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Artist in Residence 2015, Don Nguyen

Luke 22:14–48

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

(Luke 22:39-48, NIV)


September 28, 2015

Hi, this is my third post for my Artist in Residency project for Spark and Echo. To recap, I chose Luke 22:14-48, which covers The Last Supper because it’s the ultimate dinner party. I’m attempting to create a communal evening of theatre, food, improvisation, and game playing based on these selected passages.

The biggest obstacle I’m running into now is fear. The fear of it not working. The fear of it not being interesting and illuminating. And because this is the first time I’ve ever created an interactive evening of theatre, my biggest fear is whether or not I’m doing this right. Just conceptualizing the evening has shown that there are many rabbit holes to go down. I’m not worried about going down a rabbit hole, but rather am I’m worried about not going down the best rabbit hole.

But then I tell myself it’s okay. Accept that fear. Instead of debilitating me, I need to let it free me. Just like how I approach writing plays, I need to give myself permission to write/create that really bad first draft. Have faith in the unknown.

In my last post, I looked at the string of events occurring in the last supper. I thought that was the key to making an enthralling evening of theatre based on this iconic event. But upon further exploration, I realize now that equally if not more important is character. This is somewhat embarrassing for me to admit, since as a playwright, I should know this by now. But oftentimes it’s easy to forget, especially when you’re dealing with the Bible, which is so well known and so epic in nature. But here I am, now realizing that we need to know who these twelve apostles are, and who they were. Before Jesus asked them to follow him, they were ordinary men. Men who were not perfect, and I find this really intriguing. Perhaps the evening is about getting to know them better?

In the book TWELVE ORDINARY MEN by John MacCarthur, he explains these apostles as disciples who “spanned the political spectrum. One was a former Zealot – a radical determined to overthrow Roman rule. But another has been a tax collector-virtually a traitor to the Jewish nation and in collusion with Rome. At least four and possibly seven were fishermen and close friends from Capernaum, probably having known one another from childhood.”

So, I’m just going let go of my fear and make some specific decisions, regardless if they work or not. So for the first time, I’m sharing the “script” of how the evening will work.

  1. You’re at your computer. You are making a reservation for “The Supper” an interactive evening of theatre and food. You submit your reservation.

  2. You immediately receive an email confirmation, which states that you need to bring one ingredient and that will serve as your ticket.

  3. When you arrive at the performance, you check in at the front desk with your ingredient. You will be given a drink (beer, wine, soda).

  4. You are then greeted with a “garden show” performed by the actors playing the apostles. This garden show can consist of anything: songs, dance, poetry, etc.

  5. After the garden show, you can/will mingle with the actors.

  6. The actors (he or she) will not be in character. They will not tell you which apostle they are playing. You will spend fifteen minutes mingling with as many actors as possible.

  7. Bread will be passed around the room. You will break off a piece. When all the bread is broken, the dinner will begin.

  8. You are seated around “the table” and mixed in with the apostles.

  9. The chef creates a secret menu for the evening. The chef assigns each guest one ingredient to bring and how much to bring. Any guests not assigned an ingredient brings some kind of dessert to share.

  10. Three specific prompts for dinner conversation will be given. For example “taxing the rich” One of the apostles will start the conversation based on this prompt, all while giving clues as to who the apostle is. For example, the actor playing Matthew might say “you know what people hate more than tax? The person who collects it from them. That was me. The most hated man in the world.”

  11. When the conversation has covered these three prompts, the apostles line up and the guests vote on which actor is playing which apostle.

So how does it end? That’s a good question. That’s something I don’t know right now. What’s clear to me is that this is going to be an ongoing process of trying it out, experimenting, and iterating through revisions. I expect the participants, both our dinner guests and our actors will play a big hand in shaping this piece, so that’s what I’ll plan for next, an actual tryout of this loose script. My hope is that my fourth post will include video footage from that trial run as well as post performance discussion. Til next time!

Follow the development of Don Nguyen’s play by reading this in addition to his first and second posts as a 2015 Artist in Residence.

All materials are copyrighted by the artist and used here by permission.