In the darkness, I close my eyes and breathe deep, trembling, rubbing my hands in a slow, deliberate manner while anticipating the laughter of the Pharisees. I take a moment to silence my mind. The Pharisees laugh and I hear them no more. I step onto the stage and take my place in the dim light. I roll up my sleeves and carefully submerge my hands into the cold water. “My hands are dirty, I must wash them.” I take a step back in my mind and allow someone else to take control. For the next 5 minutes…
I am Judas.
I had the privilege of acting as Judas Iscariot in my church’s drama, The Third Day, for Easter 2014. I say privilege because there were many seasoned actors auditioning and contending for the role. When I first saw the script drafts, I knew I really wanted to act as Judas as this Judas was different compared to all the other Judas’ I’ve seen throughout the years.
Year after year, I’ve only seen Judas as the betrayer, Judas as the schemer. I even acted as Judas in 2012 — my ex-girlfriend cried when she found out that I was acting as the Traitor. While the entire scene was less than 5 minutes, it took me weeks and even up to the actual performance shows to perfect the character.
Preparing For The Role
In the weeks leading up to the show, I experimented but I couldn’t find the right portrayal and I was really frustrated. Ed Ong, who acted as Jesus, during rehearsal demonstrated his portrayal of Judas. I was blown away. He was really, really good. For that short portrayal, I could see the craziness in his character. Absolutely amazing. When he did that amazing rendition, I felt very inadequate. I was nowhere close to the way he performed.
Even though the easy way was to replicate what he did, I knew that I did not want to do that. You see, I didn’t just want to portray a crazy Judas. I wanted to showcase him to the best of my abilities. And even though it might be crazy to even attempt saying this, I wanted to change people’s perception of him. Because if not for Judas, the story of Jesus would have been radically different.
Getting Into Character
What most people don’t know is that Judas did not die immediately when Jesus was crucified. This article (http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/judas.html) helped to convince me that he was alive when after Jesus resurrected instead of having to forcefully convince myself that he was alive due to the script.
So now that I’ve got the knowledge that he’s alive even after the resurrection, I needed to imagine myself as him. I imagined him feeling a whole lot of condemnation because he had caused someone who trusted him so much to suffer and eventually die (I mean, come on, if you didn’t trust someone, would you let him be in charge of all the money?)
As I prepared for my role, I had to conjure up negative feelings and summon up past demons to haunt me. Feelings and thoughts of violence, lust, disrespect, defilement, violation, brutality, guilt, shame, condemnation… I brought back past quarrels and called upon the emotions I felt. I remembered the anguish of all the things I should have done but did not. I felt and was fatigued, panicky, anxious, depressed.
When I am on the train to rehearsals after work, often I would be running the lines through in my head and conjuring those emotions. When I open my eyes, I sometimes notice people looking at me before quickly averting their eyes. And when I’m done with rehearsals, sometimes on the way home I would have horrible, horrible thoughts entering my mind and I would physically knock or shake my head to get rid of it.
Whenever it was my turn to rehearse, I went full-out. It wasn’t easy to do it at “half strength” while we were sorting out the blocking and positions. Every rehearsal and practice I had, it was intense for me. After every rehearsal and actual performance, after I exited the scene, I would be breathing heavily, catching my breath and drinking water because of the intensity. This went on until it was all over.
Getting Out Of Character
When all the shows were done, everyone was elated and cheerful. We took group photos, when we were done with that, everyone started taking photos and congratulating each other. Except probably 2 people – myself and the Bernard Loh who played the sombre detective, Reuben. I could see he wasn’t his usual cheerful self too as it took some time to get out of it (or maybe it’s just me).
I, however, was so tired and hungry that I went straight to grab some food to eat. As I was eating, I was trying to get out of character so I can laugh and enjoy with everyone else. Suddenly, I could feel tears in my eyes.
I fought back the tears, that this wasn’t the right place and time. Unfortunately, the crack in the dam was just the beginning. In a short moment, I went from tearing to shortness of breath and crying. All the pent-up emotions and negativity I held back came in full force, assaulting my mind and emotions.
Friends near me asked if I was okay and I told them I just needed some time to get out of character. I started crying and sobbing. They prayed, laid hands on me (thanks Shawn) and it subsided. Then a while later, a second wave. I was in tears again. The directors saw and prayed for me (thanks Sandy and Jas). I felt a lot better, enough to start taking more photos, smiling and laughing with people. Later that day, I would hang out with friends – even though I was dog tired, it cemented the healing I needed to get out of character.
This was an interesting journey for me. All that for a scene of less than 5 minutes – was it worth it? Absolutely. I had a lot of positive feedback for the character I played.
- Friends who knew me said they didn’t see me, they saw Judas.
- Friends who haven’t contacted me in a long time contacted me and said it was powerful.
- The children who acted in the show said I was really good at acting crazy
- Co-actors and crew tell me it was the scene they look forward to watching each time
- Friends of friends say that it was a fresh perspective of Judas and it moved them
… and more variations of the points above.
Once again, I’m very thankful for the opportunity as Judas even though it’s a character some people would shun away from. Who would want to talk about the Traitor? Who would want to even spend some time considering what he went through? Who would have given him a 2nd look and possibly even empathize with him?
Maybe. Just maybe. I’ve given a new perspective to the Traitor. While this post was written more as a record of what I went through, I am an amateur in the Bible. I am merely using my talents to serve Him and His purposes.
I would love to hear any and all comments! Just leave your comments below.
Update: You can watch the recording of The Third Day Easter 2014 production here: