‘The Last Days of Judas Iscariot’
What if Judas Was on Trial? UC Santa Barbara Production Explores This Idea
In a derelict bathhouse, Judas Iscariot waits for judgment. He’s not in heaven, but he’s also not in hell, and the question of whether his betrayal of Jesus is worthy of forgiveness drives the narrative of this play by Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis. Directed by experimental theater and performance artist Kendra Ware, and presented by the UCSB Department of Theater & Dance, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot brings characters of questionable morality (such as Satan and Pontius Pilate) to Judas’s “trial” to explore guilt and forgiveness. It’s a courtroom drama, says Ware, but there’s no court. Instead, there’s an empty pool in a decaying structure that represents, on some level, our crumbling justice system.
Guirgis is a New York City playwright, and Ware says that the text of this play reflects his upbringing in the melting pot of N.Y.C. “It’s an interesting juxtaposition,” she says, “of how he uses the gumbo of New York City with these classical characters.” She calls it an “Americanization” of the idea of purgatory that aligns with our modern cultural understanding of judgment, persecution, and how long punishment should last. In some ways, says Ware, it can be seen as an allegory for our treatment of prisoners.
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot also promises to be a particularly stylized production with what Ware calls an avant-garde vision. “In thinking about style, I would say I am using an absurdist jazz aesthetic approach to this piece,” she says. “I am collaging with classic images and remixing them with the contemporary to make something altogether new.”
“The students are so hardworking,” says Ware. “They come out looking like professionals. I’m very proud of them. This production is going to be a great gift to the community.”
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot runs from May 25–June 4 at the Performing Arts Theater at UCSB and features an ensemble of student performers. See theaterdance.ucsb.edu.
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