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A re-telling of the story of the Passion of the Christ. Can be done in public (complete with Audience Participation on the "Crucify Him!" bit) or as a historical recreation on screen. In Medieval England, they were also known as "Mystery Plays".

These date back at least to the Middle Ages, when they were often used to incite anti-Jew riots- though, just to be clear, this only happened after the plays were established, and tended to occur when the plays were orchestrated by rabble rousers. The original purpose of the plays was simply to re-enact the Passion in drama as an extension of a Passion mass. Since most people couldn't read, Passion plays and Nativity plays were used to transmit the stories of Jesus' crucifixion and His birth to the general population.

A side note on etymology: the word passion in this case means "suffering" (from Latin pati: to suffer)

Not to be confused with the art film Passion Play or with the album by Jethro Tull.

Examples of Passion Play include:


Film

Literature

  • The novel Christ Recrucified (1948) by Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis: a poor, remote village in Greece is preparing a passion play, and due to tragic circumstances, everyone ends up with the same fate as the part he or she is assigned. The novel was adapted by Bohuslav Martinů into the opera The Greek Passion. First performed in 1961.
  • The novel "Passion Play" follows a troupe of actors that put these on as they become wrapped up in an adultery scandal, punning on the title.

Live Action TV

  • The Passion, a 2008 version by The BBC. Notable for trying to go more historically accurate, but still filling nearly the entire cast with white people (there's only one Jewish guy who gets a speaking part), a rather unconvincing Jesus and the Jesus actor changing twice for post-resurrection scenes (The Road to Emmaus is supposed to have two of the Apostles not recognising Jesus, but still...)
  • The BBC also did The Manchester Passion, which took place on the streets of central Manchester and included songs by famous local bands.

Music

  • Jethro Tull's album "A Passion Play" plays with this trope.
  • The "St. Matthew Passion" by Johann Sebastian Bach is a setting of one of the biblical accounts of the Passion interspersed with reflective hymns and chorales. It's generally regarded as some of the ultimate Crowning Music of Awesome.
    • As is his St. John Passion.
    • Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach wrote twenty-one settings of the Passions. Thus sayeth The Other Wiki.
  • Modern composer Osvaldo Golijov composed "La Pasión Según San Marcos," based on Mark's gospel and incorporating traditional music and dance from Brazil.
  • There were a number of Passions set to music; many haven't survived to modern day, but Victorian composer John Stainer's Crucifixion still gets performed on occasion.

Musicals

  • Jesus Christ Superstar. This one ends at the Crucifixion, for some reason.
  • Godspell also counts, though in a much...fluffier?...way. It also ends at the Crucifixion.
  • AD/BC: A Rock Opera would count as well, being a parody of the above two. Just from the POV of the Innkeeper.

Public Performances

  • The most famous example is the Oberammergau Passion Play, done as a five-month season every ten years. This one lasts for seven hours and a meal is provided during the intermission.
  • In the Catholic Church, every Palm Sunday Mass, and the Good Friday Vigil (technically not a Mass - the period between Holy Thursday and the Vigil of the Resurrection of the Lord [Saturday night] is the only time of year where no priest will celebrate Mass), does this as the Gospel reading. Including Audience Participation.
  • It was traditional for these to be performed every Easter in Europe during medieval times, mostly as a tool of education as most people could not read, and the masses were performed in Latin. Few examples survive to the modern day, but some, like the English 'Chester Cycle', are still performed every other year or so with great pageantry.
  • Most of the main Medieval English cities had a local script (written in the local dialect) which was enacted every year. Typically, the play was subdivided into a number of scenes, each acted by a different city guild.
    • York's Mystery Plays are enacted every four years by local amateur actors, though the modern tradition only dates back to the 1950s when the plays were revived. Unusually, the plays are still performed by separate groups (even some by city guilds), on wagons that are moved through the city between performance spots.
  • The religious Theme Park "The Holy Land Experience" in Orlando has one of these as a daily attraction.

Video Games

  • In Ultima VII, one of your first encounters with the Fellowship organization is a meeting with wandering minstrels who are performing what they refer to as a Passion Play. This is an important confirmation that the Fellowship is a religion, not a charitable organization, and lines from the play confirm the Fellowship's connection to the Big Bad.
  • Ezio crashes a Passion Play during ~Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood~, in order to save the actor playing Christ from being killed for real.

Western Animation

 Stan: Your movie sucks!

Mel Gibson: You can't say that! That's like saying Christianity sucks!

Stan: No, it doesn't. Christians should focus on what Jesus said, instead of how he died. Lots of people were crucified in those days. Passion Plays are what people did in the Middle Ages, and it ends with really bad results.

(Mel Gibson craps on Cartman)

  • In the Moral Orel episode "School Pageant", Orel's school puts on one of these written by the oft-forgotten member of a band in an attempt to resurrect his career. For the most part, the play was forgettable. The Villain Song, however...
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