‘Were You There’ — Saluting the glorious Alapaha Easter Passion Play

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Fifteen Technicolor photos convey the Alapaha Easter Passion Play dress rehearsal held at the historic Alapaha Gym in South Georgia, the occasion of the volunteer-driven play’s 21st anniversary. In the accompanying candid Jesus Christ, effortlessly portrayed by returning champ Jeremy Hyers, diligently seeks his heavenly father’s counsel in the Garden of Gethsemane on March 15, 2015, during a Sunday afternoon practice session in the rural community of Alapaha. Photography by Hayne Norton

Five hundred and counting South Georgia citizens were spiritually uplifted when the 21st anniversary edition of the Alapaha Easter Passion Play debuted at the Alapaha Gym in Berrien County to a crowd shattering the previous year’s attendance.

Dedicated to original guiding light Marian Dixon, who succumbed to ovarian cancer just five weeks before the play’s debut, “Were You There” consisted of nearly 100 non-denominational cast, choir, and crew members united in chronicling the oft-tension-fueled final days of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry.

Scenes were faithfully depicted of the disciples fishing near the Sea of Galilee, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, encountering greedy merchants inside the Temple, Jesus’ miraculous healing power, the Samaritan woman at the well, the Lord’s Supper, Jesus praying to his Heavenly Father for leadership in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas’ incomprehensible betrayal, Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ultimate ascension to Heaven.

Fourteen images captured by photographer Hayne Norton during dress rehearsal as well as a Sunday afternoon practice session are uncovered below in case you’re curious about all the hubbub or simply wish to revisit the community-wide event held on March 29, 2015, that left patrons astounded and sharing the gospel for days afterward.

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Jesus of Nazareth [Jeremy Hyers] prepares to miraculously heal the crippled boy [Weston Clamp] on March 27, 2015, during dress rehearsal for the 21st anniversary edition of the Alapaha Easter Passion Play in Alapaha, Georgia. Photography by Hayne Norton
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Lathan Tucker is overjoyed beyond belief after being brought back from the dead by Jesus. Mother Lisa Waller Tucker looks on in amazement during dress rehearsal on March 27, 2015, for the 21st anniversary edition of the Alapaha Easter Passion Play held at the Alapaha Gym in Alapaha, Georgia. Photography by Hayne Norton
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Jesus Christ, portrayed by the always reliable Jeremy Hyers, greets children Lathan Tucker, Maddie Vickers, Morgan Jones, Allie Bleu Tucker, Takia Hamilton, Lily Nugent, Anna Claire Nugent, and Sarah Grace Nugent during dress rehearsal for the Alapaha Easter Passion Play on Friday, March 27, 2015, at the Alapaha Gym in Alapaha, Georgia. Photography by Hayne Norton
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A bearded Judas Iscariot [Dave Dillingham] rushes away from the Lord’s Supper with 30 pieces of silver after scheming with Pontius Pilate to crucify the Son of God during dress rehearsal for “Were You There,” the 21st edition of the Alapaha Passion Play, on March 27, 2015. Photography by Hayne Norton
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Roman soldiers Jason Owen and Kalen Dillingham forcefully arrest Jesus and lead him away from the Garden of Gethsemane wrapped in heavy chains to face Pontius Pilate on March 27, 2015, during dress rehearsal for the 21st anniversary edition of the Alapaha Easter Passion Play. Photography by Hayne Norton
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The high priests [Reverend Larry Hauser of Alapaha United Methodist Church and Harold Dillingham] prepare for the unfair trial of Jesus Christ during Alapaha Easter Passion Play dress rehearsal on March 27, 2015, at the Alapaha Gym in Alapaha, Georgia. Photography by Hayne Norton
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Roman soldier Kalen Dillingham forces a passerby named Simon of Cyrene [Scentry Dorsey] to carry Jesus’ cross to the Hill of Golgotha during dress rehearsal on March 27, 2015, for the 21st anniversary edition of the Alapaha Easter Passion Play. Photography by Hayne Norton
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Jesus Christ [Jeremy Hyers] winces in sheer agony during the crucifixion while Roman soldiers Jason Owen and Kalen Dillingham blatantly gamble for his crimson robe at the Alapaha Easter Passion Play dress rehearsal held on March 27, 2015. Photography by Hayne Norton
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The day he wore my crown: Jesus Christ [Jeremy Hyers] hangs all alone on the cross at Calvary paying mankind’s sin debt on March 27, 2015, during dress rehearsal for “Were You There,” the 21st anniversary edition of the Alapaha Easter Passion Play. Photography by Hayne Norton
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Jesus has triumphantly overcome death as he sits at the right hand of God on March 27, 2015, during Friday evening dress rehearsal for the Alapaha Easter Passion Play in the historic Alapaha Gym. Crown bearers Anna Claire Nugent, Lily Nugent, Sarah Grace Nugent, Takia Hamilton, angels Morgan Jones and Jordan Lindsey, and miraculously healed crippled boy Weston Clamp complete the Heaven scene finale. Notice Jones slow dancin’ and swayin’ to the music. Photography by Hayne Norton
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The Alapaha Easter Passion Play choir poses on the steps of the historic Alapaha Gym on March 27, 2015, during dress rehearsal for “Were You There,” the 21st anniversary edition of the Alapaha Easter Passion Play. Photography by Hayne Norton
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Disciples Jeremy Roberts [James], Steven Brown, Michael Davis, Dave Dillingham [Judas Iscariot], Marlon Harris [Peter], Jarret Dean, Andrew Powell [Andrew], Llewellyn Boone, Donald Stodghill, Jeff Chavis, Greg Exum [John], and the late Eddie Owen [Matthew the tax collector] flank Jesus Christ [Jeremy Hyers] in the Garden of Gethsemane on March 15, 2015, after a taxing Sunday afternoon practice session at the Alapaha Gym in anticipation of the Alapaha Easter Passion Play. Photography by Hayne Norton
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A dazzling array of angels, crown bearers, dancers, and children seeking the Son of God’s healing touch converge on March 15, 2015, during a Sunday afternoon practice session for “Were You There,” the 21st anniversary edition of the Alapaha Easter Passion Play held in Alapaha, Georgia. Standing are Yashanti DeBerry, Morgan Jones, Max Lindsey, Maddie Vickers, Holt Dixon, Camille White, Katie Lindsey, and Weston Clamp. Seated are Landon Exum and Jeremy Hyers [Jesus Christ]. Photography by Hayne Norton
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As Jesus of Nazareth, Jeremy Hyers spends time with children Anna Claire Nugent, Lathan Tucker, Allie Bleu Tucker, Sarah Grace Nugent, and Lily Nugent on March 15, 2015, during rehearsals for “Were You There,” the 21st anniversary edition of the Alapaha Easter Passion Play. Photography by Hayne Norton

© Jeremy Roberts, 2015, 2018. All rights reserved. To touch base, email jeremylr@windstream.net and mention which story led you my way. I appreciate it sincerely.

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Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net

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