Why Judas?

This is the first post in our series about our upcoming production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Stephen Adly Guirgis. Check back weekly to get insights from our directors, actors and theological team.

A year and a half ago, Theatre Pops took a look at ourselves. What stories were we telling, and why? It wasn’t enough to produce good theatre, we needed it to be meaningful and compelling. And for me, one of the most compelling scripts I’ve ever read is The Last Days. A close friend once cried during a college presentation on this script. A fellow actor brought me to tears during an audition with the opening monologue. And yet, I’d never seen the complete show. It’s been sitting on my bookshelf, waiting for the right moment. So when we were deciding our season, I knew. I pestered, and talked and pestered some more. Finally, my wonderful Board and friends gave in. We all read it, and we all love it. So here we are.

What makes this story so compelling? The story of Judas Iscariot is so ingrained into our culture, yet what do we know? “He was chosen to be an Apostle, he betrayed Jesus, and then he hung his-self.” As the character Saint Gloria goes on, it is “not a lot to go on-especially when we’re meant to rely on facts.” What we know about Judas is so small, and his story is so large, it’s not surprising that Guirgis was drawn to it. As he says, and I’ve been told by cast and advisors alike, the story never quite “sat right” with him. Why did he do it? What was his goal? Where is he now? In The Last Days, we imagine a myriad of answers to these questions; from heaven to hell; from greed to misunderstanding; from hope to despair.

This is not an easy story to tell. I’m not saying that to merely boost Rick & I’s credit, if anything credit goes to our cast for taking these characters on. No, I’m saying that because it’s true. I grew up in the Methodist Church, flirted with Baptist Conservatism and have finally landed somewhere to the left of all of it. Looking at the story of Judas is hard, for believers and nonbelievers alike. Something in his betrayal calls to me, reminding me of my humanity, of despair, and most importantly, the overwhelming need for compassion and the full story.

There are some dark moments in this show. Thomas Hunt and Chris Williams in the Satan and Judas scene, for example, are both morosely funny and terrifying. It’s not an easy thing to watch, these two characters sitting in each other’s darkness. But for every dark moment, there is hilarity (it’s a truly hysterical show, thanks in no small part to Michelle Cullom and Gavin Wells as Saint Monica and El-Fayoumy). And there is compassion and hope in spades. Freddie Tate’s Jesus is ever present, and his final monologue is unrelenting in its promises.

As Guirgis says in his introduction, “it’s not about man-made concepts of good or evil. It’s not about doing ‘too much’ or ‘too little.’ It’s not about Shame or Guilt. It’s about YOU. It’s about the collective US.” This show is for everyone. Every member of the audience will encounter something hard; maybe it will be the language (it’s very much from Guirgis’ NYC perspective), maybe it’s the characters. Maybe it’s the story itself. But I urge you to confront these difficulties head on, to confront them and mindfully move past them. This journey isn’t easy, but it’s truly worth taking.

~ Angela McLaughlin, Director

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Stephen Adly Guirgis is presented by Theatre Pops and directed by Angela McLaughlin and Rick Harrelson. This show is recommended for mature audiences only.

For ticket information, visit the Tulsa PAC website.

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