Bellevue Baptist – “Prodigal”

Bellevue Baptist Church is a Southern Baptist Megachurch in Cordova, TN, a suburb of Memphis. The 7,000 seat church sits on a 377 acre campus on Appling road that has been the home to Bellevue since 1989. Bellevue has always had a very successful live production ministry with elaborate productions at Christmas, Easter, and the 4th of July. The first Easter program, “Living Pictures” was introduced in 1981 by James D Whitmire, evolving into “The Memphis Passion Play” on the church’s expanded stage in the Cordova worship center in 1990.

In 2011, Bellevue Baptist Church presented Prodigal: A Father’s Forgiveness, produced by Minister Of Music, Mark Blair. For 30 years, Bellevue’s Easter presentations have brought the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to life on stage for thousands of people from across the Mid-South. This fresh rendition will relate this timeless story to the life of a modern-day character, Mr. Abbott, as he learns that God’s love still reaches out to the prodigal in all of us with the power to transform us through His Son.

This year’s production was completely reworked and re-designed with a new script, new music, new characters, and an all-new set and lighting design. Prodigal is unlike any Easter presentation you’ve seen before. David Evans, Executive Producer of the film “The Grace Card” said “This is a page turned in the Bellevue history books, because this is a fresh opportunity that Bellevue had to share the story of the Passion week but from a new perspective. This is a fresh anointing on a ministry that has been around for many years.

Paragon 360 was brought in to add a new and fresh perspective to the lighting design and equipment package for this new production. “So much of the time it’s not about what might have been being done or not being done from a lighting perspective, it just needs a new look and a fresh approach” explains Donnie Brawner, Paragon CEO. “We were asked to come in and evaluate what was being planned, be open about our thoughts and get involved in helping to make this a completely new production with a totally different experience then what was felt in the past.” Paragon was able to bring in a whole different lighting equipment package then what has been used in the past that offered great flexibility on a very cost effective budget. Paragon provided the lighting turn-key from design, thru equipment provision, installation, and programming.

It is so much easier for us to be able to guarantee great results when we have some control over all of those aspects, because one affects the other deeply” said Ron Robertson, Paragon Lighting Designer for Prodigal. “Story of Christ church productions such as this require so much thought process from the lighting design because the lighting plays such a large role on how the audience see’s the production, and feels the emotion. You have to be thinking about that in the design process when we are in script review or production meetings and you have to take that with you when you start laying out the plot, the gear package and then certainly when you sit down to start programming this thing one step at a time.”

The production required two weeks of load in, setup and rehearsals and a few weeks of pre-production. There were (5) performances over four days in April. The lighting system consisted of equipment from Bellevue’s house inventory in addition to (30) LED Units, (78) moving lights, (24) conventional units, high powered strobes, a GrandMA control console, theatrical hazers, over 300’ trussing and (17) chain motors.

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