Significant Years in Performance History
During this year, Mr Kosti Simons, founder of the Moogerah Passion Play, returned to Australia after living in Europe for fourteen years, for the express purpose of establishing a Passion Play in South East Queensland.
The vision was for the involvement of an entire community in the presentation of the Gospels, bringing together the Christian denominations and also involving non-Christians.
The vision was to create a permanent venue for the Passion Play – a purpose-built theatre incorporating a Sea of Galilee for the staging of scenes involving water and a fishing boat. The Lake Theatre is the first permanent Passion Play venue in Australia.
The vision was for a script based firmly on the Gospels, with the words of Christ unchanged from those in the Gospel records. Kosti Simons was the “collator” and writer.
Most other development has been through community support. Volunteers have created an olive grove and a palm grove, which give a sense of the Holy Land. There is a catering facility, an acting shed, a lighting shed, a platform for loud speakers, a praetorium and a dressing shed. 1999 saw the construction of a public toilet facility, with wheel chair access. Power was brought to the Theatre with the support of Energex (then SEQEB) and the lighting infrastructure was the donation of Boonah electrician, John Gill.
A site of just over two hectares was acquired by the Moogerah Passion Play Assoc. Inc., and is held on a long-term lease through Scenic Rim Regional Council (then Boonah Shire Council).
It is adjacent to the Moogerah Caravan Park named the Lake Theatre, on the shores of Lake Moogerah, driving time from Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Warwick or Toowoomba, is just over an hour. The backdrop, the mountains of the Great Dividing Range, provides the site with a rare natural beauty.
Development of the site was facilitated by Boonah Shire Council, whose machines created an access road, an amphitheatre which can seat 2,000, a Sea of Galilee, a River Jordan, a Praetorium and a Calvary.
Most other development has been through community support. Volunteers have created an olive grove and a palm grove, which give a sense of the Holy Land. Fifteen years of continuous development has resulted in an extensive public infrastructure, as can be seen in the aerial photo.
The Lake Theatre has proved itself to be a perfect venue, not only for the Passion Play, but also for open air concerts, including symphony orchestras, Big Band events, folklorico, country and western, etc.
Please note that the Lake Theatre is available to other organisations.
The inaugural season of the Moogerah Passion Play took place in September 1993, and extended over four performances. Audiences came from as far as Nowra, in NSW (a round journey of over 2,000 kilometres).
The month of September was chosen for its low rainfall, and cool preceding months for rehearsals. While many associate Passion Plays with Easter, the story of Jesus is a story to remember and celebrate all through the year.
The producer / director of the first season was Kosti Simons. Since then a number of others have directed. Similarly, the Christ-figure has been played by a number of people — according to ancient Passion Play tradition, these men always remain anonymous. The cast of over 60 was drawn from the Boonah Shire, Ipswich and Brisbane West.
Performances won the Boonah Shire Cultural Event of the Year Award.
The production was moved to four performances over the Easter week-end.
“Jesus… His Story” was a new play, a big production, written and directed by Tony Barnes.
It added scenes from the Old Testament to show that Christ’s birth was no accident of history. It used four contemporary young people to allow discussion of Biblical events. Performances were given in October.
This year was perhaps a watershed in the life of The Moogerah Passion Play. Prayer direction indicated free admission, sponsorship from churches, a slight simplification of language and, for those who wanted something more, post-performance ministry.
A variation of the age old story focussed on the excitement of knowing that Jesus is with us — it was called “He’s Alive!!!”. 2,500 people came to see the four Easter performances.
Another first saw two performances (a shortened version of the play) given in Ipswich on Easter Monday.
Four free performances were given at the Lake Theatre and in a history-making first, the complete production was transferred to a new location – Springfield Lakes.
Again, two abbreviated performances were given at the Ipswich Monday Funday, where some 18,000 people arrived for a day in the park.
A professional valuation of the existing infrastructure was undertaken by Denman Macaulay Valuers of Ipswich. Excluding the real estate, replacement value was put at $295,000.00.
The fifteenth anniversary of the Moogerah Passion Play was celebrated at a gala Mayoral Dinner in the Scenic Rim Shire. 150 guests attended, including Federal, State and Local politicians.
This year saw one of the greatest and most profound changes to the Passion Play, in its 20th year, with the retirement of Kosti and Carroll Simons. Both Kosti and Carroll felt that it was time to take a step back from active roles within the Play and several people stepped up to take on those roles that Kosti and Carroll had put so much effort, time and love into for the previous 19 years or more.
2013 – onwards
The Moogerah Passion Play has continued to be an annual event within the Scenic Rim with performances occurring every Easter except 2020.
Over the last 10 years the Management Committee has worked hard to improve and expand the facilities at Lake Theatre with the building of a new well equipped catering block, secure storage for costumes and props back stage, and enhancements to the performance space to support more up to date production techniques. LED lights and wireless mics have raised the quality of sound and light production.
The disciples’ fishing boat finally had to be replaced and some very inventive volunteers were able to refurbish an old boat that had been “retired” to create the current more authentic looking vessel with triangular sail reminiscent of a dhow.
Scenic Rim Regional Council has provided great support since the very beginning. Funding from their Community Grants Program has helped restore many aspects of the infrastructure at Lake Theatre as has assistance from state and federal government programs. Unflagging support has come from the whole community; local churches, local businesses, and many, many individual supporters who continue to be so generous with time, skills and donations.
Sea of Galilee with “old” fishing boat and Lake Moogerah in the background