Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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Gonzaga University stages ‘The Last Days of Judas Iscariot’ Feb. 26-28
by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register
(From the Feb. 26, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)
Jeremy Knowles (left) is St. Matthew and Michael Heye plays St. Peter in Gonzaga University’s readers’ theater production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. (IR photo courtesy of Father Kevin Connell SJ)
On Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 26-28, Gonzaga University will present a readers’ theater adaptation of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, directed by Jesuit Father Kevin Connell, principal of Gonzaga Prep.
The play – which Father Connell cautions “is not for children” – examines a trial held in purgatory, seeking to overturn the eternal damnation of Judas Iscariot. Witnesses include Pontius Pilate, Satan, and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Theater is sometimes seen as one of the more tawdry arts. What’s the intersection with faith?
“The faith is about telling stories,” said Father Connell. “How did Jesus communicate his message most effectively and memorably? By telling stories.”
The parts of the Old Testament “that really stick with us” most often are the stories: “Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood. Theater takes an idea and puts it together with a human story that people can relate to, disagree or agree with.”
The Last Days is very much a play about ideas, he said, “the point where divine mercy and eternal justice meet.” But by taking ideas and expressing them through stories, people have an easier time latching on to concepts. “Theater humanizes things,” he said. Good storytelling “puts together human stories with moral concepts in a way that really can touch people’s hearts, and minds, and change them.”
Besides the philosophical debates within the story, the characters themselves are well researched historically, said Father Connell. The audience learns something about “people you think you know about, but this gives you a new light on them…. Educational, but entertaining.”
As a readers’ theater production, there will be minimal costuming and no set; the actors will be carrying scripts, but there will be very little staged movement during the production, which lasts a little over an hour.
The play does not necessarily deliver pat answers to the questions it raises – one of the things he likes about it.
“Come, being prepared to think,” said Father Connell. “To laugh, and to learn.”
(Gonzaga University will present The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at 7 p.m. Feb. 26-28 in the Wolff Auditorium in the Jepson Center for the School of Business Administration. Admission is by donation. Audiences are cautioned that the language and subject matter are not for children.)