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A Jesuit Off-Broadway: Behind the Scenes with Faith, Doubt, Forgiveness, and More Paperback – March 4, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Loyola Press; Reprint edition (March 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0829435476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0829435474
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #230,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Martin, an author and Jesuit priest, lifts the curtain on theater life in this account of his experiences as theological adviser to an off-Broadway play, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. It was the role of a lifetime for Martin, who had access to all the players involved in the production from the first readings to the play's five-week run in 2005. Although the play, which deals with the fate of the disciple who betrayed Christ, is compelling in and of itself, the way Martin combines the story line with historical detail and conversations with the actors, playwright and director is utterly captivating. Martin takes readers inside the play and into the minds of the key players, showing everything from glimpses into their spiritual lives to their reactions to the mixed reviews the play received. As a writer, editor and parish priest, Martin was obviously stage-struck by his encounter with the theater. But his transparency is sweet and refreshing, particularly when he talks about the ways in which the play affected him spiritually. His ability to translate and dissect the gospel story of Judas for a troupe of thespians echoes through his writing, making this a book that is bound to draw applause from a diverse audience. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Martin begins his fascinating account of the making of Stephen Adly Guirgis' play The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, from conception to closing night, by admitting he began not knowing much about the theater. Guirgis recruited him in October 2004 to provide some background about Jesus and life in first-century Palestine. At the time, Guirgis was knee-deep in the play, which was soon to be produced off-Broadway at the acclaimed Public Theater. During the next few months, Martin got enmeshed in the collaborative process, providing information and moral support to Guirgis, befriending the actors, and engaging director Philip Seymour Hoffman in thorny theological discussions—all the while taking notes about the changes play, ensemble, and he were going through. His fly-on-the-wall account offers clear-eyed insight into contemporary American theater such as only a passionate outsider could provide. Martin, an ordained Jesuit priest after all, leavens the discussion with his research into biblical history and the various current controversies swirling around all accounts of Jesus, his followers, and his era. Helbig, Jack --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Rev. James Martin, SJ, is a Jesuit priest, culture editor of America magazine, and author of numerous books, including My Life with the Saints, which Publishers Weekly named one of the best books of 2006. Father Martin is a frequent commentator in the national and international media, having appeared in such diverse outlets as The Colbert Report, Fresh Air, The O'Reilly Factor, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Boston Globe, and on the History Channel, BBC, and Vatican Radio. Before entering the Jesuits in 1988 he graduated from the Wharton School of Business.

Customer Reviews

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Like every other book written by Martin, I highly recommend this one!!
Franciscan
As a fan of James Martin's writing, I was anxious to read and review his latest book.
Lisa M. Hendey
I went to a book reading for this book, A Jesuit Off-Broadway, by James Martin, SJ.
Timothy Haugh

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Franciscan on December 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
While strikingly different from his previous work, both in subject and method, this book about his experience working with the cast and crew of an off-broadway show called the "Last Days of Judas Iscariot," is phenomenal. It has been a while since I last read one of Jim Martin's books - the last major one was "Becoming Who You Are," which was sort of an expansion of some of his thoughts in "My Life With the Saints" - I immediately fell into the rhythm of his writing style. He writes in a very approachable and down-to-earth way that is neither insulting nor overly complicated. It is an intelligent mix of narrative based on his personal experience of growth with this acting troupe and theological insights that arose during the process and afterward by way of theological reflection.

Like every other book written by Martin, I highly recommend this one!! Even before I read it, I purchased 3 copies of it for gifts for people, knowing that a book by James Martin will not disappoint. Enjoy this book!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I had a rather odd experience a couple months ago. I went to a book reading for this book, A Jesuit Off-Broadway, by James Martin, SJ. What was odd about it was that the author, the usual reader at these events, was only one of the readers. Guirgis, and many of the original cast (other than the "big" names, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Sam Rockwell) of Guirgis' play, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, joined Martin in reading excerpts from the book at the Public Theater--in the same space where the play was performed and my wife and I had watched it with interest a couple years back. It was a wonderful and surreal evening.

What made it surreal, at least for me, was listening to the others besides Martin read their "parts." Martin writes extensively about Guirgis and the cast in this book, their religious backgrounds, experiences and motivations. He quotes them all rather extensively though I can't believe he was taking copious notes at the time (though I could be wrong about this). As these actors read about themselves I couldn't help but notice that what I was watching was a person playing another person's interpretation of themselves. Most brought it off brilliantly but some (Guirgis, in particular) seemed to squirm with discomfort at reading his motivations aloud as interpreted by Martin. It made me more aware than usual, as I read the book, of how an author shapes experiences--as "real" as they are--to his own ends by his choices and presentation. The other cast and crew may have perceived these same events quite differently.

I know I, for one, perceived some of the things he writes about quite differently. As an attendee at one of the "talk back" nights, I agree with Martin that some of the questions can be thoughtless and rude.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By super swimmer on October 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Father Martin has a unique way of getting our attention...discussing the Last Days of Judas Iscariot. Now who hasn't wondered what happened to Judas? I mean, after all, he did what was he was supposed to so that the prophecies about the Messiah would be fulfilled, but he betrayed his close friend. Hero or villian? When Father Martin is asked to be the theological advisor for the off-Broadway production that gives us the trial of Judas to determine how he will spend eternity, discussions turn to all sorts of topics. Father Martin is not heavy-handed about the theological issues, and between his insights and humor, with the modern interpretation of the trial scenes (I REALLY need to start praying to Saint Monica again!), I was riveted! A can't-miss good read, even for non-Catholics or "lapsed Catholics".
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sara on April 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
If you are (as I have been) a spiritual seeker hungry for a faith that is informed by reason, this book will explain "life in first-century Palestine, what the great spiritual masters said about despair, detachment and poverty of spirit; whether one can rely on the historical accuracy of the Bible" and more; I find this an essential part of my reference library. More than that, Fr. Jim tells the stories of some wonderfully creative people at various places in their spiritual journies. This helped me feel understood and validated. I think it can also help religious leaders better understand those they seek to evangelize. Plus, it is just a great adventure story about the theater!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Kearney VINE VOICE on April 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Often people are not all that curious as to what makes a heroic character heroic. Perhaps it's because the bold actions of a heroic person can speak for themselves. Take Rosa Parks as an example. It doesn't matter why Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus, an action that spearheaded the Civil Rights Movement. Her action is enough. However, when it comes to traitors, we're more than curious. Why did Brutus betray Julius Caesar, his close friend? Some historians claim Benedict Arnold could have been a great leader in a new nation? Why did he turn sides? Of all traitors/betrayers/turncoats in history, the one who causes the most speculation is Judas Iscariot, the infamous (?) apostle who sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

Judas' actions have caused questions, questions that are centuries old, as the recent discovery of the Gospel of Judas demonstrates. We wonder, why did Judas do what he did? Was he jealous of Jesus? Disappointed? Was he trying to cause Jesus to act? Stephen Adley Guirgis pondered the question of Judas and the result was the play THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT. The play is set in a courtroom and Judas is put on trial, giving him the opportunity to either explain his actions or perhaps seek forgiveness. Guirgis wanted accuracy so he sought out a "theological advisor." Jesuit priest James Martin seemed well suited for the task and the book tells the story of his first becoming involved in the project to his follow through when the curtain falls for the last time.

Martin weaves a number of different threads together as he shares his experiences as an advisor for the play. Readers see how a play develops from an idea to a finished product, growing and changing numerous times along the way.
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