FA13 THEA 3720-001
THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT AND DECONSTRUCTIONISM
Was deconstructionism created for Stephen Adly Guirgis or was he created for deconstructionism? Either way, Guirgis’s play The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is a prime example of this unique literary style. Deconstruction, by definition, portrays life as a questioning of established truths and certainties, while looking for new truth. Postmodernism, of which deconstructionism is a subset, is most often seen in independent theater groups around the country. Stephan Adly Guirgis’s love of theater and play writing has led him to become a member of one of these groups. He is a co-artistic director of New York City’s LAByrinth Theater Company.
The LAByrinth Theater Company, founded in 1992, is dedicated to expanding the boundaries of mainstream theater and pushing artistic limits in all areas of the theater, including experimental script writing. The company includes a group of over 120 artisans working to bring new concepts and ideals to the stage. LAByrinth is a successful postmodern ensemble. The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is a deconstructionism style play, first previewed at the LAByrinth Theater.
As a playwright, Guirgis, takes a new look at the most read book in the world, the Bible. He examines the story of Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus as told in the New Testament. Guirgis was raised a Catholic and he personally questioned the “truths” the nuns and priests were trying to teach him. This is the essence of deconstructionism, questioning established truths and certainties, while looking for new truth. Guirgis does this masterfully in his play, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. The
playwright gives us a whole new perspective into the life of Judas and the long held Catholic tradition
of Judas’s eternal damnation. In his search for truth, the play takes us to a court room in purgatory. Lawyers call witnesses to the stand to question and cross examine witnesses in a search for understanding and knowledge. For example, Simon the Zealot, a disciple of Jesus Christ, is called to the witness stand and questioned. Simon reveals to the court that he thought Judas was a good man, that he loved Jesus and truly meant him no harm. This is a totally new way to look at Judas’s actions compared to Catholic tradition. Another example of Guirgis’s deconstructionism, is observed when the court watches a scene showing a conversation between Judas and Jesus in purgatory. Jesus repeatedly expresses love and forgiveness for Judas. Judas continually rejects these kind overtures. This also is a new way to look at the tradition of Judas’s eternity in hell. This entire play is replete with examples of questioning the truth and certainly of commonly held assumptions. Presenting this truth searching on stage can easily be enhanced by modern technology, including the use lighting.
Deconstructionism in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot can be portrayed by the symbolic use of lighting. Lighting in the form of selective visibility and focus, can be used to accentuate ideas rather than characters. Composition lighting could be extremely important to accentuate the different dramatic scenes. A deconstructive set could be designed to cast shadows and evoke emotions.
The play, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, by Stephan Adly Guirgis is truly a deconstructionism work of art. Old ideas and traditions are questioned and new truths are sought after. New technologies in theater are an integral part of bringing this script to life at many levels. This is truly a marvelous play.
1. Derrida, Jacques (1995). The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, vol.8, From Formalism to Poststructuralism. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
2. Guirgis, Stephen Adly (2009). http://americantheatrewing.org/biography/detail/stephen_adly_guirgis
3. Przychodzen, Janusz (1951-1993). Discourses of Postmodernism.http://www.umass.edu/complit/aclanet/SyllPDF/JanuList.pdf
4. Salzberg, Jeffrey E. and Kupferman, Judy. Stage Lighting for Students. http://www.stagelightingprimer.com
5. Wilson, Edwin and Goldfarb, Alvin (2012). Living Theater: History of the Theater. New York, New York: McGraw – H