Living Stations of the Cross

The long standing tradition at Malvern Prep returns to the stage for the first time in over a year, bringing a sense of joy and normality to students and faculty on campus.

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Ben Franzone, Friar Life Editor

The Stations of the Cross production has been a cherished tradition for students each year since its beginning. Due to the pandemic, the last performance took place in March of 2019. It wasn’t until this March that the production would rock the stage yet again. 

Each year, Malvern Prep puts on a production of the Stations of the Cross in Duffy Theater. The cast is made up of students from the senior class and is complimented by Malvern’s Liturgical Music. 

Dr. James Fry is director of the production, working mostly with the cast, while Mr. Ed Liga works with the choir to prepare a musical ensemble for the show. 

The planning for this years’ Living Stations of the Cross began in January when Liga and Fry discussed the possibility of having stations and if so, what exactly that would look like. 

“The idea was that since there wasn’t really going to be a school musical this year, this might be a way to have some sort of theatrical performance,” Liga said. 

In years past, there would be just two productions of Stations of the Cross, enough however, for everyone to take part in viewing the show. 

“We used to do it for the public on Palm Sunday and then we would do it for the entire school the Wednesday before Easter break,” Liga said. “But with social distancing and all that we couldn’t do that this year.”

Knowing they would not be able to gather the entire student body into the Duffy Theater for one large performance, as was the case in years past, Liga and Fry had to get creative with how they presented the production. 

With the administration looking for a new experience for students to have on Brotherhood Days, it was ultimately decided that each grade would have the opportunity to watch the Stations of the Cross production on their assigned Brotherhood Day in March. 

“The first performance was for seniors, then every brotherhood day, the classes that are on campus for the days would experience it as their own separate assembly,” Fry said. 

With COVID-19 precautions having to be taken into account, all actors and musicians must wear masks, singers must now be spaced out more and social distancing is kept in place as much as possible. 

Liga also mentioned how it was a particular group of seniors that really fueled him and gave him that extra push to pursue the possibility of having a Stations of the Cross performance.

“We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to do this, but I knew that I had four seniors who were in the band that had either played it before, or had it within them to be able to get that music together quickly,” Liga said. “Eric Yabolonski, Corman Delaney, Chris Krein, Eoin McGill, their work ethic was just amazing; they ended up coming in the morning [to rehearse],” he said. 

Liga understood the difficulties that learning new music poses to many musicians, but he had complete confidence in these guys to learn and handle new music in such a short amount of time. 

Chris Krein, a member of Liga’s Liturgical Music, has been playing the guitar since 7th grade, but now plays the bass to help fill in spots that were missing. 

Being that the last live performance on Malvern’s stage was about a whole year ago, Krein was thrilled when the opportunity came up to perform one more time for his senior year. 

“There are not enough words to describe how excited I am to be back on stage for these performances,” Krein said. “I love the thought of going to school, grabbing a guitar and playing music with all of the people in Liturgical Music,” he continued. 

“The Stations of the Cross performances acted like a motivation boost for the band to grow and want to be there more to work harder to make it the best possible,” Krein said. 

As for the acting side of the production, this year, the role of Jesus was given to senior, Collin Hess. 

“I got an email a few weeks ago from Dr. Fry, asking if I wanted to be Jesus and an opportunity like that doesn’t come up that often so I just want to play Jesus,” Hess said. 

Since all of the roles have no speaking parts, there is no need for the cast members to have any theatrical experience. 

“This is my first time being in a production or being on stage,” Hess said. “So a bit of a learning curve, but it was fun.”

With the Living Stations revolving around the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that role in particular, holds a great amount of weight to the student selected for it. 

“It was really cool because it was a main character, but you’re also portraying someone that actually exists and plays a huge role in society as well as our school, and our lives,” Hess said. 

Being that this was his first time performing on stage, Hess reflects on what it has been like to be part of such a great group of guys.

It’s been pretty great,” Hess said. “Dr. Fry is great at what he does and everyone who takes part in it has been working hard.”

“The choir, the actors, [everyone] who helps with the lighting really just put in a lot of work and it shows, because I think we do a pretty good job,” Hess said. 

For many of Malvern’s students, this year’s performance was the first time they got to see the Living Stations of the Cross, since last year’s performances were canceled. 

With these past two years being such difficult times for so many in Malvern’s community, this experience hopes to bring a bit of light to those who need it most and signifies a sense of normality that has been missing for quite some time. 

“Over the course of this past year, I think that we have all learned the true meaning of self satisfaction,” Krein said. “We have learned that there are times that we need to sacrifice for the good of the world … and we have to imagine the way that Jesus felt to sacrifice it all for the good of the world,” he said. 

As for Liga, he offers a similar note, focusing on how incredible it has been for them to be able to carry out such a great experience, considering most schools have not been able to have these productions for a very long time. 

“It was such a sense of accomplishment that they got to do it performance but also for the audience I’m hoping that they get into the spirit, hoping that the audience gets a kind of sense of normalcy,” he said. 

Fry tries to focus on the many parallels between the Passion of Jesus Christ and the world we are living in today. He wants the audience to focus and reflect on these many connections and try to find the positive notes during a very difficult time.  

“So, what I have challenged and have been challenging all the audiences to do is to almost take kind of a year in review, just looking back on their life the last year and putting themselves into Christ’s shoes,” Fry said. “Remember times that maybe you were mocked, times when you felt like you had to carry the burden of the world on your shoulders like in the case of Christ carrying the cross,” he continued. 

“Through all of the stations, I think we see all those rough times and then at the end there is that light, there is that resurrection,” Fry continued. “And I feel like in so many ways that’s a great parallel to what’s happening now in this pandemic, especially where we are, there’s been a lot of tough times and there’s been a lot of disappointment and loss on a variety of levels, but now Spring is coming, the sun’s coming out, the vaccines, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and that’s our resurrection.”