Vandals Hit Amphitheater

By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief
By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief

Townsend, Blount County (WVLT) - They say their mission is to spread the Word of the Lord on stage, but Wednesday cast members from the Passion Play spent the day cleaning up some very different words at their facility in Blount County.

Volunteer TV’s Stephen McLamb surveyed the very serious damage and spoke with cast members to get their thoughts.

For one longtime cast member it was difficult to hear what had happened for the first time.

But some cast members of the Passion Play say the vandals' words may have broken their hearts, but not their spirit.

For three years, Jillian Atchley has acted in the Passion Play at their amphitheater in Townsend and just the thought of being there on stage is exciting.

"It's like you're in your own little world sometimes,” she says, “but it's just, oh, I love it."

But the amphitheater she loves so much has been vandalized and when she found out for the first time, Jillian's heart sank. "I hate it. I wish that hadn't have happened."

And she's not alone.

"It was just a sickening feeling you know from the pit of your stomach that stuff like this actually goes on,” Ed Cooper found the graffiti Tuesday night. At a place where they show the Passion of Jesus Christ, cast members say drug promotion is far from what they believe or stand for.

"I'm kinda down hearted but I'm not defeated,” says Joan Wilder, Passion Play worker. “I've got a Lord and Savior that is my hope and my future."

The Blount County Sheriff's Office is investigating.

Cooper believes the vandals were young people with nothing to do. He hopes they are caught and forced to do community service, like see the play and learn the other side of life.

"Yeah, make them sit through the whole thing. Make them see Christ on the cross. That could possibly do more than anything else,” Cooper says.

But cast members say they'll clean it up or cover it up and the show will go on.

"We will not be defeated. We'll open up Friday just like we have all summer,” Wilder says.

Blount County Sheriff's officials say they do not have any suspects at this time but are hoping the public can help.

Anyone with information on this crime is asked to contact the sheriff's department at 273-5200.


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