Students take on sacred roles for annual Easter Pageant production
Undoubtedly, one of the most prestigious honors at the university is being asked to play the lead characters in the annual Easter Pageant.
Senior vocal performance major Maddie Garcia will fill the role of Jesus’ mother, Mary this year. Senior chemistry major Chase Riggs will play Jesus.
When Garcia was told of her selection for the part last year, she admits to being both excited and overwhelmed.
“I felt very unworthy, almost.”
Heavily involved in the university’s music department through concert choir, One Voice and the opera workshop, Garcia is no stranger to performing. However, she said this role is much different from those she is used to playing.
“In other shows, you come, get on stage and go to the rehearsals, and it’s like a light switch,” she said. “But with Easter Pageant, I want to, and I need to, be living my life as much like Mary as far as wanting to be a strong, Christian woman …. It’s much more of a spiritual and emotional challenge as opposed to a technical challenge.”
In preparing for the part, Garcia has studied what the Bible says about Mary and hopes to portray some of the characteristics she sees in her.
“She had so much trust and so much strength through all of it. To me, she comes across as being so loyal and trusting and faithful and obedient and strong,” Garcia said.
Though she has struggled with the weight of the role, Garcia said she is learning to be patient in seeing God’s plan for her through it.
“It just feels like a lot to live up to, but I just trust that the Lord is going to be using me in any way he can or has planned,” she said. “Whether it’s me learning from other people, or me teaching other people, I have to keep in mind — because it is so overwhelming — that I have some purpose.”
Director of Student Organizations Tiffany Wurdemann has met weekly with Garcia throughout the year to help mentor her through the process of playing Mary. She said said it is Garcia’s sense of inadequacy that makes her perfect for the part.
“If you ask her, she feels the most unworthy person to be Mary, and you can tell through someone’s character if they’re just saying that or if they really mean it. She really, truly means it,” Wurdemann said. “That’s been something
that, as we’ve been discovering who Mary was, that was Mary. I feel like that alone is why she’s perfect for that.”
Long hair and an impressive beard give Chase Riggs away as the role of Jesus, but unlike Garcia, he is not used to being center stage.
Throughout his time at the university, Riggs has been behind the scenes for almost every major event from Stunt Night to the Miss Mary Hardin-Baylor Pageant, so when he discovered he had been chosen for the spotlight, Riggs almost couldn’t believe it.
“I was humbled by the selection, as well as grateful for the opportunity,” he said.
Early on, Riggs felt the pressure of trying to live up to Christ’s example of perfection, not wanting to mess up.
“Finally I just had to come to the realization that as much as I try, I’m not going to be Jesus….Despite everything …when the process is over, I’m going to cut my hair and my beard and I’m going to be Chase,” he said.
Through having to balance Easter Pageant with other responsibilities, like student teaching, Riggs has discovered a lot about time management.
“It’s been a process,” he said. “I’ve learned that I do pretty good under the pressure. When it comes down to crunch time, I can do what I’ve got to do.”
The role of Jesus has also taught him how to be expressive.
“I’ve had to learn to be more open with people,” he said. “I’m still not the most outgoing person you’ll ever meet, but I’m definitely more open to talking about what I do and why I do it.”
Riggs said portraying the gospel makes it real, and he recently came to see the opportunity as a gift.
“It’s an honor that he would choose us despite our imperfections. Despite our not always choosing him, he still chooses us to tell his story,” he said. “For those of us doing this, it’s our act of worship….I believe, as he’s always done, God will honor that.”
Director of Campus Activities and Adviser for Easter Pageant Mike McCarthy mentors the person who portrays Jesus each year and has enjoyed getting to see elements of each of them in the role.
He said, “We get to see a fuller picture of who he is through all of the young men who’ve played Christ in the past and to come.”
Through Riggs, McCarthy said he mostly sees a calm, steady love.
“I don’t think you could make Chase not love someone, and that sets him apart. And that will be the lesson I’ll always remember he taught me.”
Though many, including Riggs and Garcia, are involved in the production, McCarthy’s desire for Easter Pageant is that viewers don’t see the people, but the message.
He said, “I hope that all of us fade away, that Chase fades away, that Maddie fades away, I fade away, and they just see, hear and understand in a way they never have before, the gospel of Christ.”