The City of Leesville and the Town of New Llano, not unlike Jerusalem more than 2000 years ago, will provide the backdrop for what some have called a "surreal" presentation of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.


The City of Leesville and the Town of New Llano, not unlike Jerusalem more than 2000 years ago, will provide the backdrop for what some have called a "surreal" presentation of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The reenactment is set to begin at 7 p.m. tonight and go until 9:30, though organizers won't be surprised if worship continues long after, said Les Comeaux, one of about 100 volunteers working on the project. This year, at least two more stations will be added to the drama, including an empty tomb and an area where live music will provide an avenue into worship.
Tonight, passersby may be enticed into the entrance to Jerusalem on Stanton Street where interpretive dancers entertain in the marketplace. As they stroll along, they'll begin to mingle with Roman soldiers and residents of the city so that before long, they themselves become part of the day-to-day crowd of busy Jerusalem streets.
The soldiers will keep the crowd moving along until they come upon the scene of Christ's scourging. There, the crowd, including the visitors, will become more mob-like, as a Roman soldier wields the cat-o-nine. Some will sneer at the Christ, while others will look around with confusion and still others will begin to feel a growing sense of dismay, outrage and helplessness.
Then the Roman soldiers will make themselves known again.
"Move along," they'll shout. "There's nothing to see here." The crowd will move further along only to stop again when they see Christ, forced by the soldiers, carrying his cross. Simon will offer his help, and the group will climb Golgotha, where the visitors will find themselves at the foot of the cross, where Jesus hangs. Mourners will weep while the mob continues heckling. The soldiers will stand guard stoically.
"Last year, that's where it ended," said Comeaux of the drama, which is acted out by volunteers hour after hour at various stations.
"Probably no one went through [the drama], even volunteers, who didn't come out feeling as if they needed to take a step closer to the Lord," Comeaux said of last year's event.
But a vision for more took shape shortly after last year's production.
"Easter is about the resurrection," said Comeaux. "A lot of people know a good man died. But many people still don't believe that on the third day he rose again. See, that's our hope. For me, the sunrise service [is] the exclamation point."
Last year's vision has indeed taken shape; now, instead of ending with death on a cross, the production will end this year with an empty tomb. 
Also new  this year, beginning at about 7:30, visitors will be welcomed at the final station, a worship area, where several musical groups will be leading whomever wants to partake in worship. Though the last reenactment will end at approximately 9:30 p.m. each night, Comeaux said he expects the worship service to continue well past that point "so the seed don't get stolen away."
The event, sponsored by seven area churches, is free and open to the public. Last year at least 700 people attended, not counting those who stepped over the ropes for a better view or pulled their vehicles over to watch the scenes unfold from side streets or the parking lot.
Comeaux said he remembered a time when he'd been leaving Billy Goat Hill after a night of drinking around 3 a.m. and passed by the very spot where the drama will take place.
"If I had seen something like that going on, I would have stopped," he said.
The event will conclude Sunday morning with a sunrise service at the tomb at 7 a.m.