The New Melle Community Passion Play is presenting its 40th-anniversary production celebrating Easter

By Brett Auten

It’s a small community that pulls off a grand production.

The New Melle Community Passion Play is presenting its 40th-anniversary production the last weekend of March and the first weekend of April.

It is a musical drama depicting the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry, including his death and resurrection. For the past four decades, cast and crew from all walks of life join together to create this vivid telling of Rodger Strader’s “Then Came Sunday.”

At the heart of the production is Paul Mittler, the director, and narrator, who was one of the original actors to play Jesus. His son, Adam, has now taken the reins in the role. The rest of the cast comes from throughout the area, from every denomination, to sing and act in this true passion project.

“In a way, (the play) has become my main spirituality center,” Mittler said. “The teachings it has portrayed have been very important in my life. God has answered a few of my prayers and this is my way of paying him back.”

The Passion Play has grown to become a must-see Easter event and is held at the New Melle Sports and Recreation complex at 4700 Hwy Z in New Melle on March 28 at 7 p.m., March 29 at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., April 4 at 7 p.m., and April 5 at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Admission is free, and seating is on a first-come first-seated basis. What donation money that does come to the production, it is used to purchase spotlights, sound equipment and staging.

The play began as a labor of love by Mariam and Gene Steward and has now been embraced by Mittler, Donna Curdt and the many who are involved in the production as well as those who return every year to watch the portrayal.

The volunteer actors, singers and people behind the scenes bring a new twist and different talents each year, breathing fresh life into the production. The ability to be flexible and multi-tasking is a key component in being a member of the team and in putting on the production. Oftentimes characters are playing multiple roles, switching into different costumes during the play. And on more than one occasion, there have been four generations of family on one stage.

“It comes down to the wire every year,” Mittler said. “There will be a former cast member in the audience and we’re like, ‘we need you in costume.’ And they do it with a smile on their face.”

Ideally, Mittler and, company would like to have 50-to-60 members to help flush out the cast.

The level of commitment to keep this non-denominational production thriving for 40 years is heartening.  Actors and singers, who dabble in the craft at best, trickle in from all over including Lincoln, Warren, and St. Charles counties and as far away as House Springs and Elsberry.

“It has changed a little over the years,” Mittler said. “We have had some good local support and some who come a pretty good distance to support or come to be with us.”

For groups or more information call 636-634-1150, email at nmpassion@gmail.com or check out the Facebook at New Melle Community Passion Play.

CUTLINE: Submitted photos The New Melle Community Passion Play is held at the New Melle Sports and Recreation complex, 4700 Hwy Z, New Melle, MO 63385 on March 28 at 7 pm, March 29 at 2 and 4:30 pm, April 4 at 7, and April 5 at 2 and 4:30 pm. Admission is free, and seating is on a first-come first-seated basis.