My Confession: 5 Minutes As Judas
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.
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.
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.
Asher, I respect the effort and the journey you took in arriving at the character, You were right in detailing that without Judas, the Bible story would have been radically different. In fact, Judas’ character stood out the most when I first read the script.
I did notice how you went full out at every rehearsal, and that to me, spelt professionalism. I appreciate what you have done for the character, for I believe, every role, big or small, plays a big part in the success of a production – it is what differenciates a good show from a great one.
Through you, I feel more of the torment that Judas went through and it showed me how different personalities respond to matters differently. ie. Peter vs Judas. and if we do not manage the demons properly, we could lose sight of God…
Thank you for making the story come alive. Now, I am definitely looking forward to your next performance!
See you at drama camp! xo
Thank you for noticing that, Lingual. It’s just that the role was such an important one that if I didn’t take every possible opportunity to rehearse it, I really feel I wouldn’t have enough time to practice being the character.
Judas was only in 1 scene for less than 5 minutes. I really didn’t have that many chances to attempt him. Yes, to me, I learned that we should not let current goals and temptations cause us to lose the ultimate treasure, the one true goal.
Looking forward to your acting as well, Lingual. I was there for one of the rehearsals when you were preparing for Mary. Getting the feel right according to the music was crucial and you nailed it. Seeing you up close in the recording with all the emotions was beautiful.
Will see you at drama camp too! 😀
My bro, I’m really really very proud of you. I knew its immensely tiring and tense for you thus I immediately asked you out on fri. Though you didn’t tell me what role you were taking, staying true to the rule of drama ministry, I could feel that you will be Judas halfway through the show. You made me hold my breath from the part you started spinning around. .. the part when you kept saying “i didn’t know…” made me think how sometimes my ignorance caused me to regret afterwards. All in all, you made me empathize with a person who is in all of us. And how Jesus chose to love us still knowing we have our imperfections.
Continue to stay focused on the love of Jesus next few days. Be filled with His agape love. God loves you.
Thanks sister! Having dinner and talking about it on that Friday was truly very relieving. Being able to talk about the character helped to alleviate the pressures I was under, thanks so much for you and Rick. You two are awesome together 🙂
Yeah, the line “I didn’t know they were going to do this to you” just came out of the character. I wasn’t saying it anymore… I was surprised the first time that happened. Sometimes, our ignorance for the moment can cause us to lose sight of the true goal.
Philippians 3:13-14: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Let’s press on. Amen!
I watched the show and I was totally blown away by your performance. I texted San saying that you actually stole the scene! You’ve always have been an immersive performer, you are all in and all out!
Ven vill you be back, George? Haha. Thanks for your compliments, bro. I still think there’s much more I could have done but I really couldn’t tell whether I did well or not when I watched the recording. So to have all these positive feedback that the acting was good… truly very encouraging.
Well done bro.
Thanks bro! Not sure if you actually watched the show, but I think the recording will be out soon. You can watch that if you have free time.
You did very well!!!
Thanks Solomon. You did well, we need more soldiers. Haha
I agree bro, I saw Judas i didn’t see you. It was truly truly an awesome performance. You provided the breaking point in the drama and raised Judas to the next level. Gone are the days of Judas just getting silver thrown at him. GREAT JOB!
Wow, I’m humbled by the words you said. I do think there was more that I could have done now that I watched the recording, though. But it is over. I can’t remember the last time I saw silver being thrown at him, to be honest. So yeah, gone are those days 😀
Bro! You did an awesome portrayal of Judas and a lot of my friends told me that! Thank you for sacrificing and making the drama such a wonderful one!
Thanks man. I just watched myself in the recording… there was so much more that I could do… nevertheless, I’m humbled that my performance was able to impact people.
Hey Asher, you did really well. Hope you are feeling better. Sorry I read this a bit late as I missed a lot of stuff earlier in our chat group. It’s a really good read. As I’m reading this, I realized it must have been so tough on you. Thank you. For the incredible professionalism, the negative thoughts you had to endure and that immense loneliness you must have felt. From the bottom of my heart…I thank you.
There was a mention of me, in your post (so paiseh)…but really….right after the ending scene…I’m just overwhelmed by all my own tears, that moment when Jesus heals my daughter, the loud music ending, Jesus standing in front of me, my hands grabbing my daughter tightly, my beard falling off, the bright lights, the audience clapping, and I’m totally out of breath…. OUT OF ALL THAT….it’s the ….out of breath part that hit me the worst, that’s why I’m not my usual self. Hahahah. I’m old bro (what can I say)
I pray you will be better bro. Got to learn to bring yourself back.
We must have a meal soon. Good to catchup and unwind. Let me buy you a good meal. I got to make up for grabbing you so tightly at the scene. Lol. Paiseh ah….
Hey Bernard, I’m fine now. No worries, we’re all busy with life. Thanks for thinking and feeling for me, I really appreciate it.
You did fantastic, I cannot blame you a single bit for being intense and grabbing tightly. You’re in character as well… plus, you had to be intense for the WHOLE SHOW. I only had 1 scene.
Getting myself back… well, I guess letting myself “go” on that day itself really helped. Given enough time, I would have gotten out of it as well but this was faster, I guess. To let it all out.
No need to buy me a meal, let’s just meet up with everyone and catch up!
I want to tell you that your performance was indeed astounding. That five minutes really struck me the most. In that short moment, I could see the regrets and void that Judas experienced. I also want to commend you of your professionalism, especially with a role like Judas. You’ve done well, extremely great even! I’ll look forward to your performance in any drama productions in the future.
Thanks Edgar. It was a team effort, it could not have been done alone. Everyone on the team put in their all for the show. I’m very humbled that people enjoyed my performance, to be honest, I think I could have done better… then again, I am my own worst critic. Bring more friends to watch and be touched by Him! 🙂
Hi Asher, you outdid yourself! You gave such a memorable performance, I was deeply moved by it. Your portrayal of judas was unique and gave a empathetic edge to a character that most would have stereotyped him as a villain. You’ve set a new standard and raised a bar for those that will follow through your dedication and professionalism. But just remember a role is a role, you don’t have to carry the burden. When you emptied yourself for a role, it is important to fill it back up with good thoughts, and most importantly with the word and the presence of God. You have a long way to go brother! Stay well and looking forward to see on stage again.
Chin Ling!!! Thank you so much for writing such a powerful story – without your script and your ideas every year, pumping out awesome story after awesome story, our dramas would be so repetitive. Thank you so much once again.
And yes, a role is a role, I’ve left that behind and have filled it up with lots of good stuff. The prayers, concerns and hanging out with friends really helped to fill in the gap after the “over spill” of emotions.
I relied heavily on bosses direction so a lot of credit goes to them as well.
Great to hear that you are doing well! The stories were inspirations from God so technically He takes the credit for the ideas. It never fails to amaze me how great a storyteller He is.
The Third Day was co-wrote with Timothy Wan who is the first writer. He did most of the heavy lifting with the first few drafts. It was also a collaborative effort involving Sandy, Jas as well as the actors in fine-tuning the script and made it better than it was originally. So really, every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share and all glory to God.
I was there briefly at your place discussing the script too. I thought Tim was roped in to help, didn’t know he did most of the heavy lifting though.
Yeah, it’s all a collaborative effort working together for His purposes.
You are plain awesome. That level of showmanship? Not many are as dedicated as you are, getting into the right state of mind for just 5 min plus of showtime. Congrats! You have touched some people. It is true that without Judas, Jesus probably wouldn’t have died for Man either. Thanks for your efforts. I enjoyed the drama!
Thanks Joseph. I think everyone on the show put in a lot of effort and did their best to portray their character. It’s actually less than 5 minutes for the entirety of my scene 😛
I told my friends that to me, Judas’ scene was the best. So good!
Thanks so much 🙂
Yeah, you don’t know me. And neither do I know you, but mid-way through the scene, I turned to a friend and commented on how fantastic you were in the portrayal of Judas.
Oh wow, thank you so much 🙂