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The Great Passion Play Celebrates 40 Years With Revamped Drama, Half-Price Tickets


April 18, 2008

Jill M. Rohrbach, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism


Celebrating 40 years, The Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs is offering special ticket prices this season and has revamped its outdoor drama with new narrative and music. While the play opened in July 1968, today there is even more to praise at this complex of biblically based attractions in addition to the play itself.

While the story of the last days of Jesus’ life on earth has not changed in 2,000 years, the way it’s told has changed at The Great Passion Play. This year the play contains parables and text from different gospels in the New Testament, focusing on more miracles Christ performed in the days before his crucifixion and resurrection. Ninety percent of the scenes are new.

"Overall, our new script develops new elements in the character of Jesus," said Rick Mann, artistic director and one of the actors who portrays Jesus. "It shows the impact of Jesus on the lives of Pontius Pilates’ wife, the high priests’ servant Malchus, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea in new and fuller ways, and returns to a focus on the miraculous in the life story of Jesus.

"We strongly believe it will impact audiences in a way like never before," he said. "It will bring them back to The New Great Passion Play and create new fans."

More than 7.4 million people have seen this outdoor drama performed in the hills of the Ozark Mountains in the past 40 years. For this special season, tickets are half price if purchased by April 30 and used by July 31. The Great Passion Play runs from May 2 to Oct. 25 except for Sundays and Wednesdays. The drama is performed on a 550-foot outdoor stage with 250 actors and live animals. The grounds also include museums, arts centers, tours of a recreated New Holy Land and a restaurant.

About the Play

Performed in a 4,100-seat panoramic outdoor amphitheater, The Great Passion Play features state-of-the-art sound and lighting effects and original music in a dramatic two-hour presentation of the last days of Jesus’ life on earth. For tickets, phone 800-882-7529 and visit www.greatpassionplay.com.

Christ of the Ozarks

One of the most visited attractions in the Ozarks, the Christ of the Ozarks statue with its arms open wide is a ubiquitous presence overlooking Eureka Springs. It is the largest Christ memorial statue on the North American continent. Completed in 1966 by the late Emmet Sullivan, one of the artisans who sculpted Mount Rushmore, the statue stands seven stories high and weighs more than two million pounds. Every inch of the 24 layers of white mortar on a steel frame was built by hand. The hands, from wrist to fingertip, measure approximately seven feet. The arm spread from fingertip to fingertip spans 65 feet.

The Christ of the Ozarks is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, free of charge. The statue and grounds are handicapped accessible by a gently sloping paved walkway. However, vehicular access is limited to a parking area a few yards from the statue.

New Holy Land Tour

This two and a half hour Biblical teaching tour explores the ancient Middle-Eastern culture in which Jesus was raised. Visitors meet characters from the time of Moses to the time of Christ. The Sea of Galilee, where Jesus walks on water, is just one of thirty-eight historically accurate exhibits re-created for the production.

Trams take visitors to each of the exhibits spread throughout the wooded hillsides of the Passion Play grounds. The tour is open on the same days as the play performances with departure times every 15 minutes beginning at 10 a.m. The last tour begins at 3:30 p.m. Space is limited and reservations are required.

Bible Museum

The Bible Museum highlights the Word of God with a compilation of more than 6,000 original Bibles, manuscripts and artifacts in 625 languages and dialects. It is one of the largest of its kind in the United States. Some of the important translations and historical exhibits include: Coverdale’s Bible, the first complete Bible translated into English; Greek New Testament published by Erasmus in 1516; original 1611 King James Version, a first addition “HE” Bible, so called because of the typographical error in Ruth 3:15.

The museum is open the same days as the play performances and admission is included with the purchase of a performance ticket or New Holy Land Tour pass. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (7 p.m. after Labor Day).

Sacred Arts Center

From 18th century woodcarvings and 17th century paintings to exquisite ceramics and challenging modern day images, the Sacred Arts center contains a stunning collection of religious and inspirational art. The center’s collection includes two and three dimensional art pieces in many diverse mediums, including: original oils on canvas painted by early Masters and 20th century artists; a cameo head of Christ in Italian rose marble relief on white marble, contained in a rare claw-based carved wood frame dating back to 800 A.D.; Edward Goodman Lewis’ The Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan; Edward Runci’s My God, My God, Why Has Thou Forsaken Me?; the Royal Dresden china pieces representing the Last Supper as commissioned by Kaiser Wilhelm I.

It also has an important collection of original Christian-themed art by American artist Harry Antis. The series of 12 paintings is titled “A Man from Nazareth named Jesus.” The arts center is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (7 p.m. after Labor Day) the same days at the play is performed.

Museum of Earth History

This museum features a collection of dinosaur fossils and focuses on the biblical account of the creation of earth. It relays the biblical story of the earth’s beginnings by starting with the creation story in the book of Genesis in the Bible and continuing through the great flood to the tower of Babel to the global ice age.

On exhibit are more than 14 life-sized skeleton skulls and fossil plates. All the skeletons in the museum are research replicas, highly detailed casts of the original fossils. Displays in the museum include Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops and the Woolly Mammoth. These replicas are the same as those found in all major museums around the world, including the Smithsonian.

Information boards throughout the museum explain the biblical perspective, along with a guided audio tour via headphones. The museum strives to provide a scientifically plausible history of the earth in relation to the Bible. The exhibits provide a unique blend of religion, history, and science for viewers.

Parables of the Potter

Free before each Passion Play performance a potter shares how God shapes all things as he creates a piece of art. Standing before his wheel molding clay into form, the potter teaches from inspirational passages of the scriptures, including Jeremiah 18.

The Tabernacle Tour

Join a “Levitical Priest” inside the Tabernacle as he explains the spiritual significance of the Tabernacle. The tour begins at 4:30 p.m. during the regular season.

Church in the Grove

A favorite ceremony location for many wedding couples, the Church in the Grove is a quaint, vintage country church. Originally built more than 100 years ago in Eureka Springs, the church was relocated to The Great Passion Play grounds and restored in 1986. Couples can also choose an outdoor wedding at the Christ of the Ozark statue.

Berlin Wall

An original 10-foot-by-10-foot section of the Berlin Wall stands next to the Church in the Grove. When the wall came down, The Great Passion Play acquired this piece as a tribute to the spirit of all people who risk their lives to believe and practice their Christian faith.

Restaurant and Snack Bar

The Snack Bar on the grounds serves large slices of pizza, hot dogs, chips and cold drinks. The restaurant provides an all-you-can-eat buffet that features a variety of entrees, hot vegetables, salads, desserts and beverages. The buffet is open on play nights from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. (7 p.m. after Labor Day) and daily from noon to 2 p.m. for lunch. A playground and picnic area is also available.

Gift Shops

Two shops provide a wide variety of special items, including T-shirts, religious keepsakes, inspirational tapes, books, jewelry, Christmas items, souvenirs and home decor. The shops also feature items for children and pottery made by the potter who performs the Parables of the Potter. Gift Certificates are available or shop online for Passion Play gifts at www.thegreatpassionplay.com.

Special Performances and Events

An Easter Sunrise Service at the Christ of the Ozarks Statue is held at 7 a.m. on Easter morning. A guest speaker conducts the service, which also features special music. There is also a Memorial Day salute to veterans and active duty military each Memorial Day weekend, a Labor Day Gospel Celebration and a month-long Christmas Music Celebration.

If You Go

Along with the many offerings of the Passion Play grounds, Eureka Springs has quaint shops, charming Victorian architecture, scenic outdoor opportunities, numerous restaurants and a wide variety of lodging accommodations. Eureka Springs is the only city in the country whose entire downtown area is on the National Register of Historic Places. Call 1-800-6EUREKA or visit eurekasprings.org. for more information. Eureka Springs is located 48 miles south of Branson, Missouri.

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Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, 501-682-7606
E-mail: info@arkansas.com

May be used without permission. Credit line is appreciated:
"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"

ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF PARKS & TOURISM
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