The Black Hills Passion Play
in Lake Wales

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Black Hills Passion Play

Passion Plays, reenactments of the last days of Jesus Christ as reported in the gospels, have been performed for centuries in Europe, a tradition that Josef Meier continued in the United States when he formed a touring company to perform his own English language version in 1932, starring himself as The Christ. In 1939 he opened a permanent home for his play in Spearfish in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where it is still performed today.

Lake Wales Amphitheatre

In 1953 an amphitheatre in Lake Wales, Florida, became the winter home for the show, with Meier continuing to portray an ever aging Jesus until his retirement after more than fifty years in the role. The show continued in Lake Wales until 1998.

The Lake Wales amphitheatre sat empty for several years, but in 2002 it reopened with the Life of Christ Passion Play, brought south from Tennessee by Jimmy Baker, who, like Meier, also portrayed the title character in his show. In 2004, however, Hurricane Charlie tore through Central Florida and severely damaged the amphitheatre, putting an end (at least as of the 2005 season) to the show.

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Photos courtesy of The Florida State Archives Photographic Collection.

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