Easter play shows 'The Way'

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The Music Ministry of the First Baptist Church of Galax will present its annual Easter musical this weekend, beginning Friday night at 7 p.m. with repeat performances on Saturday and Sunday.
“The Way” will tell about the life of Jesus Christ through drama, choir and orchestra performances.
Making use of its spacious sanctuary, First Baptist Church spends months at a time perfecting three performances each year, for the Fourth of July, Christmas and Easter. For every event, members of the church go all out to make their shows memorable for their audience.

Pastor Sam Bartlett has seen first-hand how much goes into a single production. “It keeps growing every year,” he said. “We are in the process right now of doing a sanctuary renovation — a bigger stage, professional lighting... there’s a lot that goes into making a top notch production,” he said.
Above the stage, two large screens shift through heavenly images of the sun shining through billowy clouds. In the center, a light flashes onto an alcove covered by a curtain, revealing the silhouette of Jesus sacrificing his life on the cross. The images and lights appear and vanish on cue as the vocals from the choir rise and fall.
Bartlett noted that other churches help in any way they can, such as lending instrumental talents to the orchestra.
The orchestra, he said, is made up of 90 percent local talent, noting that some string instruments were brought in from Winston-Salem, N.C.
To form the full production, two to three months of hard work is put in by Wendi Pemberton, the music minister; Art Pemberton, who works with the drama portion of the production; and Linda Bartlett, who is in charge of the orchestra.
Bartlett said that each performance is normally rehearsed for two to three months beforehand, with about a month-long break in between. “It becomes a year-long effort,” he said.
In that time frame, everything is rehearsed and perfected, down to the last etching on the set designs, and the last bead on each costume.
Nancy Carpenter, one of the costume designers, stood next to Jerrod Bennet, clad in priest robes.
To create accurate costumes, Carpenter spent a lot of time doing research on the meaning behind each piece of clothing. “The chief priests in ancient tribes were the only ones who were allowed to talk to God,” she said, noting that to do this, they had to venture into the inner sanctuary of the temple called the Holiest of Holies.
She points to 12 clusters of jewels at the front of the costume. “These stand for the 12 tribes of Israel.”
She points to the sash, “If God ever found disfavor for anyone who entered the temple, he could strike them dead,” she said. So, in order to avoid being struck, those who were unworthy of entry would hold the end of a long sash wrapped around the priest multiple times, and could pull him out if anything happened.
“We have tried to make a presentation that people can become involved with and find in the last scene that it’s made personal for them,” said Art Pemberton, who is both directing the play and playing the part of John the disciple. “We want to show [the audience] that the same love Jesus offered the people back then is still here today.”
Pemberton noted that he and his family have been participants in eight holiday presentations for the church, and this was the first time he had juggled an on-stage and director position.
“It has been fun, but certainly a challenge,” he laughed. “Usually after I’ve directed, I’m ready to be on stage, and after I’ve been on stage for a while, I’m ready to go back to directing. Each thing has its different stress and challenges and things that give me ulcers at night... but somehow, no matter how much we worry and fret, God brings it together in the end and has made this an effective ministry.”
According to Bartlett, a motto of the church is, “Everybody is welcome, nobody is perfect, and everything is possible.”
Through the church’s efforts, he hopes to pass this message on to everyone who sees the play.
“This is an invitation to the community,” he said. “This could be a time for believers to reiterate their faith, or for nonbelievers to find their faith. We hope that this will bring hope to people.”

The Way: Cast List
Jesus - Lyle Hartt
Peter - Ches Helmick
John - Art Pemberton
James - Sam Bartlett
Andrew - Tony Truitt
Matthew/John the Baptist/Herod - John Patterson
Philip/Joseph/Pilate - Kevin Spurlin
Thomas/Shepherd - Stewart Merdian
Bartholomew/Shepherd - John Hutchins
James, son of Alphaeus/1st King - Freddie Bobbitt
Simon the Zealot/2nd King - Mike Coleman
Judas, son of James/3rd King - John Adams
Judas Iscariot/Shepherd - Tim Lewis
Mary - Tara Spurlin
Caiaphas/Joseph of Arimathea - Jerrold Bennett
Pharisee/Townsperson - Paul Walker
Pharisee/Townsperson - Basil Carpenter
Roman Guard/Townsperson - Steve Archer
Birth Angel/Townsperson - Mimi Pemberton
Page/Townsperson - Kemper Coleman
Page/Townsperson - TBA
Adultress - Gay Zachary

Performances of “The Way” are scheduled at the First Baptist Church of Galax on Friday, Saturday and Sunday beginning at 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend free of charge. The church asks guests to consider bringing one or two non-perishable food items to donate to the Willing Partners food bank in Galax. The First Baptist Church is located at 1024 E. Stuart Drive in Galax. For more information, call 236-5185, or visit www.fbcgalax.org.