Eureka Springs, Arkansas and The Great Passion Play

            Early in the 1980s, my parents and some other church members went to Eureka Springs, Arkansas to see The Great Passion Play.  I remember my mother talking about how the crucifixion of Christ looked so realistic and how she wondered how they managed the ascension of Christ because it looked so realistic. Since our plans had changed and we would have more time in Bentonville, Arkansas, I looked into tickets to The Great Passion Play in nearby Eureka Springs.

            As I browsed the website, I noticed they had tours of The Holy Land, a Backstage Tour, and we could eat dinner there.  It sounded great to me, so I booked our tickets for Wednesday, July 13, 2021 – or so I thought.  July 13 was actually a Tuesday, so I had the wrong day, but I wouldn’t realize that until we were at the site and were “late” for the Holy Land Tour.  What?  The play was on Tuesday night, and we arrived on Wednesday – OOPS!  Thankfully, the organization was willing to let us come back at anytime to use our tickets for the backstage tour, dinner, and play.

            On the way to Eureka Springs, we stopped at the Mildred Cooper Memorial Chapel, which is one of the Glass Chapels in Arkansas located in Bella Vista. We then stopped at Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, the first glass chapel in Arkansas.  Both are beautiful and we have now seen all three glass chapels in Arkansas having seen the Anthony Chapel in Hot Springs earlier.  They are open and are available for weddings. They even have “elopement” packages. If you are in the area, please visit them.

            When we arrived at The Great Passion Play, we didn’t stop at the gift shop but instead drove on down to the Christ of the Ozarks statue.  After walking around and viewing how it was built, we stopped in the little chapel nearby, saw a section of the Berlin Wall, and an Israeli Bomb Shelter. We headed back to the entrance of the Holy Land, and it stated thought the Holy Land tours started every 45 minutes, which would be 2:45, but we saw no tours.  I called the office to learn that we were late as the tour started at 2:00. That was my first inkling that something wasn’t right.  They told us we could walk down to the Tabernacle to catch up to the tour, so we headed out.

We caught up with the tour and in the course of events we learned this was not a “play” day.  What?  Oh, well, we went on with the tour and learned so much by the very informative guide.  (FYI: The guide kind of looks like a chubby Garth Brooks. I told him that when we returned for the play, much to my husband’s chagrin. lol) The guide informed us that they had taken trips to the Holy Land and tried to make things as authentic as possible. Several of the buildings and sets have been used in various Biblical movies. It was interesting to see the well that they walked into to dip their vessels and learn it was the place to learn all the “news” of the town.  We also learned that the Lord’s Supper would not have looked like we see in the famous painting as there were specific places for people to sit based on who the person of honor was and sitting traditions of the day. The Holy Land Tour is worthwhile, and we recommend it. Their website explains, “The Holy Land Tour is not like anything you have ever experienced. Walking through a life-sized replica of the Eastern Gate in Jerusalem into an authentic Marketplace, you will feel as if you are in the actual Holy Land. Tours are from 12:00pm to 3:45pm on days of Play performances and there are special guided tours every day but Sunday by advanced reservation. Do not miss experiencing Biblical life with your own eyes with cisterns, sheep pens, guard towers, and a full-scale replica of the Tabernacle.”

            We returned to Eureka Springs on the next Tuesday (an actual play day) and participated in the Backstage Tour.  We had the same guide that had done the Holy Land tour on our previous visit.  I knew my mother would want to know how they managed the ascension of Jesus, so I listened but forgot to take a picture. The person portraying Jesus dons a harness that goes between and around each of his legs and around his waist. The robe he wears has slits on both sides to allow him to attach the harness to two cables that are powered by two separate motors.  The guards hide him as he attaches himself. One motor pulls him up and the other motor pulls him back allowing him to ascend up and back at the same time until he disappears into the trees.  It is very effective, and I looked forward to telling my mother I knew the secret.

            The flogging done to Jesus is very realistic and they do actually hit him, and it does leave welts on the actor. We saw the costume room and learned at one point the actor portraying Jesus must really run to go from one set to another, so they added a door just for him to make it a shorter distance.  The door has a sign that reads “Not an Exit Jesus Only,” which was rather funny. We learned that the sheep that run through the set on three different occasions know where to go because they are fed in the different locations each time they run through.  A tour of the barns introduced us to the donkeys, doves, horses, and the camel.  The backstage tour is very eye opening, and I highly recommend it.

            After our backstage tour, we went to a dinner buffet and there were three pre-shows. The first one is serious and is called The Potter’s Parable, the second, David, the Shepard, is humous but is also enlightening. The third is done in the stands before the play and an artist sculps the bust of Christ as he gives his talk.  All were well done.  We did not visit the museums and gift shops, but I would recommend that you allot the time to check them out.

The play. Wow!  The lighting and sound and the sets really make this play outstanding. Even though the play has been performed since 1968, they change it every year and have added to the sets.  If you haven’t seen it before, you should go. If you haven’t seen it in many years, you should return.  As their website states, “Staged in an outdoor amphitheater, the multi-level set, special lighting and sound effects, live animals, and a cast of over 100 Biblically costumed actors come together to create the thrilling epic drama of Jesus Christ’s last days on earth.”

Northern Arkansas and specifically northwest Arkansas has a lot to offer, and The Great Passion Play is one of those.  There are even various mountain bike trails on the mountain that is home to Christ of the Ozarks and The Great Passion Play.  Plan on spending a full day or even more time there to enjoy all there is to offer in Eureka Springs.

Beth Cervenka


We are Beth and Frank Cervenka, the Texas RV Couple. We sold our dream home, bought a used Class A motor home and set out to explore the US full time. We hope you'll come explore with us! We appreciate recommendations of places to visit, of course, we also love food, so those recommendations are also welcomed! We are a blended family with five "children" between us, but they are all adults now, so we can confidently leave and explore on our own. Three grandchildren bring joy to our lives. We will miss them. Beth, a retired teacher, taught English and history for 31 years before retiring in 2017. Frank worked in the oil and gas business for 34 years in Quality Assurance. They started their own remodeling company in 2016, but now just focus on selling high quality cabinets for clients in the US. Check out to see the Conestoga line of cabinets. Frank works with clients to design their kitchen or other spaces. We hope you will enjoy our adventures and misadventures and come explore with us. We appreciate your support and suggestions. Thanks, Beth and Frank