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The Show Must Go On! Sight & Sound's “Jesus” on TV, Streaming Again in Encore Event

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

With movie theaters shuttered during Easter weekend due to the coronavirus, television and online streaming viewers were given the opportunity to watch the greatest rescue story ever told.

Originally, Sight & Sound Theater had planned to bring their awe-inspiring performance of “Jesus” to cinemas nationwide as a Fathom movie event but due to theater closures from COVID-19 they were forced to cancel.  However, audiences were able to watch “Jesus” exclusively on TBN. And what a success it was!

After nearly three million people tuned in that weekend for the worldwide debut, the beloved theater announces a rebroadcast on TBN in advance of  DVD and digital release, Friday, May 15.  Specifically, the program will air on Wednesday evening, May 13 at 9pm ET exclusively on the TBN channel.  Viewers can also watch live online through the TBN website/app. Visit jesusevent.com for more information. 

I recently spoke with Sight & Sound’s Manager of Communications, Katie Miller, about the theater’s mission to bring Bible literacy to the world, the challenges they faced in bringing “Jesus” to stage and screen, and why this story is truly the greatest search and rescue story in history.

Sight & Sound has developed a reputation over the years by doing such productions as Samson, Noah, and Jonah. Jesus is at the pinnacle or the precipice of all the Biblical stories that you can do.  Prior to two years ago, I understand that the last time a “Jesus” themed play was done at Sight & Sound was about 30 years ago.  Why the decision to bring back the story of all stories at this time?

For us, all the Bible stories that we have ever done and will ever do point to Jesus. That’s the whole point of what we do and why we do it every day.  Like you mentioned, in our history we had a production that told the story of Jesus. But to be able to tell it now with the technology that we have, the staging that we have, and the creative teams that we have, it felt like the right time. It has turned out to be such a spectacular experience and one that we were just overwhelmed by the audience response for the last couple of years since it was on stage. In its two-year debut run, nearly 1.5 million people experienced it live. And so now we are exceptionally passionate about this story continuing to minister and there seemed like no better time to take it to television and online streaming than the week of Easter. To journey alongside Jesus throughout his life, through all the miracles that we cherish, through His death, burial, resurrection, and even beyond that for Easter week just feels exceptionally special to us.

Sight & Sound is well known for producing Biblcially-themed stories.  The story of “Jesus” is the ultimate story.  In turn, I’m sure this creates a lot of pressure to ‘get it right’.  Why take on such a powerful challenge as this?

We often say that we cannot take credit for these stories. They have been changing lives and inspiring people for thousands and thousands of years. But we do have the opportunity to very humbly tell them and hopefully do our best to bring them justice. It was absolutely a huge undertaking, but one that our teams felt up to the challenge for, and one that they wanted to bring as much honor to as what they possibly could. We did everything we knew to represent the story in a way that is real and that made audiences feel like they were right there. Our team took a research trip to the Holy Land to walk where Jesus walked and to see the landscapes for themselves in person. When we produced this show, we ended up installing a 110-foot-wide LED screen, so that we could capture the landscapes, the beautiful Galilean countryside and seaside villages to the best of our ability. So, we pulled out all the stops the best that we could. We can have all of the spectacle, the big sets and the animals, but at the end of the day, all of those things need to point back to the story and the message of the greatest rescue story ever told.

As you mention, while the technology is great, at this story’s core is search and rescue.  I read surveys and studies frequently that Bible reading is fading and withering away.  Do you see it as part of your mission here at Sight & Sound to bring Bible literacy to the world?

Absolutely. We believe that the Bible is alive and these stories are just as relevant today as they ever have been. Our hope is that people come and take in the Sight & Sound experience, but especially the story of Jesus. We want people to watch this and to be inspired themselves to dig back into Scripture. There is no compliment on the face of the planet that we ever get that means more to us than when we get letters from guests that say, ‘I went home and for the first time in a really long time opened my Bible;’ or ‘My family went home and we had so many questions after the show that we wanted to read it together for ourselves. And we spent every evening this week leading through the Gospels.’ That is why we do what we do. The stories that we get to tell, yes, we want them to be entertaining and we want them families and people to come with their loved ones to have a fun and awesome time and make wonderful memories together. But we also believe that the stories that we tell last so far beyond the Sight & Sound experience that they have, whether they're in our theaters, in a movie theater, or watching on TV. That is the core of why each of us gets up every day to do what we do.

In your role at Sight & Sound what has been the greatest joy in bringing “Jesus” to the stage and now to television and online streaming?

Good question. For me personally, I love the opportunity to be reminded of the humanity of Jesus. When He was on earth, He was fully God, but He was also fully man. And in our portrayal of the show, you see so much of that. You see Him laugh, you see Him cry, you see Him be angry. You see Him goofing off and joking around with His disciples. They have this band of brothers kind of relationship where these 12 men were on the road all the time with each other. You see them laughing and joking around and Him having this brotherly relationship with his disciples that demonstrates His absolute love for them. I think sometimes, even for us now, it's so easy to feel like, of course God loves the world, but when you break it down and say, “No, he loves me. He loves you.” It's not just this broad sense. The individual relationships that you see that He has with people all throughout the show, whether it is Peter, Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha, or Lazarus … He had individual, loving relationships with each of these people and He met each of them where they were. And for me to be reminded that this is exactly what He is still doing today. What He did for Nicodemus was not the same thing that He did for Mary Magdalene and it was not the same thing that he did for Peter. The individual focus, love and attention that He gives, all of the characters that we encounter throughout the show, has never lost its inspiration for me. No matter how many times I've watched the show it still brings me so much emotion.

What is your greatest hope for bringing Sight & Sound’s “Jesus” to television and online streaming this Easter weekend?  What would you like to see audiences take away from the viewing experience?

Our greatest hope for this specific experience is that as people will get to watch who people were before and after an encounter with Jesus, that they too can recognize the difference that can happen in their own lives before and after an encounter with Jesus.

“Jesus” will re-air Wednesday, May 13 at 9pm ET/6pm PT on TBN.  Viewers can also watch the event live on the TBN app

Watch a trailer for Sight & Sound Theater's Jesus:

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