Some Passion Plays have had a long history of Anti-Semitism, especially plays in Europe between the sixteenth and the twentieth century, culminating in Hitler’s praise for the Oberammergau Passion Play.
Passion Plays in the UK were banned from the end of the sixteenth century until their revival in 1951. Now, with Passion Plays undergoing a resurgence in the UK, we actively work against any notion of Anti-Semitism people might bring to these plays, whether they are acting in them or watching them we work with our Jewish friends.
(NB, all the events of the Passion story are set in Israel under Roman occupation, all the people are Jewish, including Jesus, his friends and his enemies.)
Advice from our Jewish friends:
The Passion Play can be set in different historical periods and situations, for example set in Nazi Germany and the holocaust.
Explore ways to locate the passion in current times. In the Manchester Passion there were references to life on the DSS plus a terrific Scouse “sex industry worker”! Such a good theme that was picked up and then dropped! A flash of brilliance that died as quickly as it came!
Consider having stalls from different faith groups geared up to tell their understanding of the passion. No Christian ones either interestingly!
The portrayal of Jesus. Have more than one actor portray Jesus. In this way the character of Jesus can be seen to be black, white, Asian, male, female, trans-sexual thus showing the embodiment in the man of all humanity. This would be sensational and guarantee world publicity for the Manchester Passion Passion.
Do make sure that the actual Hebrew name of God is changed to a very similar secular form to avoid offence. It amounts to saying ‘Hashem’ rather than ‘Adonai’.
INRI on the cross was neither explained nor rendered in English. The vast majority of church attenders do not know either!
Avoid making the actors playing ‘the Jews’ are not dressed like traditional orthodox men and thus become stereotypes of a kind so beloved by anti Semites down the years. German rabbis in the nineteenth century dressed as German lawyers, with long two tab collars. The Reform Jewish synagogues’ clergy wear this today as that particular branch of Judaism was founded in Germany.
Jesus played by a series of different actors, that is Jesus as he appears to be to all those who follow him…..any race or ethnic, cultural, sex preference group.
Productions with the full blown Jewish Jesus can include sections of the Seder that was in fact the Last Supper.
Jesus and ALL his followers were Jewish and were therefore familiar with all the Hebrew prayers, most of which are still in use today. These can be included where appropriate .
Consider using the Ring Cycle in Bayreuth as a model. Since 1945 their costume policy has been to move forward and embrace non-traditional styles. The impact of having, for example, Roman soldiers dressed in black jack-booted uniforms would be immense. There could be competitions for costume designs involving schools. colleges and universities throughout the entire country.
Consider replacing this with “KING” plus a yellow six-pointed Star of David inscribed “Jude”, would show the suffering Jesus sharing the agony of the six million Jewish people who died in the Holocaust.
ALWAYS make sure that the word Jew(s) is replaced by ‘Jewish’ and ‘Jewish people’ even though this can be long winded. The word ‘Jew’ is very tainted and is fast becoming obsolete along with the ‘n’ word for black people.
Locating the action in modern/current times. Have his disciples dress like “Hoodies” and “Big Issue” sellers. The Sanhedrin could be made to speak like Dr Who Daleks. Originally designed to be as cold and inhuman as possible, they were in fact modelled on the Nazi SS. “Exterminate” can become “crucify” etc etc.
Consider including multi faith input. Invite other faiths to provide information stalls and to participate in post event meetings/discussions. Invitations to attend services across the spectrum.
Consider more diverse costumes. These were pure “primary school nativity play”. Extremely weak bordering on the risible! I even spotted at least one pair of trainers! I suppose Nike is also a Greek goddess of the bible era!