Priest gets inside scoop on NY theater scene and theater people

February 7, 2008

Bobz Book Reviews

“A Jesuit-Off Broadway: Center Stage with Jesus, Judas, and Life’s Big Questions,” By Father James Martin, SJ, Loyola Press

“A Jesuit Off-Broadway” is a tell-all book.

Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (“Capote”) is in it.
You won’t find the latest dirt on him, but you will find Hoffman explain how, in directing “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” he wanted the audience “to see a Christ who fought for people with desperate conviction,” who was “tough and real and exciting.”

You will read what actors struggle with in their personal lives, what they think about religion, and how they grow in understanding the spirituality of their art.

And you will read about a priest-author whose time with the theater company reminds him not only why he entered the Society of Jesus but of the essential truth of Christianity.

Asked to be the theological adviser for a play, Jesuit Father James Martin’s pulls the curtain back to show what theater is like, as you might expect, but more importantly what theater people are like.

The play itself is created on-the-go, built up from a mere concept into a script with action. Along the way Father Jim, as the cast calls him, is asked to explain the teachings of the church on forgiveness, how Scripture came about, how Jesus was fully human and fully divine, and, of course to answer the really important questions like, “Was Mary Magdalene really married to Jesus, like ‘The Da Vinci Code’ says?”

I enjoyed this book so much because it both entertains and teaches. There are some funny, funny lines.

During the casting-call time, for example, Father Martin tells a fellow Jesuit, “They’re looking for Jesus.” The other priest replies wryly, “Aren’t we all?”

Reading sessions for “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” turn into freewheeling discussions covering almost every topic in Scripture and theology. Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis – who first sought help with the religious aspects of his play concept – spouts one day, “I feel like I’m in grad school.”

Read “A Jesuit off-Broadway” and you might too.

Or at least feel like you’ve taken a refresher course in your faith. — bz

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About Bob Zyskowski

Bob is the Client Products Manager for the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. A 42-year veteran of the Catholic Press, he is the former Associate Publisher of The Catholic Spirit. You can follow him on twitter or email him at

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