One of Us?

My great friend Jeff Modereger took me to see the University of Vermont’s production of “Godspell” last night. He’s the chairman of the UVM Theatre department, so it was cool to get an insider’s view of how these things go.

“Godspell” at UVM was terrific. If you want an unbiased take on the performance, check out Brent Hallenbeck’s review in the Burlington Free Press

The production is sold out, so it might be hard to get in. Try, though.

“Godspell” got me thinking about how we think of deities and their surroundings.  Jeff is a highly regarded set designer with a national reputation (if you don’t believe me, Google him), and he had his take on what surroundings Jesus and his disciples should inhabit, at least for “Godspell”.

In UVM’s “Godspell,” Jesus and his disciples’ world is kind of warehouse-y  area with scaffolding, big, battered trunks full of props for the play, and a floor that looked well worn and scuffed. (The floor really wasn’t in rough shape, Jeff just skillfully painted it to look that way.)

“Godspell” depicted Jesus as a laid-back young man with a scruffy beard, wearing faded jeans and well-worn sneakers. The disciples were jokey, sometimes childlike and so energetic I was almost exhausted just watching them.

This was certainly a departure from the robed, serious figures I remember from my Catholic upbringing. Maybe religion would have stuck better with me had I been exposed when I was a kid to the fun bunch in UVM’s Godspell

Some of the more strident religious types scream “sacrilege” when they see any departure from strict bible interpretations.

I don’t think that’s the way to go. Religion is deeply personal, While I can understand people hewing to basic tenents of their faith, I think we find our spirituality more when we embrace our own vision of God, whatever that may be.

We hear public declarations of what people believe God is like all the time. Elton John caused a stir last week when he said, “I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems. On the cross, he forgave the people who crucified him. Jesus wanted us to be loving and forgiving. I don’t know what makes people so cruel.”

There was a big song  about 15 years ago that asked what if God was one of us, “just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home.”

Even though I’m not religious, I’m both intrigued and sometimes when people have a cynical take on religion. (and heaven knows some self-styled religious leaders give us good reason to be cynical)

I remember a song that came out maybe 20 years ago by Concrete Blonde that went, “I told the priest, don’t count on any second coming. God got his ass kicked the last time he came down here slumming.”

Ouch.

Me, for reasons I don’t entirely understand, I picture God as a matronry middle aged woman, elegant, kindly, but someone who does cracks down hard on cruelty and loves the underdogs of the world. She can do without the self-righteous.

What are your visions of deities?

3 Responses to “One of Us?”

  1. gary rith Says:

    f##king amen my man 🙂
    here is a vision of heaven, yeow!

  2. Jeff Says:

    Hey Matt…..thanks for the plug on your blog….you’re too nice of a guy. I love the way your mind works and I love the fact that the production made you think….that’s really what theatre is all about. Too many think theatre is just a form of entertainment. Some of the best works pose a question or just outright smack the audience in the face and say “wake up, take a stand”. Glad you enjoyed it. See you at “My Ohio”.

  3. kim Says:

    When I forget my key and I’m locked out of the house, when I almost hit another car while driving in traffic, when I can’t find my dog in the woods, and whenever I got to get my a__ out of a tough situation, I see God as a Boston cop… he’ll help ya out if you be respectful and don’t use cuss words. I don’t see him as sexual as Elton does. the lady next door to me who was a devout Catholic told me to pray to the Virgin Mary when I needed help cuz she was Jesus’s mom but I never really dug Mary too much. I preferred saints like Francis of Assisi who liked animals.

    (I sound like Ali G. )

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