Fourteen-year-old Owen Cacayurin plays Jesus in this year’s reenactment of the Stations of the Cross at St. Paschal Baylon Church. Photo courtesy of St. Paschal Youth Group

Teens inspired by roles in parish Passion plays

By  Jacklyn Gilmor, Youth Speak News
  • March 27, 2018

The story of Good Friday feels even more real when you’ve lived it, even if it’s only in a play. 

Fifteen-year-old Marcus Dela Cruz said playing the role of Jesus for an annual parish Passion play is eye-opening. Dela Cruz is part of the youth production put on by St. Joseph the Worker parish in Thornhill, Ont., during Holy Week.

“It’s very different from playing (someone in) the crowd or an apostle,” he said. He wants to portray Christ as realistically as possible. For him, the hardest scene to perform is the carrying of the cross, because he needs to drag a heavy makeshift cross for long periods of time.

“The pain is all there,” he said. “It hurts physically to do all of that.”

Typically, Passion plays begin close to the Last Supper and end with Jesus’ crucifixion. But St. Joseph the Worker’s play is split into two parts, based on the Old and New Testaments, so many of the actors play two different roles. Dela Cruz portrays both Jesus and Moses, and demonstrates the many parallels between their stories, such as breaking bread around a table in remembrance. 

JesusMarcus Dela Cruz, 15, plays the role of Jesus at St. Joseph the Worker Parish. 

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Justin Gomez, 19, is the pharaoh Ramses in the same play this year, but portrayed Jesus last year. He said it opened his mind but the role was also very physically challenging. During a scene where he is whipped by the guards, he said that the whips actually left marks on his back. 

“They thought I was acting, but it hurt so much that I was on the floor afterwards, unable to move. That’s the point where I was like, ‘Wow, Jesus went through that. Ouch!’ ” said Gomez. “I guess you could say it literally took me getting hit to understand how hard Jesus has been hit.”

Aside from the more violent scenes, Gomez said the Agony in the Garden, when Jesus prays for strength, is powerful. Once when he was rehearsing the scene, he said he looked out at the crowd and thought that if God wanted to, He could just come down and rule them. Instead He gave His people free will through this suffering and that struck a chord with him.

The role of Mary can be an emotional one as well. For 17-year-old Abby Tibon of St. Paschal Baylon Church in Thornhill, it actually brings her to tears. She said that carrying the body of Jesus in the 13th station is an especially sad moment for her.

Tibon said this play has helped her to accomplish her goal of connecting more with her faith. It was a huge commitment to be a central character, but for her it was an important one. 

“I just really want people to understand how much Jesus loves us and… how much Mary had to sacrifice (in) raising Jesus,” she said.

At Transfiguration of Our Lord parish in Etobicoke, Ont., this year’s Passion play is based on the unique perspectives of the different characters, so there are a lot of monologues. Jessica Tomassi, 16, has to deliver a speech in which Mary struggles with the choice to watch her son die. This emotional moment, she said, makes Mary seem so much more human. 

“Honestly, I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been to be as strong as she was from beginning to end,” Tomassi said. “It’s insane. She had to watch her son die, but she was doing it for God and she had a lot of faith.”

In previous Passion plays, Kasandra Lopez, 15, said playing Mary in St. Joseph the Worker’s production has been an amazing experience.

“It’s really inspiring for me to take on the challenge of playing such a brave character,” she said.

(Gilmor, 20, is a second-year journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto.)

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