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A Jesuit Off-Broadway Hardcover – September 1, 2007

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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.)
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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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Loyola Press; 1St Edition edition (September 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0829425829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0829425826
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #442,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

4.6 out of 5 stars
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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 VINE 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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Cody on May 6, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very interesting description of the creative process behind the writing of the script. It is written in a the story telling style, like most of James Martin's books. It is a deeply personal account of the book author experience as the theological advisor. It is profound, funny, serious, spiritual and theologically based. It offers a vivid picture of the multidimensional soul of humanity. It is also a book that teaches fundamental truths and views from the pespective of Catholic religion and others. It uses a day to day language, easy to read. The play uses a colloquial and slang NY street vocabulary, easy to grab your attention. At the same time, encourages serious thinking and learning.
The actors are depicted as regular human beings, individually, personally, with their acting greatness, but also with their doubs, sufferings, conflicts, interior conversions, failures and anxieties, influenced or soothed, by the study of their own characters in the play: "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot". The book title is perfectly descriptive of the hard work behind the scenes before a theater play is presented to the public. The presence of the priest as theological advisor is well integrated in the development process of the play. He is very human and understanding, though he helps to guide and keep the biblical story in check. The last chapter summarized the spiritual impact that, as advisor behind the scenes, the process had on the author himself, James Martin SJ. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the diversity of lives, theater, playwriting, or just in the arguments about Judas life and death, doutbs and forgiveness, then and today.
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