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In 1932, Josef Meier, a native of Luenen, Germany, brought a small company of actors to the United States to tour with a passion play. It was performed in German, destined for a limited engagement in German theaters, churches, and German-speaking communities. Political and economic conditions in Germany were already deteriorating during this time, and Meier determined to remain in America, to found a permanent home for the play. He translated the play into English, hiring American actors to replace the German-speaking cast. As he booked tours across the United States, Meier continued to seek a suitable permanent outdoor location for his production, mentioning his quest to the public in interviews across the nation. En route to the West Coast, Meier presented the Passion Play in Sioux Falls, the only town of size within South Dakota at that time. A group of businessmen from the Black Hills attended and asked Meier to examine possible sites in their area. He chose a spectacular natural location in Spearfish, and in 1939, an amphitheater was constructed and became the home of the renamed Black Hills Passion Play of America.
About the Author
Johanna Meier is the present director of the Black Hills Passion Play, sharing production responsibilities with her husband, Guido Della Vecchia. She grew up with the play, in which she first appeared as an infant. She took on the role of permanent director at the time of her father’s retirement in 1991.
Table of Contents
1 Beginnings 9
2 The Black Hills Passion Play of America 19
3 The Touring Years 39
4 The Animals 57
5 The Passion Play at Home 67
6 The Meier Family 93
7 The Next Generation 115