Acting Like Jesus

by Stephen O'Rear

Chiseled temple columns reach to the ceiling. Bearded men tower over the 11-year-old, challenging his every word. But Dylan L. doesn’t back down.

“I know God’s there,” he says, “and He’s gonna help me.”

Dylan plays young Jesus in the new musical “Jesus” at Sight & Sound Theatres in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Night after night, he acts out the story of Jesus in the temple, explaining that God will provide the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

“It’s really cool to portray the first-ever time He preaches in the Bible,” Dylan says.

Sight & Sound Theatres -- Jesus

Although the temple leaders look intimidating, Dylan knows he can trust them. “The cast and crew are extra supportive,” he says. “They’re like family actually.”

After his big scene in front of 2,000 people, Dylan rushes backstage to change costume. When he’s not playing young Jesus, he still has a part in the show. “I’m in the ensemble, singing and jamming out with the other actors,” he says.

Dylan rejoices with the crowd as grown-up Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. For him, praising God is the best part of the show.

“Worship really lifts your spirits,” Dylan says. “It helps you notice that God is with you through the play.”

Sight & Sound Theatres -- Jesus

Happy Birthday
Dylan got started acting in his hometown of Hershey, Pennsylvania. “I made a lot of friends,” he says.

Two years ago, he was sitting in the audience for Sight & Sound’s “Samson” when he saw an audition notice in his program.

“It’s a long drive, so the audition was my birthday present,” Dylan recalls. “We came over here and then got some ice cream. I didn’t expect to get a part, but here I am.”

Dylan’s first role was in the chorus for “Jonah,” which ran for seven months. When he stepped on the massive stage, he got chills. “It was incredible. I thought to myself, I work here!”

Dylan returned to Sight & Sound Theatres for “Miracle of Christmas.” Now his parents drive him 30 miles each way four times a week, so he can perform in “Jesus.”

Dylan is thankful for their sacrifice that helps him achieve his dreams. “I like acting, I like singing and I want to keep that a part of my life.”

Family and Faith
Dylan grew up fighting for the spotlight.

“I have four brothers,” he says. “They’re all wrestlers, so I was the different one.” Still, they find ways to have fun together. “We’re pretty addicted to Frisbee.”

Dylan’s parents offer tons of support, including helping him learn his character.

“I’m one of those people who have to know their lines,” Dylan says. “Like, I can’t sleep without knowing them. My parents act out the scenes with me. It’s funny to watch them.”

He also feels a close connection to his acting family at Sight & Sound Theatres.

“They’re extra welcoming,” he says. “You step into the building and you feel that you belong.”

Part of that connection has to do with their shared faith in Jesus. Before the show, the cast gathers to sing praise songs. Then they take the stage to show people the truth of Jesus’ life on earth.

“It’s amazing to express the salvation message,” he says. “No matter who you are, rich or poor, Jesus loves you.”

Sight & Sound Theatres -- Jesus

Dylan’s Favorites
Color: Coral
Sports: Swimming and dance
Bible story: Joseph. “It shows that, with God, you can be anything.”
Class: Writing
Food: Strawberries and sugar

Sight & Sound Theatres -- Jesus

Walking on Water
For 42 years, Sight & Sound Theatres has brought the Bible to life. “We get to tell the greatest stories of all time,” says director Josh Enck.

Their new musical, “Jesus,” features live animals, 900 costume pieces and a giant LED screen. It even rains indoors—twice!

“Every time I step on this stage, it’s amazing,” says Daniel Gorham, who plays John. “When I saw the rain coming down and the boat was 8 feet in the air, I thought, Lord, I hope this never gets old. It’s a dream come true, for sure.”

The show depicts Jesus saving people from illness, danger and death. One rescue takes place during a storm. The disciples spot Jesus walking on the water. Peter joins Him among the waves.

“That should be impossible, but with Jesus nothing is impossible,” says Michael Niederer, who plays Peter.

Before long, Peter begins to doubt and he sinks. It’s a good lesson for all of us.

“Keep your eyes on Jesus,” Michael says. “What happened when Peter fell into the water? Jesus picked him right back up and got him onto that boat.”

“Jesus” runs at Sight & Sound Theatres all this year. For ticket information, click here.

Copyright © 2018 by Focus on the Family. Photos © Sight & Sound Theatres.