Theater artist and poet Edward Bauer explores a unique interaction of family and deity in response John 12:1-11 and the theme of “meals.”
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1 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. 2 There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. 3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. 4 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son , which should betray him, 5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. 7 Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. 8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always. 9 Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.
10 ¶ But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; 11 Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.
I’m not chiefly a writer. I’m a good liberal arts student with at least a passing acquaintance with the skill, and the work of my theater company does often involve writing scenes and monologues, but at the end of the day I am an actor. As such, when I was first approached with the opportunity to create a piece for Spark & Echo, I considered the dramatic possibilities. As it turned out, though, there was no theatrical concept that sparked my interest. At least, not overtly.
I grew up in a progressive protestant (United Church of Christ) household in Maine, and when I was in elementary school my mother began a seminary education. The timing was such that during the formative years in which I was interested enough to start paying actual attention to what was going on in our church services, I also had access to a parent who was making it her life’s work not only to study the Bible deeply, but to learn how to communicate its stories most truthfully and effectively as a minister. I’ll admit that I don’t attend church regularly these days — I dislike the word “agnostic,” but occasionally refer to myself as a “spiritual humanist” — but I’ve never lost my interest in the Bible as a fascinating story, or in the act of performing a ministry. As a result, the piece I’ve submitted to Spark & Echo is a kind of hodgepodge of poem, monologue, and homily, in a form not entirely unlike something my mother might have written over the years.
My interest in the Gospels is rooted in a decidedly “low Christology”, and the theme of “meals” felt like a natural venue for exploring that. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus have always fascinated me because of their simplicity and humanity, and because their stories tend to bring out shades of the same in Jesus. This is a family that dines, loves, learns, and bickers together, and that is in the fascinating position of seeing Christ as — well, among other things — a friend, in a way that few others do. And yet, especially in the case of Lazarus, this friendship brings them to the very brink of the unknowable vastness of God. How does an average person deal with that, and then sit down to Sunday dinner as if everything is normal?
I’m not sure. Here’s an idea, though.
Edward Bauer is an actor and theater artist currently residing in Brooklyn, NY, where he is one of four Co-Artistic Directors of the Assembly Theater Company. The Assembly is dedicated to producing rigorously researched and socially relevant theater created by an ensemble. The company’s work has been produced as part of the Ice Factory, Undergroundzero, and CUNY Prelude festivals, as well as having been performed at The Incubator, The Collapsable Hole, HERE Arts Center, the Wesleyan University Center for the Arts, and the historic Living Theater. Edward can next be seen as Pip in The Assembly’s “That Poor Dream,” a play inspired by Dickens’ “Great Expectations,” this October at the New Ohio Theater.