Since its first performance the play has been performed in the open air. Originally, this was in the parish churchyard, but the fame of the play travelled fast, and people flocked to Oberammergau from the surrounding towns and villages. When the churchyard became too small to contain all the visitors, a new venue was found in a nearby field, and a temporary stage was constructed. In 1890 a purpose-built theatre was constructed. The stage is still in the open-air, but the seating area, with room for 4,000 spectators, is covered. That was perhaps as well because on my visit to Oberammergau, it started to rain during the first half. We were kept dry, but the performers on the stage gradually became more and more bedraggled. Fortunately, by the end (almost 5 hours later, and including a short break for lunch), the sun came out.
Only natives of Oberammergau are allowed to perform, and almost half the population of the town take part in the play, about 2,000 in total. One result of this is that almost every shop in the town has photos of the owner taking part in the play, with large signs saying ‘I played Judas in 1990’ etc. On one occasion, we were chatting to the proprietor of one of the hotels in the town, and he proudly announced that he had played Jesus in 1950 and1960, while his father played Pilate and his son played Judas.