Herod And Pilate Are Women Of Power In THE ROPE AND THE CROSS At New Vibe Lounge
Two of history's most famous biblical figures, King Herod the Great and Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, will be played by women in the Easter drama, The Rope and The Cross, to be staged at the New Vibe Lounge in Rockville Centre Long Island on Easter Sunday, April 21.
Written by acclaimed Jamaican playwright Easton Lee, the play is a Jamaican based dramatization of Christ's passion and is being remounted on the 40th Anniversary of its World Premiere production, staged in Siloah, western Jamaica on Easter weekend 1979.
The four decade old play is considered a classic in the pantheon of Caribbean literary works and is being revived as a Staged Concert reading, directed by award winning playwright and producer David Heron (Against His Will). There will be one performance of the production at 3pm on Easter Sunday, instead of two as previously announced.
Actors Joanna Pickering, who hails from Great Britain, and Jamaican born Marsha - Ann Hay will portray Herod and Pilate respectively. They are part of an international cast that comprises actors of Caribbean, American, and European descent and also includes Nixon Cesar (Jesus), Emilio Evans (Judas), Candice McKoy (Mother of Judas), Fleurette Harris (Mary, Mother of Jesus), Lincoln Brown (Narrator/Shepherd), Kevin Elden (High Priest Annas), Fulton Hodges (The Blind One), Hector Lincoln (High Priest Caiphas), Fitgi Saint-Louis (Sarah) and Osondu Thambo (John the Disciple).
Set in both rural Jamaica and ancient Jerusalem, Lee's sweeping epic breaks with traditional presentations of Christ's passion, humanizing Jesus and Judas as modern day Jamaican men- young, angry and determined to overturn the status quo to create an equal and more just society for the world they live in. But when the authorities around them intervene with deceptive and divisive tactics, the two young rebels tragically discover that the autocracy will stop at literally nothing to prevent change we can believe in.
According to the Jamaican born Heron, also an actor and who appeared as Caiphas in a revival of the play in Jamaica several years ago, The Rope and The Cross is a milestone in the history of theatre in his island home. It is also the first time that the roles of Herod and Pilate will be presented as gender neutral.
"Herod and Pilate are always historically and dramatically portrayed as men," Heron says, "And in previous incarnations of The Rope and The Cross, that was no different. But when I looked at the script again as we were deciding to do it, it really struck me how much the role and the status of women has changed since the play was first performed, and of course even moreso since the time of the events depicted in the story. I thought it would be really interesting to have the fate of Christ being determined by two women of power. Our playwright Easton was totally onboard with the idea, and that was all I needed to hear."
Joanna Pickering, a member of award winning actor Paul Calderon's Primitive Grace Theater Ensemble and whose stage credits include Lady Macbeth at The Porter Theater in Pittsburgh, concurs.
"At our first table read, the effect of hearing female actors saying these lines was chilling," she recalls. "The debauchery, the casual, almost instinctive cruelty and disregard for human life that Herod displays are qualities less likely to be assigned to female characters on stage. I've just recently performed Lady Macbeth, but even she doesn't have the power and privilege that comes with being born male. To delve into that place as an actress is a great experience for me. I think it will really jolt the audience. This is a Herod we have not seen before."
For Hay, a veteran of stage and screen who has appeared in Moliere's Tartuffe and Alan Ayckbourn's Absent Friends, the opportunity to portray one of history and the bible's most conflicted characters was simply too good to pass up.
" If I was going to list the ten roles on stage or screen I'd most like to play," she says, " Pontius Pilate would probably not have been on the list, for all the obvious reasons. What fascinates me is how universal his conflict is, and how little his gender actually matters. As I went through the material, I wasn't struck so much by the dynamics of the gender swap. I was actually struck with curiosity as to why no -one had ever thought of a woman playing this role before. This is a human being in a position of power, who possesses basic human decency and is faced with a terribly important, very consequential decision to make. Whether they be wives, mothers or CEOs, women face that reality every day."
The New Vibe Lounge is located at 60 North Park Avenue in Rockville Centre, Long Island, 11570. There will be an audience talkback and a complimentary Caribbean Easter buffet courtesy of Golden Krust Caribbean restaurant, following both performances.
Tickets to The Rope and the Cross are $35 and are available here:-