On Religion and Relationships: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
He committed the greatest act of impiety and of betrayal that the Christian world has ever seen—the most heinous crime against humanity. He was responsible for the death of Jesus Christ. Judas Iscariot was the original traitor … wasn’t he?
Colby’s Theater and Dance Department is presenting Stephen Adly Guirgis’s play, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Nov. 11-13 under Assistant Professor of Theater and Dance Todd Coulter’s direction. Set in a courtroom in purgatory, the play takes on a postmodern landscape using urban vernacular, and the plot revolves around the question of redemption: Does Judas Iscariot deserve to be in hell? Was the kiss an act of betrayal? Was it all really his fault?
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, at its core, “is about the violent rupture of human relationships,” said Coulter, who had his directing debut at Colby last year with the department’s production of This Is Our Youth. “It is violent, it’s harsh, it hurts, it’s painful, it’s horrible, and that’s why it’s so interesting.” The play covers more than 2,000 years and includes many characters from the history of the Roman Catholic church—Mary Magdalene, Pontius Pilate, Jesus Christ, Mother Teresa, and Satan, among others.
The play refers to the New Testament and the understanding that Judas Iscariot was condemned for betraying Jesus, and it includes many historic religious characters. However, according to Coulter, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot reexamines and challenges our understanding of religion and religious past. “Religion is an incredibly volatile subject for just about anybody,” he said. “It’s hard to have a casual conversation about religion, and, for me, this is not a religious play. It is not a condemnation, a mockery, a send-up, a parody, or anything negative guided at the Catholic Church.”
Coulter believes that students will be able to relate to the issues brought forth. “We’re all human and we’ve all had relationships, whether familial, romantic, or friendly, that something cataclysmic has happened, and from that point on that relationship ceases to be, either entirely, or it has been fundamentally changed to such a point that it is now a different relationship,” he said.
Students and faculty leaders involved are excited and curious to see how the student body will react. “It’s gritty and it’s real and it’s easily accessible to a younger audience because it takes place in a culture that we are very much a part of—or at least aware of,” said cast member Eva Ludwig ’12.
Coulter hopes that students will talk about their experience with the play. “This show provides the campus with a great opportunity to discuss the artistic and aesthetic process in a potentially unsettling context,” he said. “I’m not afraid that people will be offended, but I certainly hope that, whatever their reaction is, they have an opportunity and a way to discuss it.”
Every semester, the Theater and Dance Department puts on one production with a student cast, and students from across the majors are encouraged to audition. The play runs Nov. 11- 13 at 7:30 p.m. in Strider Theater, with a 2 p.m. matinee Nov. 13.