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Changes to Great Passion Play Reduce Costs, Increase Attendance

EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. -- Crowds are gathering at the Great Passion Play once again, nearly one year after the production nearly went broke.
EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. -- Crowds are gathering at the Great Passion Play once again, nearly one year after the production nearly went broke.

The production, which depicts the week leading to the crucifixion of Jesus, brings in crowds of more than 600 people each night, according to the show's managers.

Kent Butler, who is both a spokesperson for the show and an actor in the production, said his family has been involved with the show since he was a young boy.

"It's been a rich part of my life," he said. "I remember the first time I saw the play when I was five."

Butler said management practices at the production have changed following several years of lackluster ticket sales that nearly crippled show in 2012.

He said attendance to the show is up 15-20 percent, and that several cost-saving such as reducing the number of shows at the theater are working.

"We are putting money away," he said. "We are paying our bills and we are on the up and up."

Butler expressed that it was difficult to strike a balance as a not-for-profit organization.

"We have dramatically changed the way we do business," Butler said. "We're both a business and a ministry. You have to take care of the business side of things before anything else can happen."

One of the men behind the push for more community donations was Randall Christy, who brought in extra support from Christian radio and music groups.

"It's been awesome experience," he said, "to watch people from all over the country come together to volunteer and pitch in and make this thing work."

Christy said he hopes the production will continue to grow.

"We believe we have to be good stewards of everything God gives us," he said.

Mike Butler, who runs the Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce, said community organizations were relieved that the play did not go completely broke last year.

"It's been a mainstay in our community for a long, long time," he said. "People come not just from the United States, but from all over the world to see it."

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