The earliest dramatic representations of the Crucifixion, in Latin verse, were given early in the 13th Century. One hundred years later, Passion Plays were being performed by amateur players in both German and French. At the height of their popularity, in the middle of the 15th Century, they had developed into elaborate productions requiring three days to perform.
Of the passion Plays performed in modern times, the best known is one dating from 1634 at Oberammergau in the Bavarian Alps. In 1939, some immigrants from Germany presented the first performance of the Black Hills Passion Play in Spearfish, South Dakota.
More than 150 players re-enact this most touching of dramas. Mounted Roman soldiers sweep across the 1,000 foot stage; sheep wander across the hillside; a powerful sound system carries the dialogue faithfully drawn from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. A talented team of directors, producers, and costume designers work throughout the year to create this experience.
The Passion Play is not a spectacle. Rather, it is a prayerful expression of the faith of the people involved. Men, women, and children from many denominations have come together to make this a truly Ecumenical experience. The unity among the players is a visible sign of the Holy Spirit.