For more information about “Bow the Knee,” including how to get tickets or volunteer in a future production, visit www.bowtheknee.com.
When “Bow the Knee” started 12 years ago, it was a small musical about the crucifixion of Jesus performed one Sunday morning before about 250 people at Liberty Bible Church of the Nazarene in Salmon Creek.
Since then, the Passion play has grown into a production run by hundreds of volunteers from at least 15 different Clark County and Portland churches. “Bow the Knee” now offers four shows at a larger venue — Crossroads Community Church in Vancouver — and attracts about 5,000 audience members a year.
“It’s very well done,” said James Taylor, worship pastor at Liberty Bible and director of the show. “It’s not a church play. It’s a major production.”
On Sunday, the show’s 100-person choir, 80 other performers and support staff of about 100 were at Liberty Bible for a dress rehearsal before performances this week, March 19-22. Tickets to the musical are free, and for event organizers, the show provides a powerful way to spread their message.
For more information about "Bow the Knee," including how to get tickets or volunteer in a future production, visit www.bowtheknee.com.
Typically, about 60 to 70 percent of their audience are people who have never seen the show before, Taylor said. “There’s a lot more new people coming, and people are responding.”
The musical is loosely based on the biblical story of the crucifixion of Jesus, but it tells the story from the point of view of Anthony, a leader in the Roman army. Anthony is tasked with overseeing Jesus’ crucifixion, but in the end, he becomes a believer in Jesus and bows before him on the cross.
“Back then, there was only one person you bowed to, and that was Caesar,” said Rey Reynolds of Vancouver, who plays Anthony. Bowing a knee to Jesus “was, in effect, a suicide” for Anthony, Reynolds added.
This will be Reynolds’ second year playing Anthony. He was roped into the role last year after the person who was supposed to play Anthony got sick.
First, a member of his congregation at Battle Ground Foursquare Church told him he should think about playing Anthony, but Reynolds wasn’t so sure. Then Reynolds bumped into an old friend who suggested the same thing. That was followed by a phone call from Taylor, who asked if he’d play Anthony.
“And that’s all in the same day,” Reynolds recalled. “I said, ‘OK, whatever you say, Lord.’ “
Reynolds said his involvement in the musical has taught him that “the Lord can use anybody. … It strengthened my faith tremendously.”
The same could be said for Jason and Nicole Parrish of Washougal, who have each performed in “Bow the Knee” eight times.
Jason Parrish said he’d been attending church with his wife for about 10 years because he figured it was the right thing to do, and because “it was better for our kids,” but he didn’t really believe in what was said during the sermons.
“I was pretty stubborn,” he said. Then his wife took him to see “Bow the Knee,” and it persuaded him.
“I was crying,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be involved and help spread the message as well.”
This year, Nicole Parrish is a member of the choir, which portrays the townspeople.
Her husband has a more menacing role. He plays Marcus, another member of the Roman army who disapproves of Anthony’s softening toward the Jewish people. Marcus also is involved in some violent parts of the crucifixion scene, which includes hammers, whips and fake blood.
“It’s an intense play,” Jason Parrish said.
Taylor added that “Bow the Knee” might be too scary for younger children.
During the dress rehearsal Sunday, choir members carried baskets of produce and sang to each other about “Jesus the miracle man.” One woman held up cue cards telling the group to smile, to move forward or to stay behind Jesus. Between scenes, another woman let the cast know when the lights would be turned off and on.
All of the finishing touches will be added before they perform at Crossroads, organizers said. That includes elaborate sets and even live lambs for the musical’s birth-of-Christ scene.
Mark Dahl, who has played the role of Jesus all 12 years, marveled on Sunday at how far the musical has come.
“I never expected it to be this big,” Dahl said.