Oberammergau Passion Play
Oberammergau Passion Play

Meet Eva, Oberammergau's Mary in the 2022 Passion Play

There are some events around the world that you simply have to experience in your lifetime and the once-a-decade Oberammergau Passion Play is one of them. 

It was born in 1633 after citizens of the charming Bavarian village of Oberammergau made a solemn vow to perform a play once every 10 years that depicted the story of Christ’s life, suffering, death and resurrection if their lives were spared from the deadly plague, and, after no further deaths, the first iteration took place just one year later.

The play was due to be held in 2020, but was rescheduled to 2022 as a result of the pandemic – only this isn't the first time it has been cancelled in its history. It was stopped in 1770 when the Duke of Bavaria banned all passion plays, it was then cancelled in 1920 due to the amount of local lives lost in World War I and it was axed again in 1940 because of World War II. The first staging of the 100-day-plus run of the Oberammergau Passion Play in 2020 had been due to go ahead in May of that year, but after careful consideration the organisers eventually decided to postpone it until this year.

Now that we're just a few months away from its long-awaited launch, we caught up with one of the main cast members to find out how plans for the performance were impacted by the delays and what it's like to live in such a unique place. Eva-Maria Reiser will play the coveted role of Mary in the 2022 play, the 42nd iteration, and she also played the role of Mary Magdalene for the last Passion Play in 2010. Read what she had to say below. 

1) What is your earliest memory of the Passion Play?

My earliest memory of the Passion Play is walking as a 5-year-old child with a palm leaf in the scene Entry to Jerusalem.

2) What was the process like to be cast in the play, from the audition right through to finding out you got a part?

2010 I played Mary Magdalene, after that I took part in many theatre productions in Oberammergau. I hoped to get a main part in 2020 as well, but as there are only a few main female roles in the play I was not sure if it would work. When I saw my name written on the big wall in front of the Passion Theatre at the day of the announcement of the roles, I was really excited to be chosen as Mary.

3) What makes the village of Oberammergau so special to you?It is a beautiful village in the Bavarian alps. Besides the beautiful landscape, the Passion Play makes this place unique. Every 10 years we experience the biggest social event in the village. Different generations are performing together and getting along with each other, it’s really fantastic.

4) If you could recommend something local to a visitor who might have some free time in Oberammergau, what would it be?

Strolling around the village and popping in to the different shops, drinking coffee, and visiting restaurants where you can maybe find some actors from the Passion Play. I would also recommend having ice cream at Paradiso in the centre of the village. 

5) What was the experience of the pandemic like in terms of the play being postponed for two years? When did you find out it was postponed and when did rehearsals start again, for example? Did it change the experience?

When we heard about the postponement of the play in March 2020, we were totally shocked. In May 2020 the premiere night was planned, so in March we were busy with the preparations. Some weeks before, we hoped it would work even with this new virus but then we knew that it was not possible. The worst after the postponement was not to be able to meet each other to speak about this. Everyone had to come along alone with the special situation. For every one of us ,the postponement had its own tragedy because you plan your life around this special event, if it won’t take place, then you have to start totally new. Now, after two years of the pandemic everyone has their own ‘new pandemic life’. When the rehearsals will start again, we’ll get a piece of our normal life back and I think everyone is looking forward to starting up again. 

We also interviewed Frederik Mayet, the villager who will play Jesus in the 2022 iteration of the Passion Play, and you can read what he had to say about growing up in Oberammergau here

View our Oberammergau holidays

Experience the Oberammergau Passion Play for yourself this year

We have a few holidays on offer for 2022 that include tickets to the once-a-decade Passion Play, so you can tick this iconic performance off your travel wish-list before having to face another ten years' wait!

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Meet Eva, Oberammergau's Mary in the 2022 Passion Play was published on 13 January 2022