Jesus’ final meal with his 12 apostles was famously depicted in Leonardo DaVinci’s classic painting “The Last Supper.”
This week, the painting and the meal come to life at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Bull Street in downtown Columbia.
The Living Last Supper is a project that pastor Tony Metze has been doing for more than 20 years, said Paula Benson, the production’s director. Metze came to St. Paul’s in 2007, and the church began putting on the production in 2008 and has continued doing so every two years.
With costumes and a set matching the famous painting, Metze plays the role of Jesus and 12 other actors play the apostles. Many are members of St. Paul’s, but several are members of other churches, making it a multi-denominational project.
This year’s production also includes three female actors playing the roles of Joanna, Susanna and Mary Magdalene, three women who are recorded in the Gospel of Luke as often accompanying the 12 apostles. In the Living Last Supper, they tell the story of the days between Palm Sunday, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, and the day of the Last Supper, while they are setting the table for the meal.
Throughout the production, the action often freezes.
“Narrators talk about who is in the picture and how they’re positioned…to express certain emotions,” Benson said.
The production also includes a singing solo by Mary Magdalene. In the past, she has sung “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from “Jesus Christ Superstar.” More recently, she has sung “World Without End,” an original song written by Benson and Frank Fusco. A musician plays a guitar and cello throughout the production, which also includes a hymn sung by the apostles and a rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer” when Jesus offers the bread and wine.
The 12 apostles come off the stage to offer The Lord’s Supper to the audience. They return to their places to recreate the painting. Then, “Jesus calls Judas forward and tells him to do what he must do,” Benson said. The curtain closes with the sun rising and a cock crowing, Benson said.
The Living Last Supper will be presented Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but the cast will be collecting donations for Transitions, a nonprofit providing resources to the homeless in Columbia. Large groups may make reservations by calling (803) 779-0030. St. Paul’s is located on the corner of Bull and Blanding streets.