February 17-25, 2012
In the Spring of 2012 Theater Connections focused on the School of Theater's production of Passion Play by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Brandon Ray. This production took place in the Center of the Performing Arts.
Summary from Samuel French
Hailed by The New Yorker's John Lahr as "extraordinary," "bold," and "inventive," and called "a new American classic" by Time Magazine, this intimate epic occurs at the timely intersection of politics and religion. Ruhl dramatizes three different communities of players rehearsing their annual staging of the Passion: 1575 Northern England, just before Queen Elizabeth outlaws the ritual; 1934 Oberammergau, Bavaria, as Hitler is rising to power; and Spearfish, South Dakota, from the time of Vietnam through Reagan's presidency. In each period, the players grapple with the transformative nature of art, and politics are never far in the background.
(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Sarah Ruhl has written numerous award-winning plays including
Her plays have been performed at Lincoln Center Theater, Second Stage Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theater, Wilma Theater, Cornerstone Theater, Madison Repertory Theatre, Clubbed Thumb and the Piven Theatre Workshop, among other theatres across the country. Her plays have been translated into German, Polish, Korean, Russian and Spanish, and have been produced internationally in London, Canada, Germany, Latvia and Poland. Sarah received her MFA from Brown University and is originally from Chicago. She is the recipient of a Helen Merrill award, Whiting Writers' Award and a Macarthur Fellowship. She is a proud member of New Dramatists and 13P.
Other plays By Sarah Ruhl: Eurydice, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, In the Next Room (of the Vibrator Play), Stage Kiss
Because the play has three very distinct time periods,it was important for us to research each specific era in terms of social, economic, religious, and political aspects. A breakdown of the research taken for this production can be found on the Research for the Production Page.
Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play is about the reactions of three groups of actors as they perform the same Passion Play. The Passion Play itself doesn’t change over time—indeed, it’s timelessness and ritualized character make it significant to many people. However, the reactions to the play do change over time. In all of the play’s sections, the actors make personal decisions based on their specific historical and national context. Indeed, most people in Western culture know the story of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. For some Christians, the story serves as an important reminder or a guide for specific behaviors. For others, it might serve as a more general story of self-sacrifice. For many (those who aren’t Christians for instance), there might be another well-known cultural story (both from other faith traditions and from important secular traditions) that inspires beliefs and behaviors.
The Theatre class is working out which organization might make sense (I know they are considering groups like Doctors Without Borders, Invisible Children, Michelle Obama’s campaign to help military families) and what specific needs might be. We hope to have a table in the lobby of the Center for Performing Arts during the ISU production of Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play (Feb. 17-25) to collect donations. To draw attention to our table, we’re going to put all of our memes (and memes created by the Experiencing Theatre class) together into a “Sacrifice Quilt.” In Conjunction with ISU’s production of Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play, students in one section of ENG 101, one section of THE 152 hope to collect donations for a local service organization and to produce a quilt project to illustrate how cultural narratives of sacrifice (like the passion play) impact personal decisions to help and support others, helping them to “explore the moral dimensions of social or civic issues and make morally sensitive judgments about such isses” During the ISU production of Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play, we will collect donations for a local service organization, such as Doctors Without Borders. To draw attention to our service project, we’re going to display a “Sacrifice Quilt.” Students will design memes that combine an easily recognizable (non-copyrighted) image with an image/phrase/emblem from each student’s personal engagement with sacrifice. We will print these memes onto fabric squares; we’ll connect all of the squares into one large quilt. The quilt will speak more directly to the theme of sacrifice and how individual sacrifices might better enter the public imagination through the genre of memes and “demonstrate in any concrete way a positive effect on individual students' level of interest in or commitment to working on solutions to social/civic issues. “(Focus Civic Engagement definition) Students will also create and maintain a Facebook page; “friends” to our site will learn about the play and the organization we will help. They will also be encouraged to submit links to blogs, personal webpages, and personal narratives that explore diverse themes of sacrifice. Thus, the Facebook page will serve as a kind of “virtual sacrifice quilt.”