(Un)staging Gethsemane

So how did we actually create the Garden of Gethsemane at night? The Frodsham churches had done a lot of work on this, putting together a sound track CD of foley sounds, with a running time of about 4 minutes. This provided the “narrative” underpinning of the scene, as we hear:

  • The arrival of Jesus and Disciples
  • Jesus coming closer (away from the other disciples) to pray
  • Jesus praying
  • The disciples asleep
  • The arrival of the soldiers to arrest Jesus
  • The arrest and subsequent scuffle
  • The disciples running away
  • The departure of the soldiers
  • (later) The rooster crowing as dawn comes.
Many of these points will be brought out later when we meet Peter at Golgotha, so it is not essential that the children catch all of them. The set was simple, consisting only of some dark blue plastic sheet used as backdrop and lots of evergreen branches from a bay tree (because they were available to hide the walls of the vestry. To give the impression that the action is going on just beyond the next bushes in the olive grove, the light comes from a hidden source at the end of the room, whilst the speakers for the sound track are placed at both ends of the room to give an immersive sound experience (helped by hard brick walls which reflect the sound around to come from all directions).
Gethsemane - backdrop and branches
The whole lighting and sound set-up was run to a pre-defined script by a Raspberry Pi computer (see subsequent posts).
The real Garden of Gethsemane would have been very dark at night, with no artificial lighting. So the set only needs enough light to ensure that people can get in and out of the room safely, and to support the cues in the sound track. To provide the ambient light, we used a 35mm slide projector to project a moon onto the wall of the room. The reflected light from this (zoomed relatively small) provided enough illumination to let people see in, but no more.
Gethsemane - moon
An “LED PAR can” stage light was used to provide the other lightning cues. This was an RGB fitting, with separate dimming for each channel built in, controlled over the industry-standard DMX-512 interface. This meant that (almost) any colour, and any brightness, could be produced on demand, and varied in real time through the scene.
The video below gives a flavour of what the resulting scene was like (shot after a run with no people around – normally the floor would have been full of the audience sitting listening). Thanks to Robert Pettigrew for taking the video for us.

The video does not capture all of the lighting (because small room made in impossible to fit everything in the camera's field of view), but gives an idea of what it was like to feel the light changing around you as events unfolded. The sound track is just from the camera microphone – the real thing (CD available here) is more dynamic and less tinny!
Gethsemane - dawn lighting cue
The still photographs capture more of the lighting colours, but not the changes between them. More photographs can be found on Flickr.

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