James Martin, SJ, unexpectedly became a “theological dramaturge” when playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis and his cast sought help in developing the characters for Guirgis’ play The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. The play portrays Judas’ trial in purgatory for betraying Jesus. For six months, Martin and cast members embarked on late-night conversations about not only the historical and theological contexts surrounding Jesus and Judas, but also such weighty questions as, What is sin? and Why does God allow despair? In A Jesuit Off-Broadway, Martin recounts how the experience enriched his understanding of the dramatic aspects of Jesus’ work and story.
When the lights went down on the closing night performance, the audience stood up to cheer and stamp their feet on the risers. The cast assembled for the last time to accept the audience’s praise. Stephen was called onstage, took a well-deserved bow, and exited the stage with the cast. In my seat in the front row, I found myself tearful, hoping that no one would see. This was it, I thought. The Last Days of Judas Iscariot would never again exist in this form, with this cast. What everyone had worked for all these months was now finished.