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Monday, February 11, 2008

UB story: "Living Stations" takes the stage during Lent

“Living Stations” takes the stage during Lent

By Wendy A. Hoke

The sanctuary of St. Jude Church in Elyria is quiet on this cold January night, but it’s about to rock as 17 high school seniors rehearse, “The Living Stations of the Cross.”

“Jesus on three. One, two, three, Jesus!” they shout and it’s places for everyone.

“What was it like?” begins narrator, Breanna Wisnor. “What were they thinking? They were just like us—ordinary people living ordinary lives. Join us now as we walk with those who walked with Christ.”

Two by two, students process up the center aisle as a quartet of student musicians perform. The mood is solemn, reverent, but never staid. This is not a quiet performance.

Dressed in black, with the exception of Dylan Alcorn who is dressed in white as Jesus, the students hold a freeze frame while the narrator recites the stations. Then one of the characters leaves the frame and shares a monologue with the congregation.

“Don’t look at me,” says Angelo Cataldo as Pontius Pilate. “I didn’t bring him here.”

“I don’t want to watch this, can’t bear to watch it. Why?” shouts Mike Pienoski as Peter.

For the 11th year, St. Jude’s Elyria Teens for Christ perform at their own parish and at others around the diocese, this moving, contemporary approach to the Stations of the Cross.

Directed by Dean Robinson, youth minister at St. Jude, the performance follows the script written by Father Patrick O’Connor, who was associate pastor when the performance first began.

Joining in this effort are students from Elyria Catholic High School, Elyria High School, St. Ignatius High School, Amherst Steele High School and Lorain Early College. The students share a close bond that was forged when most attended St. Jude grade school together. And they share a script with powerful, modern language that relates to their world and to others who watch their performance.

“The script is what makes it click,” says Robinson. “It’s very dynamic and powerful and the audience is hearing what the characters of the time may have been thinking.”

Robinson says the other important piece is how the cast is selected. There’s a necessary level of trust to be formed between them, given the emotional and spiritual nature of the performance.

Jaynie Taylor is a senior at Elyria Catholic and she’s playing the second woman, a role she’s had for three years now. “It’s the first time I’ve been able to do something interactive with my faith. It’s a great way to demonstrate my faith, especially when we perform at my school,” she says.

Piensoki is a senior at St. Ignatius. He says he enjoys acting, but because of his other school activities, never had the chance. He was Simon last year and chose Peter for this year’s performance. “Simon was more annoyed, but Peter is sad because he’s seeing his best friend die and he played a part. The most challenging part is capturing that emotion,” he says.

Megan Anderson, who plays Mary, and Courtney Lutke, who plays Veronica, agree that the challenge is in the emotion. “Mary is watching her son die and she’s angry at him for choosing this path, but she’s also sad and proud. She portrays every emotion,” says Anderson.

“To see the feedback we get,” says violinist Mari Foisy, “some people are in tears. A little girl last year asked for everyone’s autograph. It’s amazing. Plus we are really having fun together.”

Robinson stops them occasionally during their rehearsal for a few pointed directions here and there, but mostly he enjoys helping them to bring out their faith. By 10 p.m. the rehearsal is over.

“I think we’re good. Jesus loves you, now get out,” he jokes.

Hoke is a freelance writer.

Performances of “The Living Stations of the Cross”
Feb. 22, St. Joseph Church in Amherst
Feb. 24, Queen of Peace in Grafton
Feb. 29 call (440) 366-5711 for location
March 29 call (440) 366-5711 for location
March 7, St. Mary Church in Elyria
March 9, St. Clarence Church in North Olmsted
March 14, Holy Family in Stow
March 16, St. Jude Church in Elyria / Palm Sunday

All performances begin at 7 p.m. and are open to the public.

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