‘The Great Passion Play’ & Christ of the Ozarks
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
The two-hour performance begins with the resurrection of Lazarus and ends when Jesus disappears in a cloud of smoke into the night sky above the 4,000-seat amphitheater.
“We’re always asking, ‘How can we make the character and person of Jesus reach out and grab people?’” said Kent Butler, who plays the role of Jesus. “By the time Jesus disappears in the cloud, everyone is on their feet.”
Before the play, groups are invited to take the Holy Land Tour, a three-hour guided tour through a replica of the East Jerusalem gate and marketplace to exhibits like Moses’ wilderness tabernacle, the Nativity and the upper room. Actors interact with groups along the way, including in a scene where Jesus walks on water. Groups can also spend time in the Bible Museum and the Sacred Arts Museum.
Overlooking the park is Christ of the Ozarks, built in 1966. The 67-foot-high memorial to Jesus has outstretched arms and seven-foot-long hands. It’s the ninth-tallest statue in the United States.
Special for Groups
Unique to “The Great Passion Play” is the opportunity for group members who have already seen the performance to appear as extras alongside the 170 other actors and animals. Up to 20 group members can apply. “I get with the group about an hour before the play, get them into wardrobe and make sure they know where to go,” Butler said. “That’s not something you typically get to do.”
Nestled in the woods just outside Eureka Springs is an architectural wonder and one of the most beautiful modern chapels in the world. Thorncrown Chapel is constructed with wood and has 425 windows and more than 6,000 square feet of glass. It sits atop 100 tons of native stone. The free stop is a must for groups. The best way to see Eureka Springs is on a historic tram tour that stops at the 1886 Crescent Hotel as well as one of the 1,200 springs in the area. Coincidentally, several former “Passion Play” actors serve as tour guides. Also fun for groups is Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, a 450-acre big-cat refuge that gets visitors up close to tigers, lions, leopards and cougars that have been rescued from all over the nation.