Categories: Around the Diocese

Premier on St. Cloud stage of musical that tells the story of what happened after Jesus’ death

March 28, 2014, edition
By Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully

An original, locally written production based on Jesus’ resurrection is set to hit the stage this April.

Through dramatization and 21 songs, “Risen” tells the story of what happened after Jesus’ death. Directed by Peter Donohue and Michael Novak, the 14-cast member production will be performed April 1-6 at The Black Box Theater in St. Cloud.


Jay Ramos, playing the role of Jesus, and Michael Novak, playing Thomas,
rehearse “Risen” March 17 at The Black Box Theater in St. Cloud. Photo by Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully

“It is a story of hope,” said Patrick Bednarz, writer and composer of “Risen” and a member of St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud.

“Risen” begins with the end of the Sabbath after Jesus’ death. It includes Jesus’ appearances, ascension, Pentecost and Peter’s first sermon. It ends with a song on the “Universal Christ.”

“It’s such a wonderful theme at such a wonderful time of the year,” Donohue said.

Reverent, fun ‘here and there’

By definition “Risen” is an opera, with all the parts sung, but Bednarz likes to refer to it as a “musical” because the songs are contemporary and lively for the most part, rather than classical.

Donohue describes the music as complex and true to the story.

“Lyrics are fitting for the music and story line and reverent, but there’s a little bit of fun here and there,” he said.

Nearly all of the songs are directly based on the Bible. Bednarz used poetic license in a segment where the women are upset that the men are considering only fellow men to replace Judas as a disciple.

“Universal Christ” is based on Bednarz’s thoughts after reading a prayer book. “The universal Christ can go anywhere and can touch anyone at anytime,” Bednarz said.

Many of the people involved with the production are members of St. Mary’s Cathedral, including Donohue. Novak is a member of Holy Spirit Parish in St. Cloud.

Bednarz said the musical is especially written for anyone around first Communion age and up.

The one-hour opera is 10 years in the making. Bednarz, a musician, wrote it when he was in prison.

Back to the church

Prison, he said, saved his life.

In prison he realized that his life, with his addictions and his neglect of his physical, spiritual and emotional health, was out of control. He knew he needed to take better care of himself.

His time in prison, along with the help of intense long-term chemical dependency and cognitive restructuring treatment programs offered by the state, helped him recover.

He also grew closer to God in prison.

Though he attended a Catholic elementary and high school, he had since drifted away from Catholicism. Residents Encounter Christ retreats in prison gave him support to get back on track.

Knowing he would serve five years in prison, Bednarz knew he needed something to do to fill up the empty time. He felt God was telling him to write a musical about the resurrection. Bednarz found the thought of him composing a musical odd. Although he came from a musical family and was a vocalist, keyboardist and arranger, he had not composed music.

Plus, he rarely had access to a musical instrument.

However, writing the music gave him a sense of purpose.

He began writing “Risen” within a month after he was incarcerated and continued to work on it after he was released.

“It was getting back into something I love and feel good about,” he said. “And was a great way to have a relationship with God. It was a great way to pray and worship through these songs.”

Bednarz wrote the lyrics and melody notes with pad of paper and a pencil in prison. After he was released, he added chord structures, arrangements and vocal harmonies. He played the music on a keyboard and recorded it.

From music to the stage

About two years ago, Bednarz began working with Donohue and Novak to turn his music into a production.

Alex Maiers of Rockhouse Productions in St. Joseph listened to Bednarz’s recordings and notated it. Bednarz returned to Rockhouse Productions to play the synthesizer and record a high-quality soundtrack.

Meanwhile, Bednarz managed sober houses before becoming the project director of the Central Minnesota Re-Entry Project in St. Cloud in 2010. In mid-February the “Risen” cast began rehearsing.

Looking back, Bednarz says “Risen” was a collaborative project with God.

“It was really renewing my relationship with Jesus,” Bednarz said. “I think it was to get this story out to give other people hope.”

With just a few days before the premiere, the cast and crew are wrapping up final preparations, but Bednarz is not worried.

“We’re ahead of schedule,” Bednarz said. “People are working hard.”

To attend:

“Risen” will be performed 7:30 p.m. April 1-5 and 2 p.m. April 6 at The Black Box Theater 804 W St. Germain St. in downtown St. Cloud.

Tickets are $20 adult, $18 senior and $15 student/children.

Purchase tickets at www.paramountarts.org/events/risen.