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Home > Issues > 2012 > Winter > Acting Like Jesus

I was sitting with two buddies from college in the upper deck of Wrigley Field. Midway through the baseball game, Kevin turned to me and said, "I'm directing a play that I think you'll like. It's about Jesus and Judas. I'll send it to you."

Kevin and I graduated from the Theatre School at Chicago's DePaul University back in 1995. All my life to that point, I'd wanted to be an actor.

During college, my passion gradually shifted from acting to ministry. When I graduated, I simply didn't have the drive to pursue an acting career, so I considered this chapter of my life closed. I went to seminary and then into youth ministry, while Kevin and most of my college friends pursued theater and film. I kept up with their work, reading plays that friends were involved with, and trying to attend as many as possible. But Kevin's project would be different.

The play he sent me, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, was named one of the Top 10 plays of 2005 by Time. The play is set in a courtroom in Purgatory and centers around the trial of Judas Iscariot. Judas is in hell, and a renegade attorney brings his case before a judge and jury claiming that Judas has been unfairly condemned.

During his trial, key witnesses from history take the stand, including Mother Teresa, Sigmund Freud, Simon the Zealot, Caiaphas the Elder, Pontius Pilate, and Satan. It includes Saint Monica (Augustine's mother) as a foul-mouthed saint who revels in her role as a nag to God.

Jesus is there too, included as a hero.

Major themes of the play include despair, suicide, evil, and living with regret. It was a powerful play. Just reading the final scene brought tears to my eyes. I called Kevin as soon as I could. "Kevin, this is unbelievable! If there's anything I can do to help you with this thing, just let me know."

A New Role

Kevin invited me to a reading of the show. When the person who was supposed to read Jesus' part didn't show, Kevin asked me to read the part. Afterward I went out with Kevin.

As we were processing the evening, he asked about the date of my upcoming sabbatical. "Middle of March to the middle of May," I said.

He looked at me for a moment. "Our show runs from the middle of March to the middle of May. I think you should play Jesus."

I hadn't appeared in a play in 13 years, but there was a part of me that was excited to return to the stage. My wife and I had even talked about the possibility of my trying to do a play during the sabbatical as a way of doing something out of the ordinary that would be life-giving. But we realized that finding a play that fit the timeframe would be nearly impossible.

It felt like this had fallen into my lap. Plus I was eager to participate in such a unique play, with a powerfully redemptive message.

We lose our mission when our schedules include only people who share our faith.

Kevin was not a religious person, but he decided that because faith was central to the play, it would be a good idea to have cast members talk about their faith journeys. So over the next week of rehearsals I had the opportunity to hear these urban twentysomethings discuss their faith, or lack thereof.

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From Issue:The Outreach Issue, Winter 2012 | Posted: February 27, 2012

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Six Reasons Young People Leave the Church

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March 08, 2013  11:15am

As a pastor who does two or three community theater productions a year, I was keenly interested in what you had to say about your own experience in this regard. I'm not getting the questions you did, but the Lord has enabled me to do minister some backstage. A few people have come to church at my invitation. One came to Christ. I try to be honest and up front with these folks about who I am and what I'm trying to do in the world. Please pray for me as I move between the worlds of pulpit and stage.

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Talatu Madi

September 05, 2012  7:14pm

Beautiful!!! I am at a crossroad, where I am trying to decide where God would have me spend my time, my energy and my future and its good to know that wherever I end up will be for His pleasure:)

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March 07, 2012  8:16am

Convicting, encouraging and well written.

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March 06, 2012  11:07am

When I first ran into this article via twitter, I read the title and it immediatly caught my attention. As I began to read I noticed two things: 1. That it was talking about actual acting and 2. That the actor studied at TTS at DePaul. I am one of those people that truly believes that EVERYTHING happens for a reason and that’s how I feel about running across this article and reading it. I also studied at DePaul and minored in Theatre Studies from The Theatre School and appreciated all of these words. After I graduated, I left acting behind, but I miss it all the time. I am working in my field of study now, but I haven’t been on a stage since graduation. I guess the article gave me a sense of peace in terms of just allowing God to use my “skills” in HIS time. Thank you for your amazing words and for sharing your experiences backstage with the other actors. Jesus would have totally hung out backstage with them too. I hope we all learn to enjoy our times backstage too. :)

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Dennis Martins

March 02, 2012  7:52pm

Great story & so true. We have to get out in the world. Or as the Doobie Brothers would say, as I am adting myself, we need to be 'Taking it ti the streets!'

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