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Sight & Sound Theater’s Jesus: Leaving the 99 to Rescue One

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

It’s definitely quite an undertaking when you consider the confluence of a 45 member cast, a computer-driven fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee, a menagerie of live animals, and a 110 foot long high definition video screen to create a dramatic retelling of the greatest story ever told. But that is exactly what Josh Enck has been tasked with doing.

Enck, the chief creative officer for Sight & Sound Theaters, has spent the better part of the last four years bringing all of these elements together to introduce audiences to their latest theatrical production, Jesus.

This action-packed stage adventure follows the miraculous journey of the most transcendent person ever to walk the earth.  Along the way, Jesus changed everyday people’s lives forever.

I recently sat down with Enck to discuss why Sight & Sound was willing to take on such a tremendous challenge with Jesus, the technical wizardry that is on full display in this production, and why this performance is ultimately for an audience of one.

You started at Sight & Sound in 1995 as a stagehand.  And you have obviously worked your way up through the ranks to your current role as Chief Creative Director.  What is it about Sight and Sound Theatre that you’re so passionate about to keep you here for 20 plus years?

I didn’t grow up in the church setting. I had a tremendous family, awesome mom and dad, faithful to each other, just an incredible example of marriage and faithfulness. We learned honor and we learned trust and all the good, hardworking ethics, you know, but there wasn’t Jesus in our family at the time. So around 19 years old, I opened my heart to the idea of God, the Creator and Jesus, and He came flooding in; and I got born-again when I was 19, and that’s what really changed my entire life, but prior to that I always had a passion for story-telling. I’ve always wanted to create something creative that would move people to laughter or tears or anger, or whatever it might be, and I just really found that to be something I was passionate about. Couple that with getting saved, the two things came together.  So I got a job as a stage technician, and I realized that this isn’t your typical theatre, and I fell in love with the craft of storytelling on the stage, that live, vulnerable moment with the actor and all of the elements working together, and I got hooked. I just loved what I did and especially loved the people that I did this with. To tell the greatest stories of all time with the greatest team of all time is why I’m still here today.

As you mentioned, Sight & Sound is known for or producing Biblically-themed stories. Your latest Biblically themed story, Jesus, is the ultimate in that genre. Why take on such a powerful challenge as this?

We knew it was the right thing. We felt the Lord move and place this one on our hearts, and so that was not a difficult decision to make that we were going to do the show, but how were we going to do the show, that blank piece of paper that you stare at on the first couple days of creating something new was intimidating, and it absolutely drove us to prayer, and in the midst of prayer, the theme that came out that we completely immersed our hearts into is love that rescues. There are so many things that we could do with the story of Jesus. It could have been a chronological storytelling; it could have been a specific theological angle that we wanted to prove, and that’s just not who we are here at Sight and Sound. We don’t just follow a formula and do the expected. We do what He wants us to do. And so with the times that we’re in, with the season that the Sight and Sound company is in, the story of Jesus coupled with love that rescues was a specific niche that really ignited the fire to get this story going, and once we found that theme, then it wasn’t hard at all to let the script just start to write itself.

What a lot of people don’t know is that the planning for this play just didn’t start six months ago.  You started nearly four years ago getting ready to debut this production in 2018. Why do you take such a long period of time to put a play together?

We break it down into three buckets, if you will. The first bucket is what? What’s the story we want to pursue, what’s the scope, what’s the angle, what’s the theme, what’s the budget, you know, what’s the audience, and that takes a full year just to get your head around what this thing is. And then the second year is how, are we going to do what we decided to do. That’s when the design phase kicks in. That’s when we start to look at the actual logistics of the set pieces, doing these amazing things, the innovation, the scriptwriting marrying the stage, writing music, and all of that kind of stuff. And then the third year is the build phase.  We build what we have designed, and it takes every single minute of those three and a half years to produce a Sight & Sound show to this level.

Speaking of technology, the production of Jesus is going to incorporate one of the largest video LED screens in the world for theatrical productions. What is that screen going to bring to the production of Jesus that you never could do before?

Do you remember View-Masters, when you could look through them and see how dimensional things were and how everything was in focus?  That’s what we wanted to do with this screen.  So, we looked at our backdrops, and our backdrops in the past have been beautiful.  We have always used painted backdrops and we’ve done some rear projection screens and things, but we’ve never taken it to this level with this much vibrancy and this much richness. And as soon as you put that LED screen in front of mid-ground sets and then the cast down stage of that, it’s just like you’re looking through a View-Master and it’s incredible.

There are 436 performances of Jesus scheduled through January of next year. When they leave the theatre, in your role as director what do you want them to take home with them?  What is your greatest hope for this play?

I want them to know that Jesus left the 99 to rescue the one, and that they are the one that He would have left 99 for, no matter who they are, no matter where they’ve been, no matter what they’ve done, no matter what their background was. Just like the one scene in our show where Jesus went across the sea, climbed the mountain to rescue one person who was a Gentile, and outcast, demon-possessed, lived with pigs and he lived in a graveyard, all of the things that Jews were not allowed to be a part of, He took his disciples there and He said, “You are worth rescuing. And I want everybody who comes to see this show to walk away knowing that He left the 99 to rescue them as well.

Sight & Sound Theater’s production of Jesus playing now through January 2019.  For tickets please visit their website.

Watch a trailer for Sight & Sound's production of Jesus:

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