acting. Instead, he’s teaching and learning at the same time.
“It’s just the idea that we’re doing this to this guy that’s our best friend,” he said. “In the end, we depict that we’re leaving him, and we look him in the eye. It looked like John was looking down into the bottom of my souls.”
For Vern Witten, who played Simon, the role of the apostle relates to the role of any Christian who has had struggles with their faith or their actions.
“I guess the main plot is the idea of the betrayal,” Witten said. “Jesus knows that someone’s going to betray him. All of a sudden, it dawns on you, ‘It may be me.’
“At a time in his life, I think each believer betrays Christ and realizes he’s betrayed Christ. To me, that’s really significant.”
Witten said that the actors do not meet with the audience after the show, and he feels that helps bring the message home before audience members have services for Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
“I think they leave believing they’ve had a religious experience,” he said.