Earlier this week, I was alerted to some weird little Bible town theme park located in the "mountains" outside of Lawton. It's called the "The Holy City of the Wichitas." Each year, the park produces the world's longest-running Easter play.
Here's a description of the Holy City from their website:
Located in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, this 66-acre area looks much like Israel during Biblical times, and is the site of the nation's longest running Easter passion play, "The Prince of Peace." Attendance reached an all-time high in 1939 when 225,000 visitors filled Audience Hill for the sunrise performance. Other attractions include a memorial for the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, a Veterans Walkway, and the World Chapel, which has become a popular wedding locale. Donations appreciated.
Am I the only person in Oklahoma who's never heard of this place? I always thought the Wichita Mountains were home to our state's overcrowded leper colonies. I had no clue we had a little Israel there. Does that mean Altus is our very own version of the Gaza strip?
Anyway, today's production is a shell of what it used to be back in the olden times. Attendance is down and the production has been plagued with problems.
The trials and tribulations of the last month didn't matter Saturday when the sun set on the Holy City and the 90th annual Easter Pageant began.After persevering through the flu, two weather cancellations and last-minute rehearsals, director Alan Corrales still had one more issue he had to contend with when he arrived Saturday morning at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Storms and high winds earlier in the week knocked out lights, blew down some settings and wreaked havoc with the electrical system.To make matters worse, the mother of the lighting director underwent heart surgery Friday, forcing Corrales to find a new director at the last minute. The person he found Saturday to help out did work a lighting system in high school and college, but admitted that had been "some time ago." Still, Corrales had faith, even after facing the prospect of being up more than 24 hours after leaving his home in Broken Arrow at 6 a.m....
Bad weather, illness and electrical problems? I may be a vacation Bible school dropout, but something tells me that a certain all-powerful supernatural deity may be flexing his muscles on this one. I don't blame him. If the longest-running play celebrating my son's death and subsequent return to life was staged in Oklahoma, I'd be pushing for a change of venue, too. Move this thing to Broadway! When locusts attack the park this Sunday, we'll know something is up.
The play is also having problems finding actors:
Corrales was prepared to deal with a slim cast this year, but relief arrived in the afternoon when a youth group from Eufaula showed up offering their assistance. Youth minister Teddy Boles discovered the Holy City of the Wichitas while he and his wife were on a drive through Southwest Oklahoma last year to celebrate their anniversary. He stopped in at the gift shop, and like so many others, was recruited into the pageant."He got to talking to me about the pageant and I mentioned who I was and that we'd like to come see it next year," Boles said. "So he asks me if I'd like to join in and participate."Boles went back to his church, proposed the idea and a group of 12 volunteers joined him in making the trip back Saturday. They were expecting to show up and be crowd members and background characters. But Corrales needed people so much, they were dressed up as Roman soldiers and angels. Boles accepted the challenge.
I know he's probably busy interviewing copyright attorneys who specialize in copyright law, but will somebody let diabolical Facebook weatherman Aaron Tuttle know about this opportunity? He's a fanatical Christian, loves being the center of attention and already has a Roman soldier costume. He'd be a perfect fit.
Anyway, here's a clip of the play. It's worth watching:
WTF? No Easter Bunny? Way to ignore the reason for the season. No wonder the play is struggling.
Anyway, if you ask me it may be time for a little reboot. They need to hire some locals to make this play more fun and relatable with today's youth. I have the perfect people to do this...
Yep, get Knuckles and Jesse Dalton to take on the Easter play. We know those two will take it seriously and do a great job. Make it happen, Holy City of the Wichitas. It's what Jesus would do... probably.