Lutherans in the Twin Cities, Reviews

The passion according to Judas

Judas plays a front-and-center role in the Southern Theater’s production Kingdom Undone. Image provided by Kingdom Undone

Most theatrical retellings of the Passion Story take a wide-angle view, trying to include each and every incident that is recorded in scripture, whether key to the story at hand or not. Often this means a very long production or a story with confusing plot twists.

Jeremiah Gamble’s Kingdom Undone takes a different approach, a more theatrical one. Gamble has always been intrigued by the person of Judas, so Kingdom Undone tells the story focusing on this tragic figure.

“Judas has always been a compelling character to me,” Gamble told Metro Lutheran. “Through my research I found that there is a lot of conjecture about Judas. Many of my assumptions didn’t hold up. So, I wanted to know why he did what he did.”

Judas, like much of the Jewish community at the time, was looking for a messiah who would take up a sword and lead the people out of their captivity from one oppressor after another. “Eventually, Jesus is not the type of messiah [Judas] wants him to be.”

“My dear Judas,” Jesus says to Judas in the garden, “You do all the right things for the wrong reasons.”

Gamble believes that Judas wasn’t the only disciple to have heaped their own expectations on the person of Jesus. “In many ways, he was just the most charismatic and enterprising one, the leader of the group. He wants to be the Messiah’s right-hand man.”

Judas, in Kingdom Undone, plays out these politics. He saw a way to get the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the disciples, and others all on the same side —against their common enemy, Rome.”

Unfortunately, what Judas wanted didn’t fit with Jesus’ calling. “My dear Judas,” Jesus says to Judas in the garden, “You do all the right things for the wrong reasons.”

Open to interpretation

Gamble and his wife Vanessa Gamble co-founded the Theater of the Thirsty, a means for them to write and produce shows on a number of topics, often including a biblical theme. “We’ve done one- or two-person shows for about 15 years, from churches to the Fringe Festival,” he explained.

But in all the years of producing shows, Gamble had never before tackled the Passion. “I’ve never put Jesus on stage.”

This is the second year of Kingdom Undone shows during the Lenten season. And 12 of the 16 performers from last year’s show are returning, plus two new actors have been added.

Kingdom Undone is directed by Jeffrey Miller, with Michael Pearse Donley as musical director. According to Gamble the show is appropriate for ages 10 and up.

“[The show] ends with a seed of hope — literally and figuratively,” he said. “I hope it leads the audience to discussion, because we don’t answer questions for them.” Gamble said believers and non-believers alike will find something of interest in this show.

Kingdom Undone runs March 15-30 at the Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis.

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