Set in a courtroom in purgatory, a lawyer tries to appeal Judas Iscariot’s eternal damnation. As the case progresses, others share their memories of Judas while also seeing his last days before his death and what led to it. All of this is part of the play “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” created by playwright Stephen Aldy Guirgis, and being performed at the University of Indianapolis with guest director Kelsey Leigh Miller. According to UIndy Events, this play will be performed from April 22-24 and 28-30.
Miller said she is an actor, director and artistic director for an Indianapolis theatre company called Summit Performance Indianapolis. She said she knows people at UIndy and they said they were still looking for a director for the production.
“They liked my vision well enough and hired me and brought me in. So I’m new to most of the people that I’m working with,” Miller said. “I don’t know the students previously, I don’t know the designers previously. There’s a couple of them that I know a little bit, but I’m the guest here, if you will.”
Preparations for the play included gathering research, getting to know the actors who were casted and knowing their takes on their characters, according to Miller. She said that “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” is a rich piece that she has seen produced a few times before.
“There’s a lot going on in it. There’s a lot of ideas being presented and some really fun characters and it really challenges your assumptions about the story and asks you to look at things in a different perspective. so it’s been in the back of my mind and on my radar for quite a while,” Miller said.
Senior communication and theatre major Kyle Jeanor plays both Jesus Christ and Mattias of Galilee. He said preparing for these two roles has been interesting due to how different both of his characters are. One of his characters, Mattias of Galilee, is an eight-year-old who is focused on getting a spinning top.
“He’s just trying to live his life, and he sees Judas with a spinning top and he wants to play with the spinning top, and he has a great little conversation with Judas,” Jeanor said. “So for that, it’s just kind of looking at children and not trying to make it over childlike, like to where it’s like a mockery, but kind of trying to find the balance of not being whiny because it’s not supposed to be whiny.”
Jeanor said while playing Jesus Christ, he wanted to get away from preconceived notions about the figure. For example, he said that his costume for the character is different from what someone may envision him looking like.
“I’m not in robes and I’m not flying like I feel like people might expect. I don’t ascend from anything…. The way I like to put it is I look like someone who would shop at Whole Foods or lead a cult,” Jeanor said. “Because I have this white tunic and then I’ve got this blue and green kind of vest over the top of it and I’ve got these Galaxy Converse and some cargo pants and a beanie. I look like I am strolling into Whole Foods, is what I like to say. But putting it on, I will say like, even though it’s not, once again, the traditional way Jesus looks, it made me feel a lot more confident in a lot of my character decisions.”
Sophomore theatre major Abigail Wittenmyer served as the stage manager for “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.” She said her job included speaking with the director and designers and calling lights and sound cues. Wittenmyer said one of the most exciting aspects about the play is the set.
“… It’s set in a courtroom, and the idea is that it’s purgatory and that there’s a million cases that they can’t possibly get to,” Wittenmyer said. “And so we’re lining the stage with books on books of new cases and files and there’s paper everywhere and it’s a bit chaotic, but it looks really beautiful and realistic to a courtroom. So that’s been probably my favorite thing to see evolve and for me to help build.”
One of Miller’s favorite aspects about the play and about theatre in general is the collaboration between different parts of the crew, such as between the actors, lighting designers and set designers. She said that she also enjoys how this play discusses topics like the contrast between the facts and realities of people’s consequences and their actions.
“I think there’s just a lot of gray that’s presented in this play,” Miller said. “It doesn’t really give us solid answers, and I love that because it lets you, as an audience member, walk away and sort of fill in your own values and your own experiences and maybe reflect on your life in a little bit different kind of a way or the lives of other people that you might have made assumptions about before.”
“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot’’ is being held in the Ransburg Auditorium in Esch Hall, according to UIndy Events. Jeanor said the play is two hours and 45 minutes long, but he said that people should not be scared away by its length and should come see this play.
“ … It’s long, but I think it tells a really fantastic story and I think you’re gonna walk away from it thinking about it for quite some time,” Jeanor said. “And everyone’s put in so much fantastic work, so it’s gonna be exciting to see it all fully realized and put together.”