Portrayal of ‘The Last Supper’ inspires audiences

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
KANNAPOLIS ó They stand almost frozen in time in a living dramatization of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of “The Last Supper.”
As the spotlight moves across the “painting,” the disciples come alive and react when Jesus says one of them will betray him.
First Presbyterian Church has re-created the da Vinci moment 16 times since 1961.
It draws people from throughout the community, serving as an outreach program for the church.
And they keep coming back to witness what many consider a magnificent event.
The cast includes current or former members of the church, many of whom have had roles in previous presentations.
Doug Goodnight and son, James, are carrying on a family tradition started by Jack Goodnight, Doug’s father.
Jack, a Kannapolis city councilman and co-founder of G&S Metals, took on several roles in the dramatization before his death in 2003.
Doug took on the role of Andrew in 2004 and reprised it. “It came back quickly, I mostly remembered it (from 2004).”
While getting the lines right is important, the real challenge is standing frozen in position until the spotlight moves across the “painting” and the character comes to life and speaks.
“It’s not easy … we practice the poses … you can move a little,” Doug said.
James, a student at Guilford College, joined the family tradition, portraying Leonardo da Vinci’s assistant.
For the Goodnights and the dozens of other church members involved in the production, it’s all worth it.
“It kind of takes your breath away,” Doug said. “It’s always well done.
“It’s nice to be involved in things that are done so well. All of these guys are in my church family; they’re like brothers, there’s a lot of camaraderie.”
Since the first presentation in 1961, the church initially recreated the dramatization every four years.
In 1992, they created a new set, costumes and wigs to enhance the portrayal.
An estimated 60 to 70 church members are involved in the production behind the scenes, from the set to the costumes.
“It takes a village to raise a child. This takes a whole church,” Cindy Griggs, a church member, said.
While the staging is a key element, Griggs said the words of the disciples responding to Jesus has tremendous impact.
After every presentation, people talk about the messages. “It just makes you kind of look at yourself,” Griggs said.
The dramatization was scheduled this year as part of the church’s centennial celebration.
The next big event in the celebration is the homecoming on June 21, the anniversary of the church’s founding in 1909.
First Presbyterian Church is located on Vance Street in Cannon Village.