Reflections from The Shadow of the Cross

In Play Reviews on April 3, 2013 at 1:04 pm


Throughout the history of mankind, art has been a display of cultures, of traditions or famous tales and stories. But it has mostly portrayed lives, etched to remind those who gaze upon it of the difference made because of the scene they see.

But what if that art, those painted figures of people whose eyes stare lifeless upon their frame, could voice their thoughts?

This question is explored through this year’s production at Bob Jones University of Living Gallery where famous works of art such as Michelangelo’s Pieta and The Last Supper by da Vinci are suddenly life size. This year, however, they actually come to life and the audience was taken back two thousand years through eleven pieces of art to see and listen to witnesses of the single event that most changed the world. What if we could hear the words of those in The Shadow of the Cross?

Living Gallery Drama 2013

The artwork itself is meticulously preserved to ensure accuracy. Having seen some of the original paintings, these enlarged versions (containing sometimes up to fifteen live models) are mirror images in comparison. You would have to be looking very closely and know a great deal about the originals to ever spot a slight difference. The tableau artists did a tremendous job on replicating the artwork. The models are perfectly placed and blended into the work and at first, an audience member might not notice there are people in or on the paintings. To create this effect, each model must sit through hours of make-up to be transformed into their character from the painting or sculpture.

Living Gallery Drama 2013

The lighting is another element other than the make-up that creates the “living art” effect. Through side, over head and front lighting, we are able to see the shadows of 3-D actors amongst paintings and discover details in the work that are often lost in a smaller-scale 2-D original. In the Descent from the Cross, with the original work by Adam Lenckhardt, eight models take their stance as a carved statue with the same appearance as having been made of one piece of ivory. The effect is really remarkable.

But this production does not just display the art. It lives it. Over the years, different dramas have been incorporated into the showing of the life size art pieces. Each was compelling and a beautiful portrayal of God’s love and sacrifice for the redemption of man. But there is something provoking, dare I even say powerful, about seeing people step out from art that many of us have gazed upon before, and hear what might have been the words, the emotions, and the struggles of those who lived in the time of this Christ, this Jesus. The director, Paul Radford, expertly guided his cast to capture the audience in the first moments of the performance. With the entrance of the Centurion, we are immediately brought to the cascading darkness drawn upon by the death of Christ. The Centurion was grippingly played by Jason Houtz who pulled our thoughts to believe in his struggle to understand who this Jesus is and why would He die. The portrayal of Peter, by Ben Nicholas, in Peter’s Denial and then in The Storm on the Sea of Galilee was also very real and believable. The audience is able to identify with and understand each of these characters in some way and be able to say ‘part of that is me’. In a clever choice by Paul Radford, the angel Gabriel lights up the auditorium and calls out to the audience. Be watching for this moment. It really is thought provoking. At each piece of art, we are drawn to listen to the heartbeat, the core values, of those who lived through the death of Christ.

Living Gallery Drama 2013

But this story does not end with death. In perhaps one of the most captivating moments of all, each main character previously displayed in the art, returns to the stage with echoing words that ring throughout the auditorium crying out to God with whys, rebuke, desperation and belief. This culminates with a triumphant resurrection of the Savior in the work The Resurrected Christ. With soaring orchestration and voices raised, the living Christ Jesus is glorified and an audience member walks away with this probing question; am I in the shadow of the Cross?

Living Gallery Drama 2013

DSC_0252 By Meagan Ingersoll


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