Clayton Jennings’ most difficult role also is the one he’s most passionate about
“It was spearheaded by my mom and all about telling the story of Jesus and his life,” he said. “I had lots of roles growing up – young Jesus, Isaac, Roman soldier…”
When Jennings was younger he said the production was “just a play.”
“I had a lot of fun bonding with the church,” he said. “Now it means so much more. All of the sudden, it was telling other people about this Lord we follow. It became a mission, not a performance.”
Last year, Jennings earned his biggest role in the production – Jesus. When he was approached by the church board to take the part, Jennings first examined his life.
“I wanted to be sure I had the right heart and mind for the Lord before I stepped into the sandals,” he said.
Like any character he portrays, Jennings said he studied and read as much as he could about Jesus and watched how other actors played the role.
“My view of him changed. Many see him as a meek, mild individual. He was so passionate about love he’s almost confrontational. Grace and mercy flow from him as an individual. I see him as an aggressive lover, and I hope and pray I’ve done that justice,” he said. “The more I learned, the more I fell in love with him.”
Jennings said he takes the role “one year at a time” and prays before committing again.
“When you become comfortable in that role is when you need to stop,” he said. “Portraying Jesus is holy ground.”
“Behind the scenes it’s a very quick turnaround with costumes,” Jennings said. “On the spiritual side the whole time I’m thinking, ‘I’m not worthy.’ When the soldier beats on me I think my mom feels I deserve it for what I put her through.”
Jennings’ mother, Lisa, still directs the show. While it’s not odd to enact the crucifying scene with her in the crowd, Jennings said it is “emotionally wrenching.”
“When that goes on its all drama, screaming, yelling, beating, chaos. I think, ‘Wow, this really did happen. He did this for me. My sins drove him to that cross. One time I was crying because of what it cost for my salvation,” Jennings said. “It brings it to life. When it gets quiet you can hear the crowd sniffling.”
‘Behold the Lamb’
The 23rd annual Hamilton County production of “Behold the Lamb” will be presented in seven performances Wednesday through Sunday. The show will be nightly at 7 p.m., with matinee performances at 2 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Noblesville High School auditorium, 18111 Cumberland Rd.
Director Lisa Jennings said the production involves more than 500 individuals with 300 costumed actors and musicians and all are involved as members or regular attendees of Harbour Shores Church, 8011 E. 216th St., Cicero – just north of the Noblesville city limits border.
“It brings us together – one heart, one mind, one focus,” Jennings said. “I never cease to be amazed at what God has done and continues to do in this church.”
“Behold the Lamb” is a two-hour, original production created by church members. Jennings said the first performance, which was a 30-minute traditional Easter cantata, entitled “Watch the Lamb,” was performed in 1991.
“Because of community demand, it was repeated in 1992. At that time, people in the community suggested we move the production to a larger facility to accommodate the crowds,” she explained. “It was never our intention to have a ‘mega drama ministry,’ but God’s leading was clear.”
There is no cost for admission, but a ticket is required and can be reserved by calling 984-9463. For more information, call www.beholdthelamb.com.
At age 25, Jennings has written two published novels and written, funded, produced, filmed, directed, edited and starred in a full-length feature film.
“I’ve had a midlife crisis the last four years,” he joked. “I have a sense of urgency. You don’t know how much time you have here. God gave me a huge opportunity and great people around me. I don’t have any excuse not to work hard.”
The process started in 2009 with “Willow Trees in Warfare.”
“I spent countless hours locked away writing. Once I became invested, the story became more alive,” he said. “I love the imaginative aspect that comes with dreaming up a story from start to finish. I’ve written many short stories throughout my life, all with the goal of bringing a picture of brighter days to the reader.”
The following summer, Jennings wrote “Twenty Tales,” 20 short stories that all come together in the last chapter.
“I wanted to do something similar to ‘Crash,’” he said.
The most difficult challenge came in 2011 when Jennings had an epiphany while driving to acting class. During his senior year at IUPUI, Jennings spent the days as a student and his evenings writing the script. He then emptied his entire savings account to buy camera equipment and fund “Strayland,” which premiered at Harbor Shores on Jan. 20, 2012, to a standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,200 people.
“It all came back and then some through donations and DVD sales at the premiere,” Jennings said. “We shot 62 scenes in 38 days, and I lost 15 pounds doing it. It was the coolest summer of my life.”
On his website, www.claytonjennings.com, Jennings has posted 25 short films about skits and spoken word poems in addition to information about his novels and “Strayland.”
“I intend to continue doing shorts. I have a couple of ideas as far as screenplays and book ideas,” he said. “It’s a joy for me to do this work, especially because I believe it can change people’s lives.”
Education: Graduated from Noblesville High School in 2006 and earned his Bachelor’s degree in communications from IUPUI. Jennings served in the U.S. Marine Corps before being honorably discharged for a medical injury. He was then an intern for Congressman Mike Pence in Washington, D.C.
Job: Jennings works on the creative team at RTV6 news. He hopes to earn a Master’s degree from the Moody Bible Institute and become an ordained minister. “It’s what God’s put in my heart and called me to do,” he said. “I want to use film making as an outreach ministry through the church.”
Hobbies: Writing and film making. “Any minute I get I’m at the computer typing.”
Quote: “This life will soon pass, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Clayton said this quote his mother, Lisa Jennings, told her children reminds him to spend his time wisely. “Shoot for the stars and at worst land on the moon” tells him to go big with your love.