When the Oberammergau passion play premieres in May, Frederik Mayet will rise to the difficult challenge of playing Jesus. He spoke to DW-World about the role.
The actor who will play Jesus has been growing his hair for more than a year
DW-World: You played the part of John the Apostle in the last Oberammergau passion. Is Jesus your dream role?
Frederik Mayet: I don't know yet. If I'd been allowed to choose for myself, I'd have chosen Judas. When I found out that I was going to play the part of Jesus, I was overwhelmed, but two or three days later, after the initial euphoria had worn off, I began to think and to realize that it is a huge challenge. Our director Christian Stueckl said the role is an impertinence and now I understand what he meant.
How do you feel when you're on the cross?
The feeling of being exhibited like that is really uncomfortable. You really realize what a dreadful way it was to die.
When you are on the cross, how far from the ground are you?
From my head to the ground it's about four meters. I'm secured by a climbing belt under my loincloth so that nothing can happen.
The passion in preparation
How did you prepare for the role?
The most important thing for me was the trip to Israel in September. We had a week of intense discussions and we were accompanied by a great theologian, Thomas Frauenlob, who works at the Vatican. He answered all our questions, even the critical ones. And the discussions with Christian Stueckl were really helpful as well. And then I read a couple of books about Jesus, I read some of the Gospels, I looked through the texts. And we also have voice training.
The role of Jesus has been interpreted differently at different times. What are your priorities?
Twenty years ago, our director Christian Stueckl was particularly interested in the fighter, the revolutionary in Jesus, but that has faded into the background a bit now. I'm particularly interested in those of his statements which still hold true today. The ones we recognize as clichés, yet which we find it hard to integrate into our lives, things like "love thy neighbor as thyself," or the one about turning the left cheek if you are slapped on the right.
If we really lived by those statements, our world would be a better place, so I think it's really important to present them in a fresh way on stage.
Costumes are made from cloth found in India
Do you have to be very religious to be able to play Jesus?
I don't think so, but it helps if you know about Jesus and know the story. I would describe myself as a believer, but non-believing actors could also tackle the role. I would say they should have an interest in the character.
How often do you rehearse at the moment?
Five or six times a week. We are all amateurs in Oberammergau, which means we go out to work during the day. We rehearse in the evening and at weekends, but not everyone is in every scene. Jesus is though, which means Andreas Richter, the other actor who plays Jesus, and I have to be there a lot.
Has the experience changed the way you see Jesus?
At every rehearsal, I learn new facets about the diverse nature of his character.
Interview conducted by Daniel Scheschkewitz (tkw)
Editor: Jennifer Abramsohn