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A Jesuit Off-Broadway: Behind the Scenes with Faith, Doubt, Forgiveness, and More Paperback – 30 Mar 2011

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Loyola Press; Reprint edition (30 Mar. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0829435476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0829435474
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 344,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Father Martin's account of his experiences as an adviser to the Off-Broadway production of "The Last Days of Judas" Iscariot is not only riveting; it is also theologically important: no one who reads this book can come away thinking that Christianity is just a set of dry rules and regulations. Father Martin helps us see that we all play our parts in a great and complex cosmic drama about the goodness of creation, the pain of sin and brokenness, and the power of God's redemptive love."
--M. Cathleen Kaveny, John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law and professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame


"The estimable James Martin compresses a short course in New Testament criticism along with a glimpse into Ignatian spirituality while creating a model for making friends in this fast-paced account of his experiences as a Jesuit consultant for an Off-Broadway play about Judas. In the narrative, Martin shows us how he almost inadvertently morphed from a consultant into an unofficial chaplain. This book is a vivid lesson about how the Christian life can be led when it is lived out in the midst of the real (and imagined) world."
--Lawrence S. Cunningham, author of "A Brief History of Saints"


"James Martin's storytelling at its best! "A Jesuit Off-Broadway" provides a fascinating glimpse into the production of a new play, beautifully blending pop culture with the gospel, and theater with theology. Martin and his colorful cast accomplish much more than five acts. In retelling the Passion story, they make it real."
--Therese J. Borchard, author of Beliefnet.com's blog Beyond Blue

"This memoir is a superb exercise of the Catholic imagination, delighting in the profound connections between sacred and secular. James Martin is both Virgil and Dante, not only guiding us through an engaging drama but also recounting how he himself was changed by the experience. And is that not the goal of all theater--and the Christian life?"
--David Gibson, author of "The Coming Catholic Church
"

"Part retreat, part seminar, part master class, James Martin's account of his role as 'theological adviser' for a play about Jesus and Judas is ultimately a spellbinding story of faith, friendship, and the deepest mysteries of the heart. Like a great drama, its impact lingers long after the curtain has fallen."
--Robert Ellsberg, author of "The Saints' Guide to Happiness"



Part retreat, part seminar, part master class, James Martin s account of his role as theological adviser for a play about Jesus and Judas is ultimately a spellbinding story of faith, friendship, and the deepest mysteries of the heart. Like a great drama, its impact lingers long after the curtain has fallen.
Robert Ellsberg, author of "The Saints Guide to Happiness"

"

Father Martin s account of his experiences as an adviser to the Off-Broadway production of "The Last Days of Judas" Iscariot is not only riveting; it is also theologically important: no one who reads this book can come away thinking that Christianity is just a set of dry rules and regulations. Father Martin helps us see that we all play our parts in a great and complex cosmic drama about the goodness of creation, the pain of sin and brokenness, and the power of God s redemptive love.
M. Cathleen Kaveny, John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law and professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame
"

This memoir is a superb exercise of the Catholic imagination, delighting in the profound connections between sacred and secular. James Martin is both Virgil and Dante, not only guiding us through an engaging drama but also recounting how he himself was changed by the experience. And is that not the goal of all theater and the Christian life?
David Gibson, author of "The Coming Catholic Church
""

The estimable James Martin compresses a short course in New Testament criticism along with a glimpse into Ignatian spirituality while creating a model for making friends in this fast-paced account of his experiences as a Jesuit consultant for an Off-Broadway play about Judas. In the narrative, Martin shows us how he almost inadvertently morphed from a consultant into an unofficial chaplain. This book is a vivid lesson about how the Christian life can be led when it is lived out in the midst of the real (and imagined) world.
Lawrence S. Cunningham, author of "A Brief History of Saints"
"

James Martin s storytelling at its best! "A Jesuit Off-Broadway" provides a fascinating glimpse into the production of a new play, beautifully blending pop culture with the gospel, and theater with theology. Martin and his colorful cast accomplish much more than five acts. In retelling the Passion story, they make it real.
Therese J. Borchard, author of Beliefnet.com s blog Beyond Blue"

A Jesuit Off-Broadway: Center Stage with Jesus, Judas, and Life s Big Questions by James Martin, SJ
A few years ago, I read Father Martin s wonderful memoir My Life With the Saints. He commented on that original review, and he was probably the first author to ever comment on my blog, which was extremely gratifying. That s one thing I really appreciate about the internet: it is so easy for me to get in contact with authors and tell them how much I have enjoyed their work. (One time an author did comment on a bad review in which I was kind of mean. You will notice that I temper my bad reviews a little more now. Or just don t post them.)


Since I don t work at the public library anymore, it s hard for me to stay on top of every single thing I would like to read, so I hadn t realized that he had some other books since then. I put his newest one on hold and also got a copy of "A Jesuit Off-Broadway," which sounded so interesting to me. It s about his time acting as a theological consultant for the play "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot" which was directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman and starred Sam Rockwell. Father Martin walks us through the theology and story of Judas time with and betrayal of Jesus as he is also telling us the story of how the play came to be and what the people involved learned from it.


I came away from this book thinking, yet again, that Father Martin seems like a kind and thoughtful man. I was impressed at how, in his story, he sought to respect everyone s faith journey while also admitting that he truly hoped that the experience would in some way convert them to Christianity/Catholicism. I wished that there was more about the long talks he had with the author of the play, Stephen Guirgis, as they worked out the motives and consequences of Judas s actions, because I would have loved to hear more of the honest questions and answers that they explored. I also learned a lot about some of the saints that the play featured and expanded my own ideas of who some of the disciples were not just Judas but also Thomas and Peter. The thoughtful discussions about the ideas of forgiveness and despair were some of the other highlights for me personally.


I will admit that I couldn t keep every cast member straight, but there was a chart at the beginning that I could have studied a little bit closer. I was especially impressed at how hard-working and considerate of each other the cast seemed to be. We all have this idea of diva actors, but these men and women seemed to be just the opposite and worked long hours to make sure the message of the play came through as clearly as possible.


I started reading this book just after I gave my "This I Believe" speech at church, and I was so disappointed that I hadn t started it earlier, because I would have loved to include part of this passage:

C.H. Dodd, the great Scripture scholar, defined a parable as a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought. In other words, parables are poetic explanations of concepts that are otherwise impossible to comprehend fully.


The concept of the kingdom of God is too rich to be encompassed by something as simple as a definition. And the notion of radical forgiveness is impossible to explain in a few words, no matter how carefully chosen. Jesus grasped the benefit of telling a story about, say, a father s reconciliation with his prodigal son and allowing the hearers to tease out the underlying meaning for themselves. Besides, if Jesus had given a philosophical lecture to the predominantly peasant community, they probably wouldn t have understood him anyway.


Where a strictly worded definition can be somewhat shallow and actually close down a person s thoughts, a story is endlessly deep and more likely to open one s mind. Jesus stories carried meaning without having to be converted into a concept, and the power of his parables was that they always went against the expectations of the audience, as when the Samaritan, hailing from a hated ethnic group, was ultimately revealed as the good guy who cares for the stranger. The deep places in our lives places of resistance and embrace are not ultimately reached by instruction, wrote the Protestant theologian Walter Brueggemann. Those places of resistance and embrace are reached only by stories, by images, metaphors and phrases that line out the world differently, apart from our fear and hurt.

That last paragraph explains a lot of Father Martin s excitement about the play itself and the people he met while working with it. And it deeply resonated with me as I have been thinking so much about the power of story. I recommend this book for people who have an interest in theological stories and plays and for people who enjoy reading about the workings of theater productions. And I will reiterate my previous recommendation of "My Life With the Saints," which is a book that has stayed with me since I posted about it almost exactly four years ago.


You can read Father Martin s columns in America magazine and see him as an occasional visitor on "The Colbert Report" (here is a clip from a recent show).
--Kari"Through a Glass, Darkly" (04/27/2010)"

From the Inside Flap

A Jesuit priest, a New York play, and questions as profound as they come . . .

A few years after being called to the priesthood, Father James Martin was startled to get a very different kind of call one evening in 2004: a phone call from actor Sam Rockwell. Rockwell had been cast for the part of Judas Iscariot in an Off-Broadway play, "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot," where Judas was on trial for his crime of betraying Jesus. Would Martin be willing to serve as a theological consultant for the play? Martin gladly obliged, and within weeks playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis, director Philip Seymour Hoffman, and members of the cast began to dialogue with Martin about a host of spiritual issues that the play evoked: Can we believe the Bible? What was Jesus mission? What is sin? Does hell exist? Is anyone beyond God s forgiveness?
"A Jesuit Off-Broadway" recounts Martin s six months with the LAByrinth Theater Company and his education in the making of a play, from the writing of the script to the cast party on closing night. At the same time, the occasionally profane and routinely free-spirited creative team and actors learned from Martin key insights into Christian faith and theology, while often revealing a profoundly spiritual side to their lives. By the time the final curtain fell, Martin and the cast had gleaned important and at times surprising lessons from each other as they realized how the sacred and the secular aren t always that far apart . . . and how, in the end, questions tell us more than answers ever do."

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Top Customer Reviews

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Father Martin's great skill as a writer triumphs again.Any ideas I had about actors their intellect and morality were changed forever.This book has challenged all ideas I had about the theatrical world I recommend this book greatly.
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By AVB on 8 April 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Factual, and a great companion to directing/producing the show.
Have found it easy to read, and a good honest account
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars 28 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who'da thought religion and theatre could be so interesting?? 25 Oct. 2007
By super swimmer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Father Martin has a unique way of getting our attention...discussing the Last Days of Judas Iscariot. Now who hasn't wondered what happened to Judas? I mean, after all, he did what was he was supposed to so that the prophecies about the Messiah would be fulfilled, but he betrayed his close friend. Hero or villian? When Father Martin is asked to be the theological advisor for the off-Broadway production that gives us the trial of Judas to determine how he will spend eternity, discussions turn to all sorts of topics. Father Martin is not heavy-handed about the theological issues, and between his insights and humor, with the modern interpretation of the trial scenes (I REALLY need to start praying to Saint Monica again!), I was riveted! A can't-miss good read, even for non-Catholics or "lapsed Catholics".
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Jesuit Experiences the Making of a Play 18 Nov. 2007
By Timothy Haugh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I had a rather odd experience a couple months ago. I went to a book reading for this book, A Jesuit Off-Broadway, by James Martin, SJ. What was odd about it was that the author, the usual reader at these events, was only one of the readers. Guirgis, and many of the original cast (other than the "big" names, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Sam Rockwell) of Guirgis' play, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, joined Martin in reading excerpts from the book at the Public Theater--in the same space where the play was performed and my wife and I had watched it with interest a couple years back. It was a wonderful and surreal evening.

What made it surreal, at least for me, was listening to the others besides Martin read their "parts." Martin writes extensively about Guirgis and the cast in this book, their religious backgrounds, experiences and motivations. He quotes them all rather extensively though I can't believe he was taking copious notes at the time (though I could be wrong about this). As these actors read about themselves I couldn't help but notice that what I was watching was a person playing another person's interpretation of themselves. Most brought it off brilliantly but some (Guirgis, in particular) seemed to squirm with discomfort at reading his motivations aloud as interpreted by Martin. It made me more aware than usual, as I read the book, of how an author shapes experiences--as "real" as they are--to his own ends by his choices and presentation. The other cast and crew may have perceived these same events quite differently.

I know I, for one, perceived some of the things he writes about quite differently. As an attendee at one of the "talk back" nights, I agree with Martin that some of the questions can be thoughtless and rude. On the other hand, I found the cast and crew to be unforthcoming and rude to those of us with an interest enough in the work to support it. I myself only listen at these nights, looking for a deeper insight into what I've seen; however, I'm constantly disappointed in how little appreciation the cast and crew gives to their audience. As a sometime actor myself who does talk backs on occasion, I understand the weariness that can overwhelm at the end of a performance, but I always try to charge myself up for talk backs and remain even-handed with rude questions because I respect those who support me and my work.

I also understand Martin's sensitivity to the criticism leveled in some of the reviews of the play. It does demonstrate how enmeshed he got with the development of this show. On the other hand, though I liked the play immensely, I did not think it was without its weaknesses--the length and the appropriateness of some of the monologues, for example. In my mind, an unwillingness to explore justified criticism shows a weakness in judgement. (He was also reluctant to take Guirgis to task for his slowness in writing a play to which he had committed. I was much more sympathetic to the actors waiting for pages.)

Still, Martin deserves kudos for many of the great things he does in the book. He gives great amounts of historical background that inform the story of Judas and how they played out in this show. He explores how developing a play, particularly one like this, can be a spiritual journey and he uses this theme to great advantage. He gives insight into how a new play is created and brought to the stage, in some respects better than I've seen in writing by theater "professionals." Plus, he does so in a situation where he can talk in a bit of depth about some of the greats of stage and screen--Guirgis, Hoffman, Rockwell, Bogosian, etc.

Finally, I have to express my pleasure in his relating some of the background of the Jesuits and their involvement in theater. I am the product of a Jesuit education and I have great respect for these men who have always seemed to me the powerhouse of intellectual Catholicism. Having Martin's insights is something I value very much.

Ultimately, I guess I have to turn the critical lens back on myself. Though I was only peripherally involved in the events Martin discusses, I am perhaps too close to the events. My judgement may be somewhat swayed by the brief encounters I had with the play, its cast, its author and its "theological advisor." Still, that cannot get me to value my observations and opinions any less than Martin's. Much like the play Martin discusses, this is not a book without flaws; however, also like the play, this is a book that should be experienced.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I think Father Jim is an embassador of the spirit... 3 April 2011
By Sara - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
If you are (as I have been) a spiritual seeker hungry for a faith that is informed by reason, this book will explain "life in first-century Palestine, what the great spiritual masters said about despair, detachment and poverty of spirit; whether one can rely on the historical accuracy of the Bible" and more; I find this an essential part of my reference library. More than that, Fr. Jim tells the stories of some wonderfully creative people at various places in their spiritual journies. This helped me feel understood and validated. I think it can also help religious leaders better understand those they seek to evangelize. Plus, it is just a great adventure story about the theater!
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Great Work from James Martin! 16 Dec. 2007
By Franciscan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
While strikingly different from his previous work, both in subject and method, this book about his experience working with the cast and crew of an off-broadway show called the "Last Days of Judas Iscariot," is phenomenal. It has been a while since I last read one of Jim Martin's books - the last major one was "Becoming Who You Are," which was sort of an expansion of some of his thoughts in "My Life With the Saints" - I immediately fell into the rhythm of his writing style. He writes in a very approachable and down-to-earth way that is neither insulting nor overly complicated. It is an intelligent mix of narrative based on his personal experience of growth with this acting troupe and theological insights that arose during the process and afterward by way of theological reflection.

Like every other book written by Martin, I highly recommend this one!! Even before I read it, I purchased 3 copies of it for gifts for people, knowing that a book by James Martin will not disappoint. Enjoy this book!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Behind the scenes in the theater 6 May 2011
By Cody - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very interesting description of the creative process behind the writing of the script. It is written in a the story telling style, like most of James Martin's books. It is a deeply personal account of the book author experience as the theological advisor. It is profound, funny, serious, spiritual and theologically based. It offers a vivid picture of the multidimensional soul of humanity. It is also a book that teaches fundamental truths and views from the pespective of Catholic religion and others. It uses a day to day language, easy to read. The play uses a colloquial and slang NY street vocabulary, easy to grab your attention. At the same time, encourages serious thinking and learning.
The actors are depicted as regular human beings, individually, personally, with their acting greatness, but also with their doubs, sufferings, conflicts, interior conversions, failures and anxieties, influenced or soothed, by the study of their own characters in the play: "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot". The book title is perfectly descriptive of the hard work behind the scenes before a theater play is presented to the public. The presence of the priest as theological advisor is well integrated in the development process of the play. He is very human and understanding, though he helps to guide and keep the biblical story in check. The last chapter summarized the spiritual impact that, as advisor behind the scenes, the process had on the author himself, James Martin SJ. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the diversity of lives, theater, playwriting, or just in the arguments about Judas life and death, doutbs and forgiveness, then and today.
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