CMU School of Drama

Monday, April 17, 2017

Good Friday Essay: Passion Plays and The Ethics of Spectacular Violence

The Theatre Times: In 1985 Filipino carpenter Ruben Enaje fell three storeys and remarkably, survived. To give thanks for this good fortune, he has, for the past 30 Good Fridays, dressed up as Jesus and allowed actors portraying Roman soldiers to nail his hands and feet to a cross in the climax of his small village’s Passion play. The Conversation

Passion plays are dramatic renditions of Christ’s arrest, trial, lashing, and crucifixion (and often other elements of his life such as the Resurrection). They occur all over the world around Easter.

1 comment:

Alexa James-Cardenas said...

I have been to couple of outside passion plays and I remember my old church’s Passion plays very clearly, or at least the ones that were filled with high tension and emotions. And to be honest, as a person of my faith, they can be very hard to watch. After his first passion play, my brother refused to ever go again (and soon he refused to go to church. We joke that it was the passion play that traumatized him). And actually even watching the Cirque Du Soleil video was sort of hard to watch (THOUGH, I would go see it because it looks amazing production wise!) But in seriousness, whether you are a Christian, a person of some type of belief, or not, passion plays isn’t just about religion but a story of a sacrifices, what it means to be a human being, and the life, joy, and tortures of a main character. Of course there is that added, “Oh, he is Jesus, and he went through that suffering for us” connection Christians (generalizing here) have which adds a layer to it, but even for others it is still, visually, a sad and emotional story. In a typical theatre plotline fashion it is a story about a man’s life, and you go with him on this journey and see him as a person, his dreams, resentments, loves, etc. and then the climax of the whole thing (the thing that traumatized my brother) is the whipping (which you see blood), the thorn crown (once again blood), and him carrying this cross (basically carrying his death) all the while barely keeping his body up from the physical pain and exhaustion, and when he finally reaches his destination, the hall him up on a cross (nails in his hands and feet = blood… there is a lot of blood… and screams… ), as he slowly bleeds to death/of starvation/exhaustion/etc. It saw the least it isn’t pleasant to watch, but also can be sort of a master piece production wise if done right, and I’ve seen some which left me a mess afterwards, because at that point it doesn’t become about religion, but it is empathy for a person (the same empathy one gets from a theater/movie character). One of my most vivid memories is a scene, where two people (the antagonists) plotted to crucify Jesus, and they sang a song with lyrics that repeated over and over again “Crucify Him. Crucify Him”… to be honest it is catchy and a good villain song, because you really saw the nastiness and greed of a person. But once again, at a point it doesn’t just become about religion, but about humanity. If you get a chance, go see a passion play (a good one, with good production value, and doesn’t do some weird theme like WEE, looking at you Church of God in Christ).

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