At any rate, this week's IMAGE Update brings word of a behind-the-scenes memoir about the show...
A Jesuit Off-Broadway by James Martin, SJ
Priests and actors don't typically run in the same crowd, but in 2004 when actor Sam Rockwell made a phone call to the Jesuit priest James Martin, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Rockwell had recently been cast as Judas in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, an off-Broadway play written by Stephen Adly Guirgis. A self-described "confused, often irate and disconsolate lapsed Catholic," Guirgis had been troubled by Judas since his Sunday school days. His play, set in modern times, follows the trial of Judas--a controversial and enigmatic (and therefore artistically compelling) figure. Guirgis and Rockwell asked the priest to serve as their theological consultant, and over the course of six months Father Martin became a collaborator with them, the rest of the cast, and director Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the making of the play.
These unlikely friendships became the subject of Martin's new book, A Jesuit Off-Broadway, which is largely devoted to recounting the many conversations they had about theology and "life's big questions." And if that sounds wearying or self-absorbed, it somehow manages not to be. Martin writes in a way that is honest, accessible, and thorough, and his book is a loving tribute to the relationships formed over those six months. He also bears witness to the cast's fascinating artistic process, watching them as they attempt to understand their characters, and the Gospel itself, through art. At one point the cast even takes a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view paintings of Jesus, Judas, and the events of the Gospels.
This process of encountering theology through a creative endeavor is what's really at stake in the book: Martin realizes that after nearly 20 years as a Jesuit he has become overly familiar with the theology he's explaining to his new friends. "Seeing the Gospel stories through the eyes of people like Sam reminded me of the inherent shock of the story," he says. The experience, in short, became a way to rediscover the richness of his faith. And the feeling was mutual. In his foreword to the book, playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis writes, "I drown in doubt, and to the degree that that's true, Father Jim, from our first meeting and right up to today, is slowly teaching me to swim."