The infamous trial over Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus Christ is about to be brought to life by the students of UMD. The story of the historical and biblical figures that people have read about for years will be reenacted during Stage II’s first production of the year, “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.”
“I’m most excited to see these biblical figures presented as humanistic and modern, while normally people see them as immortal and hard to reach,” said Brian Saice, costume designer. “I like being able to relate to saints and angels.”
This completely student-run production will be performed live on campus Oct. 3–5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Dudley Experimental Theater. The script was chosen by the student director, senior BFA acting major Alex Goebel. Theater students read the script and auditioned for their desired roles. The actors had their first rehearsal the weekend after fall semester started and have kept at it five days a week ever since.
“The crew I am working with for this production really fit the mold of the diverse characters in this script,” Goebel said. “Going into this, I wanted my actors to take their script and run with it. Before each scene I just say, ‘Go,’ and afterwards we talk about what worked and what didn’t.”
“Judas” is set in impoverished purgatory, the place between heaven and hell. Seated in a jury-like arrangement, the audience will be witnessing the live court case over Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, and his betrayal of Jesus Christ. A variety of witnesses from Mother Theresa to Sigmund Freud are brought in for cross-examination by the attorneys to determine whether Judas will be sent to heaven or hell.
In preparation for the production, the producers and actors have been researching religious texts to get a feel for how they can most accurately replicate the story. Aside from hours of line memorization, the actors have taken what they’ve studied about their characters’ backgrounds and combined that with their own personalities to bring the immortal figures to life in a way that’s relatable to the audience.
“I don’t plan out what I do on stage; I just feel the impulses when I’m out there,” said sophomore Lauren Schulke, who plays the role of the defense attorney. “Reading all the descriptions of who I am helps me go into each scene with an idea of what I am going to get from the character across from me.”
Students have been attending four-hour rehearsals five days a week, working hard to deliver the story of Judas in a modern light. The costumes have been put together with materials from the theater department’s closet along with clothing from the actors’ personal wardrobes. The crew members worked long hours the weekend prior to the performance to create the stage into their own ideal setting of purgatory.
Although “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” is based around a religious story, students of all backgrounds can enjoy this production, and also take something away from it. The plot unravels in an unbiased way, teaching different themes applicable to what young adults encounter on a day-to-day basis.
“This play is run for the students, by the students,” said senior Amanda Sjodahl, who plays St. Monica. “Whether religious or not, the message within ‘Judas’ is acted out in a way that can appeal to everyone.”
The play encapsulates logical assumptions between what happened in the Bible and history itself. The actors took the combination of these stories and replicated them in an original way, using language and references that young adults can easily understand. Within each scene, recurring themes of prejudice, consequence, dedication and forgiveness are conveyed in ways that students can see mirrored in their own lives.
“Each character, regardless of their status, has their own perspectives and justifications to bring to the table,” said senior James Goodman, who plays Satan. “‘Judas’ elicits a lot of emotions, and everyone in the audience will walk away with something uniquely profound.”
The crew is looking forward to seeing the audience’s reactions to the show and the different questions they all leave with. Just from reading and rehearsing the script, the cast said they have already learned a great deal. This humorous, yet intellectual, performance has the opportunity to bring about all new perspectives to the students of UMD.
“The no-taken viewpoint approach to this performance leaves the audience with an open-ended choice,” said junior Colleen Lafeber, who plays the roles of Gloria and Mother Theresa. “It will be interesting to see how this play affects their lives and the decisions they make.”
BY ROSY BRAY firstname.lastname@example.org