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Judas Iscariot: A character Study
In "The Inferno," Dante makes the fate of Judas abundantly clear. In return for betraying Jesus, he is eternally damned to the darkest, deepest circle of hell, devoured continuously by Lucifer and described as the soul in the greatest pain of all.
But what if someone came to the great traitor's defense in a trial to win his entrance into heaven?
Despite, or perhaps because of, the lack of historical fact about his motivations, Judas remains a fascination. "Certain traditions form around certain figures that appear in the Gospels," says Adam Becker, assistant professor of religious studies at New York University. "Those figures are tools for having conversations about certain issues. Later Christian conversations about him, which this play is an example of, use him as a tool to help us think. Judas is a tool for discussions of betrayal, free will, and providence."
Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis agrees that Judas functions in his play as an "entry point" to explore themes of forgiveness and mercy. "In the end, it doesn't really matter why he did what he did," he says. "But I wanted a motive that made him guilty of something, not a divine pawn. What was most dramatically interesting was the notion that Judas tried to make God in his own image rather than the other way around."
And what do we know about this particular interpretation of Judas Iscariot?
"Very little is known about Judas Iscariot"
Gloria- The Last days of Judas Iscariot
In the script Mary Magdelene states that he was her favorite of the 12 disciples, and suggests that he was Jesus' favorite as well.
She says "I think that if someone were to say that Judas was good for Jesus that they would not be wrong."
Mother Teresa accuses Judas of making himself "deaf to the music of God."
Saint Thomas admits that he feels Judas is "A bit of a jerk off", but also tells a story of Judas treating him with great kindness.
In a flashback scene, his mother Henrietta confesses that, as a boy, he once sold the family fish to buy a spinning top. But we also watch the boy Judas give said prized toy to another impoverished child.
The one thing that is clear is that Judas is a puzzle, and that portraying him as clearly "good" or "bad" betrays the opportunity his character represents to explore these universal themes without preaching. He is a character whose motivations and role in the crucifixion of Christ are so complex, so open to interpretation and so mysterious that they will likely remain that way forever. But he is an excellent vehicle to examine the nature of faith and despair, and we are excited to take advantage of that opportunity.
"I'm not trying to make Judas sympathetic or appealing, and I'm not trying to vilify him, I'm trying to portray him three-dimensionally. I suspect that heavenly justice incorporates a great deal more mercy, empathy and understanding than our sense of what earthly justice does."
Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis
So why cast Chris Kevill?
"Chris Kevill is a performer whom I've seen play broad, hysterical comedy and also dark, terrifying drama. He has played both the handsome leading man and the sinister villain. He has an easy-going attitude that makes him an excellent every-man type that people can identify with. He can be huge and brutal or delicate and subtle; he is articulate and attentive to the finer details of performance. I appreciate his versatility and his ability to go wherever a character or 'moment' might direct him. Our Judas is not an obvious villain. But as discussed, he's far from a 'good guy' type either, and portraying such a complex character with honesty while being sensitive to the delicate balance required, is paramount. And that's why I chose Chris; he was my first choice. I believe he has what it takes and I was thrilled when he said 'yes'."
Director Jordan Morris
Come and meet Judas Iscariot this October. He's not who you think he is...
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, Oct 12 2009, 5:00 PM EDT
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