Actor Stephen Baldwin returns to Arlington Heights to play thief on the cross
In a rare turn of events, actor Stephen Baldwin will make his second appearance in Arlington Heights in as many years.
He returns next month to appear in a one-man show, "Heaven, How I Got Here: A Night with the Thief on the Cross," sponsored by The Orchard Evangelical Free Church. His debut performance last year drew sold-out audiences all six nights, or nearly 5,000 people.
The play brings to life the story of the thief on the cross next to Jesus at the crucifixion, told from his perspective, as he looks back from heaven on the day that changed his fate. It's based on a book, written last year by the Rev. Colin Smith, senior pastor of The Orchard.
"In brainstorming with our (Unlocking the Bible) team, we thought the one person we'd like have play the thief would be Stephen Baldwin," his days of drug abuse and ultimately gave him new direction in his career.
Starting in 2008, Baldwin started co-hosting a Saturday radio show called "Baldwin/McCullough LIVE," which airs on more than 200 stations nationwide. He also has launched a faith-based film company.
In an email exchange, Baldwin said he was hooked the minute he heard the word thief and that he felt as if it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play the thief on the cross from the Bible.
"As a born-again believer, this was one of the most intriguing opportunities I have ever come across," Baldwin said. "The first time around, it all came together in a way that was exceptionally special. That, and when the spirit of God shows up, there's really nothing else like it."
Admittedly, The Orchard is a church that loves the Bible. Its Unlocking the Bible ministry aims to make the power of the Scriptures accessible to people through a broad array of programs and media, including a daily radio program.
The Orchard now has campuses in Arlington Heights, Barrington, Itasca and Marengo, with a fifth set to open in 2017 in Northfield.
All of its locations offer vibrant music, contemporary services, and adult faith formation programs supported by hundreds of volunteers.
However, this play -- timed during Lent -- is something of a first for the congregation, Smith says, in that it drew a wider audience from throughout the Northwest suburbs.
Baldwin gave such a riveting and powerful performance the first time, Smith adds, that he and his team members extended the offer to him again this year, and he accepted.
However, they hope people will come to the one-hour play for more than just to see the actor.
"This is my favorite Bible story because it gets to the heart of how a person gets into heaven," Smith says.
If you goWhat: "Heaven, How I Got Here: A Night with the Thief on the Cross," starring Stephen Baldwin
When: 6 and 8:30 p.m. March 15, 16 and 17
Where: The Orchard Evangelical Free Church, 1330 N. Douglas Ave. in Arlington Heights