11 Questions with Cast Members from
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot By Doug Strassler
What do you like most about T. Schreiber?
Steve Carrieri (Judas): Terry Schreiber is great because he gives you the chance to try different things in class and during rehearsals without ever feeling insecure about the choices you make as an actor. Also there’s always been an inherent sense of community throughout the whole studio.
Ben Prayz (Caiaphas the Elder): Two things: one is the full faculty spectrum – acting, body, voice, dialect, etc. This creates the ideology that your whole being is the instrument. You have the opportunity to work on, and the staff is all aware of, different components, besides only the emotional, to allow your gifts to unfold. Second, the bar here is set high.
Alexandra Turshen (Jesus): I walk through the doors and I know I have a place amongst some of the most talented, hard-working, and generous actors in NYC.
Brennan Vickery (Simon the Zealot/Matthias): I really enjoy the maturity and the commitment of the students and the faculty. I’ve attended other acting schools and there was definitely a lack of devotion to acting as something serious. I was left many times is frustration. Rehearsal is not going over the lines twice sitting on your bed!
What do you like most about Off-Off-Broadway theater?
Benjamin Jones (Butch Honeywell): My favorite part is non-corporate productions – it allows the real creative art to flow through the hearts of those who pay attention.nnTurshen: More risk! Less ego!
Vickery: Off-Off Broadway theater gives artists, actors, writers, directors, the freedom to explore new work and have it be seen. I enjoy the daring and innovative risks some artists take when approaching new work.
When did you decide to become an actor, and why?
Erica McLaughlin (Saint Monica): I did theater since I was a little girl, but I still never thought I’d make a profession out of it. I was getting ready to go off to college to study political science or computer engineering, you know, something “practical” that my parents would like, when I won a playwriting competition and was awarded $2000. I used it to pay my own tuition at a community college which had an equity theatre company attached, and began acting there, guided by some of the finest performers in the country. I haven’t been able to quit.
Prayz: Recently, actually. I went to the High School of Performing Arts from there went straight to the conservatory at Purchase, then a year with Hagen. So, I’d been around acting in my teens and as a younger man, and worked some, but mostly plodding around. I didn’t do anything with that training until five years ago. I was looking for something else, (I worked in business for many years), thought I’d open a coffee shop, and had a genuine eureka moment, when I remembered that I had acted years ago. In 2007 I enrolled at TSS, and started auditioning for, and getting, things. In 2010 I made the switch in my head and heart to move forward on this path and follow whatever it was that the road ahead would lay before me.
What do you like most about The Last Days of Judas Iscariot?
Jones: the play provides and humorous look through one’s eyes that raise the real questions of the missing pieces. I, too, have similar outlooks on the whole “Bible” and religion thing. Is it true? Was it real? How much has been skewed as the stories were passed down?
McLaughlin: What don’t I like? This play is freaking epic. Like from comic to serious in a moment, from challenging the Bible to quoting hip hop, it captures the heart of what urban Americans experience in terms of religion in daily life. There is something in it for everyone, and Stephen is such an amazing writer that you also get to listen to the poetry in motion as it all goes along.nnPrayz: this cast – WHEW! Absolutely knocks my socks off, out the window and into the street with their talent and love. Goosebumps.nnTurshen: This play has everything: philosophy, spirituality, humanity, and such humor!
Vickery: Judas is a very raw play. I like that it requires actors to explore characters who are street; probably not those kids alongside them in acting school. I’m a spoken word artist and there are many overlapping themes found in this play and spoken word: mostly the heartache cause by some life choice. Spoken word tends to tackle serious subjects like bullying, abortion, faith, homosexuality, death, so on and so on. Judas explores these through dialogue and a very diverse mix of characters. It seems there is no way anyone couldn’t find the play to hit some hidden or more obvious conviction.nnStephen Alan Wilson (Satan): The writing. Stephen is truly gifted and it’s a pleasure to speak his words. I grew up in the church and I find the story very intriguing and thought-provoking. To see all these people come to life and interact with others, both fictional and real, is a lot of fun.nn nnHave you ever seen Judas before? nnPrayz: Nope.
Vickery: I have never seen this play before.
McLaughlin: Nope! But I heard it is pirated on YouTube. I’d never watch it before playing a character in it though.nnWilson: I’ve never seen a production of this play. On a side note, I did play Judas in a passion play many many years ago.
What is the most challenging thing about your character?
Prayz: Not seeming like a “bad” guy.nnTurshen: I’m Jesus. It’s the most simple and most complex character I’ve ever played.
What do you hope the audience gets out of this show?
Prayz: Forgiveness is the number one healing component we can give ourselves as human beings and it does not mean one has to be weak – as a matter of fact, it requires great strength.
Do you have any pre-show ritual?
McLaughlin: Only about a billion. The one I can share with you is that I will be listening to 2Pac as part of my prep.nnAdyana de la Torre (Cunningham): I apply organic essentials oils that release confidence, courage, alertness, and magnetism. And a little caffeine! I need my brain to work!
Wilson: I definitely have my routine, although it does very slightly from show to show. No matter what, it always starts with a good physical and vocal warm-up. With this show, my first entrance is not until an hour into the show so I have to be ready to jump on a moving train when the time comes. I look forward to sitting off-stage every night and listening to my fellow cast members working and enjoying the audience’s energy before I join the fun.
Who is the biggest prankster in the cast?
Omar Bustamante (Pontius Pilate): Tommy Buck, hands down!
Torre: Tommy Buck.nnTurshen: Tommy Buck or Bud!
What is your favorite role of those you have ever played?
Jones: Hal Carter from Picnic and Otto from Borrowed Parts.
Prayz: Marco in A View from the Bridge. Miller’s dialogue is butter and Marco has a clear point of view, gold for me.nnTorre: Estelle in No Exit. Similarly that play also takes place in purgatory. Hmmmm….
What role would you like to play the most?
Bustamante: I’d definitely like a crack at John Wilmot in The Libertine.
Wilson: Santa Claus in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. New York is a magical place during the holidays and I know it would be a blast! Not to mention I have two nieces and a nephew and they’d love it.
Doug Strassler is a freelance writer covering film, theater, television, and pop culture. He is the managing editor at OffOffOnline and editor of the newsletter for the New York Innovative Theatre Awards. His work can also be seen on such sites as New York Press, Theatermania, Show Business magazine, Back Stage, Our Town Downtown, West Side Spirit, Tail Slate, and The Critical Condition. Additionally, Doug is a past member of the Drama Desk nominating committee.