Both Central Wesleyan in Holland and Magnify Church in Rockford have added theatrical elements to several presentations, with fresh looks and deeper insights into the meaning of the season.
At Magnify (the former Blythefield Hills Baptist), worship arts director Vicki Modert says the script for the musical/drama "Olympic Surrender" continues the story of sprinter Eric Liddell following his victory at the 1924 Olympics. Liddell's true-to-life triumph was popularized in the 1981 feature film "Chariots of Fire."
"After the Olympics he does missionary service in China and was imprisoned in World War II," Modert noted of the native Scotsman whose parents were also missionaries.
Liddell's sharing of the gospel message brings to life on the stage Jesus' experiences during Holy Week, culminating with the crucifixion and resurrection.
Actor Kyle Warmington plays Jesus, a role he's taken on numerous times in the church's dramas.
Modert and Forrest Wakeman co-direct "Olympic Surrender," with choreography by Jennifer Boyd.
This is the 30th annual Easter production for the suburban church, which took a break last year due to the pandemic shutdown.
"But we're reviving it this year with seating designed for appropriate social distancing," Modert said of their set-up for four performances over three days (see details below).
Actor Luke Owens portrays Liddell, and Alyssa Garcia Bauer his wife Florence.
The original script depicts Liddell's use of humor and sports as well as education in sharing the good news even in captivity.
As usual the church effort is significant and features several hundred volunteers and includes multiple sets, special effects and a live orchestra.
At Holland's Central Wesleyan Church, a look into historical artifacts turns personal in a probing examination of the essence of life played out in a three-person script.
"It's an atypical Easter presentation that combines story, song and sermon," said director Tim Van Bruggen. "It challenges all of us to consider what has shaped our lives."
Boldly titled "History Shapers: The Cross, The Tomb and The Stone," the presentation is built right into the church's weekend worship schedule at 7pm Sat. April 3 and 10am Sun. April 4 (details below).
The story centers on a young museum assistant (portrayed by actress Rebecca Jantzen), who is charged with arranging an exhibit on "100 Items That Shaped the World."
"She is faced with a confrontation from an unexpected source that shows her three items that not only shaped the world, but could change her as well," noted Van Bruggen, who is also executive director of Master Arts Theatre.
The plot premise is based on a true story. In 2010 the British Museum and BBC Radio combined efforts to assemble such an exhibit accompanied by a radio series.
The role is "emotionally powerful" noted the director as the character suffers both personal and professional crises.
Also in the cast are James Grey and Sandra Griffin.
"Olympic Surrender: The Story Continues" presented by Magnify Church (formerly Blythefield Hills Baptist), 6727 Kutshill Dr. NE, Rockford.
Four performances: 7pm April 1-3, 1pm matinee on April 3 -masks encouraged until seated, mandatory for matinee performance which has ASL interpretation.
Socially distanced tickets are provided, some performances may sell out.
All tickets $8, available online.
"History Shapers: The Cross, the Tomb, and the Stone" - a three-person drama, at Central Wesleyan Church, 446 W. 40th St. Holland
7pm Sat. April 3, 10am Sun April 4 during regular worship
No admission charge. Also more information available online.