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FTT to debut play adaptation of Christ’s passion

| Wednesday, April 5, 2017

As Easter approaches, the Notre Dame Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) department will be partaking in a Lenten ritual tracing back centuries. For their annual spring show, FTT will perform “Christ’s Passion: Medieval Mystery Plays,” adapted from English medieval religious drama by FTT professor emeritus Mark Pilkinton. The performance will run from Wednesday to April 12 at the Philbin Studio Theater in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

FTT professor Anton Juan will direct the performance. Juan said the performance, composed of separate plays, seeks to capture the spirit of medieval liturgical drama — an important and widespread tradition across much of western Europe from the 10th to the 15th centuries. The performance will span the entire biblical narrative, from creation to the ascension of Jesus.

“First they were put on in churches, but later they went out of the churches, and started to be owned by the people themselves who performed these as rituals every Lent,” Juan said. “Along with these, of course, would be their own versions of how the stories were, and they became more and more interested in expanding these stories … these [performances] would take place in the plazas outside, in the public squares. They would be performed on the wagons in the center of the square. We will have a wagon here in the play.”

Juan said the plays were chosen both to honor Pilkinton, who adapted and directed the plays at Notre Dame in 1996 and retired from the University this year, as well as to serve as “a pre-Lenten offering.” Juan also said that this will not be his first time directing “Christ’s Passion.”

“As far as I am concerned, I have done the passion of Christ many times in different cultures” he said. “ … I have done the passion plays during the fascist regime in the Philippines. The transformation of Christ in world theater, especially in places that have been dominated by dictatorships and fascists, is quite remarkable, because Christ becomes a symbol of social justice. … It’s a play where you can see the meeting of religious thought and truth and justice for the people.”

Though these texts were originally written centuries ago, Juan said that every performance can be used to speak on modern issues.

“Each time you have present issues that you set it against,” he said. “The global crisis is shown. I don’t want to preclude that for the audience, because if I say it now, the audience might not discover it for themselves. Like, what is the forbidden fruit? Who is Lucifer in these times?”

Many of the costumes, designed by professor Richard Donnelly, are composed of garbage, such as angel wings made of empty water bottles. Juan described the costuming as “very post-apocalyptic.”

“We throw away so many things, and I want to resurrect things that we normally throw away,” Juan said. “Our environment is also a human environment, and we think that we are living in a throw-away society, so that even human beings can be just thrown away, the way we throw bottles into the sea. We waste so much.”

Eleven undergraduate students and one graduate student will act in the performance.  Tickets are available online at dpactickets.nd.edu. Regular admission tickets are $15, while student tickets can be purchased for $7.

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