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CLC kicks off 16th annual Easter play which focuses this year on Jesus' disciple Peter

For 15 years the Christian Life Center has offered an Easter play with a special message. The 16th annual performance will continue that tradition as the audience discovers that no matter what you have done, God still loves you.

CLC's Nancy Ward and her husband, Scott, are directing this year's play, "Redeemer, Savior, Friend," the story of the disciple Peter and his relationship with Jesus.

"Peter had a lot of times when he failed," Ward said. "He wasn't like a rock, but Jesus called him that because he knew that's what he'd (Peter) become."

"… Jesus can transform your life into how God sees us because he knows what we can become," said Ward.

The play goes on, she said, to talk about Peter's feelings of failure when he denied Christ and of resolving that after the resurrection of Christ.

The play also includes Peter's family. In the Bible, Ward noted, Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law. The boats Jesus used probably were Peter's. Peter's home was by the ocean and the disciples probably crashed there during their travels. So the play includes the characters of Peter's wife and daughter.

Lori Young, on furlough from a ministry to Spain, plays Peter's wife. "She's a beautiful singer," Ward said.

David Delong, a main character in last year's production, will play Peter. The role of Jesus will be filled by a new person, Ed Montoya.

Ward said Delong has been part of the cast for years. His family also participates. His wife, Dianne, portrays Joanna, one of the women who went to Jesus' tomb, and three of his four children have speaking parts. The fourth appears with the townspeople.

Montoya has been participating in the dramas for years, but never has had a major role. The man who had portrayed Jesus for several years decided to step aside to give somebody else a chance, Ward explained. He said he would do it if no one else stepped up.

"Ed called the next day and said 'it's been on my heart,' " Ward said. She gave him a tough audition with a couple of difficult emotional spots. When he finished, he had the part.

Montoya's family also participates in the drama. His 6-year-old daughter, who has experience with the Missoula Children's Theater, has a speaking line, and his wife is a backstage coordinator.

A Stevensville family also participates. Rick Reissing designed the stage. Two of his three daughters are in the drama and his wife, said Ward, is a beautiful singer.

"One of the things with this drama, the whole family can jump in and do it. They're all together and do it as a family," she explained.

The cast includes 107 people, with all but four or five from CLC. Participation is open to any church member, but other churches often have their own activities, Ward said.

Ward and her husband also are the drama's music directors.

"A lot of our stuff (music) is coming out of new worship stuff out of England where they're having a revival," Ward said. Some of the music is simple choruses; some are songs.

Music for the crucifixion scene, "Redeemer Save Your Friend," for example, is from a worship album released last year.

"I went looking for music, but didn't find any," Ward said. "We get pretty contemporary in music (for the play)." So she expanded her search and found wedding music on a big worship recording made in Jerusalem for Messianic people. "The Wedding Feast at Cana" will be among the drama's music.

She also found a song that will be sung partly in Hebrew: "Roni, Roni Bat Zion," and other music which had been recorded by a Midwest church that was undergoing a revival. " … a lot of the music is coming from different church sources," Ward added.

Although there is no charge for tickets, a free-will offering will be accepted.

The play, staged at the CLC, 3801 Russell St., opened Friday and continues Saturday and Sunday and again Wednesday through Sunday, April 19-23, at 7:30 p.m. On Saturday, April 22, a 3 p.m. matinee will be shown, and on Easter Sunday the play will begin at 6 p.m.

The dramas have drawn between 5,000 and 6,000 people each year, Ward said. "On Good Friday weekend, if you want a seat, come early or come the first weekend,"

Donna Syvertson can be contacted through her e-mail: dsyvertson@missoulian.com.

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