CORPUS CHRISTI — Last year's Easter Sunrise Passion Play was dedicated to Cecilia Cashion, a longtime organizer who was forced to hand over her duties for health reasons.
The play's program read, "We love you and pray that you will be back with us next year."
The prayers worked, and Cashion is back at the helm.
"I am overflowing with tears as I did not think that I would be back to help with the story of Jesus again this year," Cashion said.
The annual play will start at 7:12 a.m. Sunday at the Corpus Christi Watergarden between the Art Museum of South Texas and the American Bank Center.
Max Moorman, who will play Jesus for the second year, said he plans on participating with the play as long as God wants him to because he loves to see how it affects people.
“I get to walk into the crowd, and you can see on their faces that God has touched them,” he said.
Organizers thought this would be the 69th year of the play, but after reviewing their records they realized this will be the 70th.
The Easter play, which is a representation of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, began as a way to improve relations among teens disgruntled with World War II. An interdenominational church youth group formed in 1942 held the Easter pageant on the bluff with a few youths gathered around a cross. By 1948, members performed on the seawall at the Lawrence Street T-Head with participants in small boats in the marina for a Galilean service.
In 1958, it turned into a theatrical presentation with script, tryouts, costumes, props and sets. By the early 1980s it moved to Cole Park.
The production moved to the Watergarden from Cole Park last year because of construction and will be at the Watergarden again on Sunday.
"Everybody loved it at the Watergarden," said Sue McCauley, a member of the directing team for about 20 years. "And some liked it better."
She said the group is anxious to have the performance at Cole Park again.
"When you're sitting right there at the amphitheater, on the water, it's just beautiful," McCauley said.
She said the play changed slightly when the location did, but it worked out. This year they made some minor adjustments, such as raising the palace setting, so the whole audience gets a front-row seat.
The water recently was shut off at the Watergarden for cleaning but is scheduled to be back on just in time for the sunrise performance.
About 70 people are involved with the play from directing to acting and costume making. Those who want to participate as crowd members can come to dress rehearsal at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Watergarden.
McCauley said whether families participate or watch the play, many have made it a yearly tradition.
And Cashion agrees.
"I'm very happy to be back and see all the families," she said. "We're all in this together."
IF YOU GO
What: 70th Easter Sunrise Passion Play
When: 7:12 a.m. Sunday
Where: The Corpus Christi Watergarden, between the Art Museum of South Texas and the American Bank Center
Bring: Lawn chair, blanket, umbrella
To participate: Come to dress rehearsal from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Corpus Christi Watergarden.
Information: Sue McCauley 960-7220