The Valdosta Daily Times
For nearly 30 years, each Easter, Terry Hiers has become the disciple Peter.
He’s played this role of Jesus’ apostle in Park Avenue United Methodist Church’s passion play. Hiers says it is time to pass the role onto another.
“I’m getting a bit long in the tooth to play him,” Hiers says with a smile during a recent rehearsal for Park Avenue’s “The Promise,” opening next weekend.
So, this year, “The Promise’s” creative force and director, church music minister Reese Nelson, created a new way to tell the well-known story — a way that allows Hiers the opportunity to pass the torch of Peter onto another while showcasing the man who has played the role for so many years.
In this year’s production of “The Promise,” Terry Hiers plays Peter once again, but this time, he plays the older Peter, when the disciple has been jailed and faces death for his Christianity. The older Peter witnesses to his jailer converting the man. This biblical story allows “The Promise,” through Peter, to tell the story of Jesus, His ministry, His mission, His crucifixion, and His resurrection.
Through this telling, “The Promise” introduces a new, young Peter, played by Ben Parten, as he and the 11 other disciples travel with Jesus. Darrell Presley returns as Jesus. He has played the role of Christ for more than a dozen years in “The Promise.”
Each year, “The Promise’s” greatest story ever told challenges Nelson.
“How do you make it fresh and different?” Nelson says of his annual dilemma. “The bottom line is the story doesn’t change.”
Nelson credits the church’s Jamie Bone for the concept of telling the story from the perspective of the jailed Peter, and knowing that Hiers was ready to hand over the role, it seemed the right vehicle for telling the story and bidding Hiers’ characterization farewell.
“The Promise” 2014 will have other differences, too.
Nelson wants to present a show that more demonstrably includes the audience. In the past, the audience could see Pontius Pilate facing Jesus but could never see Christ’s face because He also faced Pilate. This year, Pilate will weigh his decision and eventually wash his hands from the sanctuary balcony of Park Avenue United Methodist Church. The audience will be able to see Jesus’ reactions to Pilate.
The audience is also expected to participate this year in the choice between Christ and Barabbas for crucifixion. Nelson realizes this may not be easy for some people but should deepen “The Promise” experience.
This year’s production will not include past pieces such as the Nativity, focusing instead on Peter’s tale to the jailer of Jesus’ ministry, crucifixion and resurrection.
Nelson admits it is difficult making changes in the show, because each time he makes a change, someone says “you took out my favorite part.”
Yet, it is likely in the years to come, some parts will return again while new perspectives are added as Reese Nelson finds new and familiar ways to tell a story that never changes.
"The Promise” returns
When: 2 p.m. Saturday, March 29; 7 p.m. Sunday, March 30, through Wednesday, April 2.
Where: Park Avenue United Methodist Church, 100 E. Park Ave.
More information: Call (229) 242-3562.
Admission: Free, first-come, first-seated.
THE CAST: Mary Beth Altman, Brayden Anderson, Owen Anderson, Steve Beall, Willie Beasley, Payton Bedgood, Callie Belflower, Laine Bellinger, Taylor Biddle, Hale Bishop, Meg Bishop, Alyssa Bohn, Jamie Bone, Stacy Bone, Tracy Bone, Bonnie Brackett, Jerry Brooks, Dawn Brown, Tom Brown, Cansas Bussey, Jason Bussey, Kaycee Bussey, Kolby Bussey, Alex Carlson, Ben Carlson, Patrick Carlson, Anna Clark, Jennifer Clark, Katelyn Clark, Kenneth Clark, Buddy Coleman, Sharon
Coleman, Caleb Cook, Mae Cook, Reagan Cook, Jack Cook, Hunter Corbett, Joe Corbett, Alex Cosper, Elton Cowart, Jeanne Cowart, Richard Cowart, Kathryn Crawford, Lloyd Crawford, Austin Crockett, Annette Crosby, Brooke Daugherty, Devin Daugherty, Maryn Davis, Colby DeCesare, Reese DeCesare, Danny DeMersseman, Jake DeMersseman, Zac DeMersseman, Jessie Dorsey, Matt Dorsey, Rex Dorsey, Cary Dowse, Noah Drocea, Ty Drocea, Ally Dunn, Crystal Dunn, Charles Edison, Jennie Edison, Janice Evans, Lauren Folsom, Brenda Freeman, Kitty Fricks, Brett Ganas, Brody Ganas, Cindy Ganas, Emma Ganas, Ethan Ganas, Kate Ganas, Anna Clark Gibbs, Elizabeth Grace Gibbs, Jerry Godair, Lynn Hall, Erin Halter, Heather Halter, John Halter, Megan Halter, Wanda Halter, Jack Hamm, Morgan Hamm, Josh Hatton, Kim Hatton, Rachel Hatton, Robert Hatton, Ty Haynes, Winfrey Hendley, Emma Herndon, Joe Herndon, Stephanie Herndon, Leannah Hicks, Shannon Hicks, Tiffany Hicks, Alfred Hiers, Terry Hiers, Ben Holley, Carter Holley, Elizabeth Holley, Deb House, James Howell, Kaye Hunt, Casey Irwin, Steve Jennings, David Jones, Laura Jones, Rusty Jones, Chris Keener, Mike Kirkland, Kaitlyn Koebble, Jimmy LeFiles, Pat LeFiles, Donna Leonard, John Lindsey, Matt Martin, Davis Mathis, Dorsey Mathis, Brooke McAllister, Crane McAllister, Abigail McGee, Gavin McGee, Jacob McGee, John McGee, Traci McGee, Zachary McGee, Tommy McNeal, Kevin Moore, Joe Morgan, Emily Mortonson, Allen Moseley, Mary Leigh Moseley, Stephen Mosher, Becky Mullican, Matt Mullis, Carole Nelson, Reese Nelson, Ben Parten, Sarah Parten, Will Paulo, Fowler Perry, Pam Peters, Darla Petrella, Tony Phillips, Brant Pickard, Rachael Pierce, Alicia Presley, Darrell Presley, Dylan Presley, Darel Rayburn, Hannah Rayburn, Missy Rayburn, Joni Reece, Terry Reese, Clyde Roberson, Marty Rodgers, Nikki Rodgers, Griffin Ruane, Kristian Ruane, Pati Ruane, Bob Rutland, Christy Smith, Julie Smith, Michael Smith, Scott Smith, Sharon Stalvey, Kenneth Strickland, Jennifer Sumner, Lena Sumner, Michael Sumner, Pete Supp, Sondra Supp, Sylvia Tart, Chris Thigpen, Coston Thigpen, Spencer Thomas, Debbie Tubbs, Haley Tubbs, Patsy Waddell, Abigail Waller, Cindy Waller, Bryce Whitener, Dana Whitener, Ella Whitener, Emma Whitener, Jay Whitesell, William Whitesell, Jean Woske, Rusty Woske, Jerry Wright, Kathy Wright, Marlow Wright, Lynn Yost.