The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Betty Williamson
Local columnist 

'Living Last Supper' back on after COVID year


Last updated 3/30/2021 at 5:11pm

Betty Williamson

ENMU police chief Brad Mauldin rehearses his role of Judas in First United Methodist Church's production of "The Living Last Supper."

About this time last year, Jan Smartnick was gearing up to direct a pre-Easter performance of "The Living Last Supper" at First United Methodist Church in Portales.

The drama, written in 1954 by Pastor Ernest K. Emurian, is inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's painting, "The Last Supper," a depiction of Christ and his disciples sharing a final meal together.

"We were all ready," Smartnick recalled this week. With two rehearsals under their belts (or maybe sashes?), the cast was aiming for a Maundy Thursday performance.

But even divine motivation wasn't enough to stop a COVID intervention.

"We had to cancel that third rehearsal," Smartnick said, and the performance was postponed indefinitely.

A year later, the actors portraying Jesus and his mostly masked disciples were back in the sanctuary of the church last week rehearsing for Thursday's rescheduled presentation.

It won't be the packed event that debuted in the sanctuary of the old church in 1998, but Smartnick hopes the limited and socially distanced audience will have the same takeaway: "A better understanding of who the chosen 12 were, how they related to Jesus, and the effect his announcement that one of them would betray him had on each of them."

"The Living Last Supper" is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday in FUMC sanctuary, 200 S. Ave. C, Portales.

There is no charge, but attendance will be limited to 150 people on a first-come basis, Smartnick said. Masks are required and social distancing will be observed between non-household groups.

Those who would prefer to catch the event online will have to wait. The performance will not be livestreamed, Smartnick said, but it will be recorded and hopefully be available online at a later date.

This is Smartnick's seventh time to sit in the director's seat for this production, an unquestionable labor of love.

"It's an opportunity to work with many different personalities from all walks of life to bring to the public one of the amazing stories of Christ and his disciples," Smartnick said. "Each presentation is different but full of meaning. I'm personally moved each time I see it."

Douglas MacLaren, an Eastern New Mexico University student from Gallup, portrays Jesus.

There are many familiar faces among the actors portraying the disciples, including Jim Lucero, executive director of the Roosevelt County Community Development Corporation, retired educator Mike Terry, and ENMU Police Chief Brad Mauldin.

Behind the scenes, Smartnick noted that David and Mary Russell "certainly need to be thanked" for the management of lights and technology they have done each time this event has been staged.

"It brings the presentation to life," she said.

Audience members are reminded that this is a somber production, one that ends with quiet reflection rather than applause.

Regardless of one's religious affiliation, "The Living Last Supper" offers another lesson, Smartnick said.

"It just simply reminds us that we are all different," she said, "and it is OK and good to share a meal with those who are different and to learn from and about each other."


Betty Williamson tips her hat to Jan Smartnick, for her persistence, her dedication, and her faith. Reach Williamson at:

[email protected]


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