April 30 to May 2, 2010
“I’m a non-religious Jew, directing a musical about Jesus,” says Sam L. Linden ’10, director of “Godspell,” running in the Loeb Experimental Theater. This Stephen Schwartz musical is a retelling of the Gospel of Saint Matthew. “So, basically Jesus and the disciples,” says Linden. However, the production is working to take it outside of that context by using the story as just a starting point instead of focusing on its religious aspects.
According to Linden, “Godspell” is frequently produced in high schools and community theaters. “They do it because it’s easy to give a lot of different parts... Everyone gets to get a line, everyone gets to get a song,” Linden says.
This ubiquity does not necessarily encourage high-quality adaptations, and Linden says, “It’s done badly all the time.” He promises to give it a new angle. “We sort of recreated the show,” he says, “doing the essence of the script, but as if it was written today, as opposed to doing a piece from the 1970s.”
When asked to cite an example of the difference between this staging and previous renditions of “Godspell,” he says, “Let’s just say, there’s Jesus hanging out with some lesbians.”
The show aims to politicize the script, a move Linden sees as natural because religion is so politicized today. “We have some addressing of religious LGBT issues, we have some addressing of the repression of shame that is caused by the specter of organized religion,” he says.
Both of these issues highlight the ways in which the community and the institutions that serve it can become misaligned, and are tensions that Linden is looking to subvert even in the presentation of his play. For example, there is no line dividing the musicians from the actors.
“The musicians are the actors, are the performers, are the singers,” says Yi Jun Tan ’13, who will be playing Jesus. “The idea behind the staging is that the songs come spontaneously from the performers. It’s a group of people getting together and having fun,” Tan adds.
Even beyond blurring the line between actor and musician, Linden is aiming to blur the line between performer and audience. “This isn’t the kind of show where you sit down and the actors pretend the audience isn’t there. We’re going to talk to you, we’re going to shake you, we’re going to grab you up to dance, we’re going to try to get you on stage and have a sing along during intermission,” he says. “We want you to leave feeling you didn’t watch something, you participated in something.” —Staff writer Rebecca A. Schuetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.