St. Elizabeth parishioners Jose Benjamin Robles and Carlos Gonzalez have been acting in the Passion Play for 15 years. Another St. Elizabeth’s parishioner, Larry Poirier, built the impressive iron gates to the property. On Sunday a group of us drove up and even though it rained, it was a very beautiful and holy dramatization. Fr. Ryan produces the Passion Play every year and emphasizes that the play is not meant as a spectacle, but as a prayerful work of Christians. It is solemn but somehow very joyous to sit and watch from afar, as if you are looking back in time, to a hillside with mounted Roman soldiers, shepherds with real sheep, and costumed players looking convincingly like biblical characters. The scene evokes an early Italian renaissance painting, a landscape seen from afar, as the horses come down the hill in a serpentine pattern. The setting includes a ‘Garden of Gethsemane,’ plus the ‘House of Caiphas,’ the ‘Last Supper’ stage, ‘Pilate’s Judgment Hall’ and ‘Herod’s Palace.’ The ‘Via Dolorosa’ is a 615 foot climb to the crucifixion scene.
Here are a few minutes of video but it doesn’t really capture the experience well.
Please consider making the trip next year, it is such a unique experience and difficult to describe. Admission is free; the mood is solemn but warm and welcoming. There is booth where you can make a donation. Fresh spring water is available in bottles as are programs in color. Fr. Ryan looks ageless and spry, sporting a daper Fedora, as he greets the audience, handing out programs. The production is wonderful, the sound system is clear, the narration is stately and well paced. The play is 2 hours, you are asked to bring your own chairs. No food, beverages or pets are allowed. Portapotties are available by the main gate. Highway Patrol assists with parking. It is handicapped accessible, and good views and sound from all locations. About 250 people attended on Sunday.
The initial scene is charming with a procession of horses and a chariot led by a beautiful grey Arabian horse. Then a herd of sheep come galloping down the hill and across the stage, and young children playing shepherds scamper across the hillside. The drama enfolds with the Last Supper, the prayers in the garden and the seizing of Jesus; all the awful, profound and redeeming events cascade, until the final death, resurrection and farewell. Even in pouring rain, with the audience retreated to their cars, the story still conveyed awe.
We took Hwy 20 home going North to Ukiah and thought it was well worth it, as the more direct route (Hwy 175) is a very mountainous, curvey drive, which would be a problem for anyone suffering from motion sickness. Do check the weather, bringing umbrellas for either sun or rain. On the way home we had a very enjoyable dinner in Cloverdale at the Train Station Bar and Grill, owned by former sherpas from Mt. Everest!