Hiram College

The theatre arts department is kicking off its first full academic year in the Renner Theater with a production that promises to make audiences think.

Running Oct. 21, 22, 28 and 29, “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” by Stephen Adly Guirgis, chronicles a court case deciding the fate of Judas Iscariot. Theatre arts professor Rick Hyde is directing the play, and said the show undercuts many notions of religious formality.

“(The playwright) thinks, ‘Let’s take the ultimate bad guy in (Christianity) and look at his case, and see what might happen if we start think about it a little bit,’” Hyde said.

Throughout the course of the play, various biblical and historical figures are called as witnesses for Judas’s trial – Caiaphas the Elder and Mother Theresa, to name a few. Hyde said Judas is portrayed as neither good nor bad – but weak.

“I think ultimately, what the author comes to the conclusion is, is that forgiveness is an awful lot about what religion should be,” he said. “Judas is, at least this play suggests, in hell only because he won’t let himself out of hell.”

The play calls for Judas’s character to be catatonic; he is on stage for the entire play, but says very little.  Catatonia is a mental condition associated with schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, and characterized by immobility, a lack of reaction to external stimuli and extreme negativism.

Joey Dienes ’12, a theatre arts and sociology major, is playing the title character, and building both of his senior seminars around the experience. For his theatre arts seminar, he has read the Gospel of Judas and practiced being catatonic in public places, such as a mall. For his sociology seminar, he is doing further research on the disorder.

Senior theatre arts majors Rachel Searle-White and Markham Isler are also doing their senior seminars on their characters in the play. Searle-White plays Satan and Isler plays two characters – the judge and Caiaphas the Elder.

Searle-White said she has been looking at how Satan is portrayed in other literature and making the character her own, since she is a woman playing a traditionally male character.

“I’ve enjoyed this process so much more,” she said. “If I weren’t doing it for my senior project, this is a weighty enough role that I would do the research anyway. This allows me to really explore it. I have journal with drawings and thoughts; it’s helped me get deeper into the role.”

Many of the 19 student actors are playing jury members in addition to their other characters. When not center stage, they will be seated among the audience, which the student actors hope will cause attendees to make their own decision about Judas’s fate.

“They’re kind of in the same position as we are as jury members,” said theatre arts major Cara Battaglia ’12, who plays Mother Theresa. “Even if they don’t realize it, they’re also watching the trial just like we are, because they’re ‘in’ the jury.”

Isler said he thinks the play has a good message for the college-aged population coming to terms with adulthood and making major life decisions.

“This is making something that can be very overwhelming and frightening, very comfortable,” he said. “It’s about putting your fate in your own hands. It’s up to you, as long as you can forgive yourself for anything you may have done wrong. That’s a great thing for people who are confused about what’s going on in their lives.”

This is the first play Hyde is directing in the new Renner Theater, and he said he hopes the audience will appreciate the play’s powerful message, no matter what role religion plays in their life.

“I hope that about a third of the way through, they’re saying this is really weird, this is really strange,” he said, but by the end of it they’re saying ‘Oh, I see.’”

Check back soon for photos of the production.

“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot”will be performed at the Renner Theater at Frohring Performing Arts Hall:

  • Friday, Oct. 21, 2011 at 7:30pm
  • Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011 at 7:30pm
  • Friday, Oct. 28, 2011 at 7:30pm
  • Friday, Oct. 28, 2011 at 10:30pm
  • Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011 at 7:30pm

Tickets available Monday, Oct. 17, 2011 for Faculty/Staff.

Tickets are first come, first serve, available on the night of the show for the rest.

The box office opens on days of show to pick up that night’s tickets, Fridays starting at 4 p.m. and Saturdays starting at 5:30 p.m.

For more information: HCT@hiram.edu

Due to language, viewer discretion is advised.