The artistry and speed of the Make-up Ministry members play a pivotal part in City Harvest Church’s Easter dramas.
By Annabelle Low
The pinnacle of City Harvest Church’s Easter drama every year is the Via Dolorosa, or the “way of suffering”, when Jesus carries the cross to His crucifixion. As the actor playing Jesus makes his way down the aisles, the audience gets a close-up view of his mangled body, torn and bloodied from the torrential whipping by the Roman soldiers.
Behind the scenes of this vital act is the CHC Make-up Ministry. Apart from the actors playing the Roman soldiers, there is no other group of people who work as hard in getting Jesus’ body into its tortured state as these.
“The bloodier, the better!” smiles Debra Chong, 37, a ministry member. “Make-up plays a part in bringing the Word to life on stage—it literally makes the Word become flesh.”
An immense amount of preparation takes place before the actual performance. The ball is set rolling when drama directors Sandy Yeo and Jaslynn Khoo give the make-up ministry leaders the script and allocate the amount of time they have to work with. The leaders then meet to discuss manpower issues as well as delegation of tasks.
“We are blessed to have leaders who are willing to sacrifice their time to come down after work,” says Chong. Most, if not all, of the ministry members are volunteers who hold day jobs.
On the Easter weekend, as with other big days like Christmas when there is a drama involved, the entire ministry is activated and ready for action three hours before the curtains go up.
As the make-up artists normally have a very small window of time to complete the bloodied look of Jesus, there is always a dedicated team of five to eight people on standby as the actor changes out of his costume for the crucifixion scene. Often, they end up running after him to apply the make-up while he gets into position. Needless to say, they have to be extremely focused and know their individual responsibilities by heart; there is little time to think.
Jesus’ make-up has come a long way since its humble origins. In CHC’s Easter dramas back in the early days, the artists just dabbed red paint on Jesus’ body. Over time, they became more creative and experimental, employing special effects to make the wounds look more realistic.
They soon discovered that the conventional materials used were very costly, and began to explore cheaper alternatives to recreate the torn flesh and bloody wounds. “We know we can never entirely recreate what really happened in the Bible, but our target to make it look as real as possible,” says Chong.
Despite the high-pressure environment, the make-up artists never lose sight of the main reason they serve. Chong recalls one production when rehearsal ended past 2 a.m. and they had to report the very next morning at 6 o’clock for the 10 a.m. service.
The artists were exhausted from lack of sleep, and Tan Tian-An, the actor who plays Jesus, was still sore from the vigorous rubbing and scraping off of make-up off his body the night before.
But “as soon as Tian-An went onstage, I began to weep backstage because the presence of God was so strong,” says Chong. “When you see all the souls that respond to God after that, it is all worth it.”