In 1959 the Easter Triumph pageant became the first staged play at the newly built Palmer Auditorium. The original script, written and directed by Pastor Robert Clausen in 1952 in Indianapolis, Indiana, has been adapted over the decades for the growing cast and more complex production.
To continue this long tradition on such a large scale with only volunteer cast members and donations was no small task. The annual budget of the production has grown from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Because the pageant has always been considered a gift to the city of Austin from the cast and crew, there has never been an admission charge. The pageant is paid for primarily through gifts from the Lutheran Churches Missouri Synod in Austin and through gifts given by the audience in appreciation for this moving production.
Cast members will tell you that the pageant has had its share of glory and mishaps in its long history. Most everyone in the pageant in the '70s remembers when the curtain opened while Jesus was still climbing up on the cross for the crucifixion scene. One year a thief fell off his cross, and although several cast members rushed to his aid, he was unharmed. In the early '80s, when the pageant was only held at 6 a.m. on Easter morning, the radio warned of a terrible storm and urged everyone to stay home. Although the rain poured down and the cast feared no one would show, God answered their prayers and over 1,000 people attended the pageant anyway. By the end of the performance, the sun was shining.
One of the moments many cast members remember with awe is the first time the actor portraying Jesus actually ascended into the sky courtesy of the mechanical lift and a cloud machine. This scene is the overwhelming favorite of the cast as well as audiences as the moment that Jesus joins His Father in heaven. Those who witness this triumphant end to the pageant all feel as though they are there.