'Beautiful Exchange' puts Christian story in modern context

Folks at East Hill Church have been calling on Satan for help, according to Jacob Kalmbach, 22.

Kalmbach plays the Prince of Darkness in East Hill's Easter play 'The Beautiful Exchange,' which tells the story of Jesus Christ's crucifixion and resurrection in a modern context.

At rehearsals, Kalmbach has gotten used to be labeled a devil.

'The most fun is that everyone starts to call everyone by their stage name, so it's pretty funny when people ask Satan for his help,' Kalmbach says.

On a more serious note, the young actor says his character is either 'there to mock (Jesus) or I am there as the 'push' for others to convict Jesus.'

The East Hill play is not your typical sword and sandal epic, he adds.

'A lot of churches give you a light and fluffy story,' he says. 'This is not. I think this is what people need, the church to be real with them.'

'The story of the last week of Jesus' life is so powerful,' adds East Hill Lead Pastor Jason Albelo. 'But because it happened so long ago, sometimes we can be distracted by the cultural and historical attributes and lose sight of the raw, real narrative at play.'

The play's director, Jeff Schroeder, wrote the adaptation of the ancient Christian story, noting the title comes from the idea that 'Jesus exchanged his life for ours.

'We wanted to strip it down to its basic story and relationships, something that we can connect to today as well,' Schroeder says.

Linda Zirk, 57, plays Mary, the mother of Jesus, and is also the play's stage manager. In one scene her character has to watch Jesus being led away to be crucified.

'I am challenged to bring the right level of emotion to Mary in a very short amount of time and convey what a mother would feel in such a moment,' Zirk says.

Like the other cast and crew members, she thinks audiences will enjoy the modern take on the Christian story.

'I think the show is very appealing as it shows the very human Jesus as well as the risen savior,' she says. 'It is very faithful to the Bible but set in modern times which makes the characters very like people we know.'

Ultimately, she says, the play is more than just entertainment.

'It's exciting to be a part of something that is bigger than me and way more important,' Zirk says. 'It's a relationship with Jesus and ultimately eternal life. It's never about the people on the platform but all about the message that is being delivered.'

If you go

WHAT: 'The Beautiful Exchange'

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday, April 6; 6 p.m. Saturday, April 7; 9:15 and 11:15 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Easter Sunday, April 8

WHERE: East Hill Church, 701 N. Main Ave.

INFO: 503-661-4444,

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