By DAWNE LEIKER
Scenes from the last supper were brought to life by farmers, delivery drivers, a physician and many other working men and women Saturday night at Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.
"The Living Last Supper," directed by Naomi Jantz and written by Dr. Ruth Vaughn, has been performed annually in southwest Kansas for 10 years and came to Hays through a collaboration with the Ellis County Ministerial Alliance.
Cast and staff members represent churches from Bucklin, Ford, Kingsdown, Minneola and Dodge City.
"The guys and gals doing the acting ... They'll be on a tractor come harvest time," said North Oak Community Church Pastor Ken Ediger. "They're just ordinary people. They've been called to make the story real, which is pretty awesome."
Ediger took the opportunity to lead the more than 800 audience members in a time of reflection following the drama.
"We've seen the amazing true account of Jesus coming into the world," he said. "May our response tonight certainly be a 'yes' to Jesus."
Jantz became involved in "The Living Last Supper" 20 years ago when she and her husband, Orlando, a Presbyterian pastor, lived in Pueblo, Colo. After they moved to Kansas, she directed the drama at Dodge City Community College and then Bucklin, moving it to Dodge City Civic Center three years ago. Saturday's performance marks its first time in Hays.
Hours of preparation and prayer have gone into producing the drama through the years, and Orlando Jantz told audience members a little about his wife's dedication to the project.
"Many a night, I would wake up and I'd reach over and see if I could touch her," he said. "She wasn't there. I got up, and I went to my office. There she was on her knees praying ... concerned for the drama."
Preceding the performance and intermittently throughout the drama, the rich sounds of the Daybreak Quartet provided background music. The Daybreak Quartet is based in Georgia and presents more than 175 concerts yearly, both nationally and internationally.
Audience members related how they were affected by the presentation.
"I wish everybody could have come to see this," said Mary Ladd Dague, Victoria, who read about the drama in her church bulletin. "I hope they (the performers) come back. It was wonderful."
Kyleen Stimpert, an office administrative assistant who has played Rachel in the drama for three years said she met Orlando and Naomi Jantz through church.
Stimpert had been attending the production regularly in Bucklin, and when the decision was made to move it to Dodge City, she asked if there was anything she could do to help.
"About a month or two later, Naomi said she'd been praying about it," Stimpert said. "God is leading me to you. I want you to be Rachel."
Initially, Stimpert's reaction was to say, "No, God, not this, not me." But she accepted the challenge, and has enjoyed being a part of the production every since.
"It's very powerful," she said. "It's a whole different angle from other stories we've seen. I love the camaraderie of the disciples and how they interact with each other."