Last Supper Drama

Cast for the 2011 performance: Keith Wunder as Nathaniel, Mark Wildin as James the Less, Mike Brink as Andrew, Bryan Litscher as Judas, Will Farlow as John, Dennis Sibert as Peter, Kent Risbeck as Jesus, Dave Strutt as Thomas, Jerry Mills as James, Dan Johnson as Philip, Ken Kerr as Matthew, Jim Frazee as Thaddeus, Brian Helland as Simon and Mark Willson as the Narrator.

Last Supper Drama

The Last Supper Drama was presented by the men of West Des Moines United Methodist for 50 years.  The last and 50th presentation was in 2019.

Every now and then something happens that really changes things. It was a little like that when five members of our church traveled to Purdue University for the quadrennial conference of Methodist Men in the summer of 1969. It was at this meeting that the quintet saw something that they found particularly moving to them. Indeed, it had such impact that they decided less than five miles on their return trip that what they had seen was something they wanted our church to create.

This thing that had so moved the five men was a “living dramatization” of Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of “The Last Supper”. The presentation involves a drama written by the Reverend Ernest K. Emurian that was first presented on Palm Sunday, 1954, at Elm Avenue Methodist Church in Portsmouth, VA. His script has the apostles speaking their minds in monologue to themselves, to the Lord and to the audience, in response to the tragic message that Jesus Christ has just spoken to them – That one of them would betray Him.  Each of the principals in the historic painting speaks, and tells his story of his association with Jesus Christ and ends his remarks asking the question just who will betray Him.

The West Des Moines United Methodist Men recognized that indeed they were like the disciples – persons of diverse backgrounds, occupations and interests joined together by a common bond – the church.  “We all agreed that it was one of the most inspiring, moving experiences we’d ever seen,” related Bill Brantley, one of the five men from West Des Moines, and the man destined to become a coordinator of the production for our church.

“Before we were five miles from Purdue on the way home we were already discussing how we might bring such an inspirational experience to our own church.”  As they traveled back home the group began to talk enthusiastically about the prospect of presenting The Last Supper dramatization, even suggesting names of persons who might play certain roles or who might help with the overall production.

So here in the summer of 1969 a band of five were moved by something that dated back to 1494 – the year when da Vinci was commissioned to paint The Last Supper scene, trying to capture the moods of the apostles after Jesus predicted that one will betray Him. Now this famous work was causing new interest in what it represented.

In our church can be found special stained-glass windows that give the symbols of each of these apostles so close to Christ. Now it was possible to gain a new grasp of these important men, and their relationship to Christianity, and to remind us of the diversity of those who follow him.