In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Feeling "Good Enough" with Other Jesus
  • Fabien Maltais-Bayda (bio)

In the opening moments of Other Jesus—performed in Toronto's St. Matthew's United Church in 2017—the performers scatter throughout the space, holding instruments. With a soft curiosity, they intone together, creating a gentle cacophony that proposes, more than announces, a starting point. The narrative begins in a market in ancient Judea, where Jesus (Ishan Davé) is selling wooden boxes and offering spiritual knowledge with his two friends, Mary (Liz Peterson) and Simon (Evan Webber). At first, their work is tentative, almost timid. Jesus asks, "Practical disciple Mary, thoughtful disciple Simon, how can we share the great emotion, wisdom and things we have thought about suffering and desire and discussed at length, with others?"


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Other Jesus. Text by Evan Webber. Direction by Frank Cox-O'Connell. Scenography and costumes by Sherri Hay. Music and sound design by Christopher Willes. Lighting design by Ken MacKenzie. Produced by Public Recordings and EW & FCO. Co-produced by Festival TransAmériques (Montreal).

Photo by Yuula Benivolski

The play proceeds following Jesus and his friends as they develop their spiritual thinking and teaching, gaining favour in their community and interrogating the merits of their practice. Yet from the start, there is something surprising—even delightfully [End Page 83] wonky—in the work's tone. There is little religion or actual preaching in Other Jesus, and throughout, the characters spend a great deal of time ruminating on what it is they are really doing. Jesus complains, "The struggle is for me that I would love to be just thinking about practice and just doing it but I'm just having to do all this administration now in the midst of everything." The tale of Jesus—and all the theological weight it bears—acts largely as a context for the play, a framework within which we see the characters figuring out how to work, love, and be together. They negotiate their relationships to institutions—the temple, the empire. They talk about legitimacy, and time, and reflect on how to teach. This focus on the everyday—on feeling it out and getting by—connects to the way the entire Other Jesus project came about. In both form and content, the play embraces psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott's concept of being "good enough"—a notion that pushes against expertise and perfection, finding value instead in something a little more experiential, a little more open.

The enticing disjointedness of Other Jesus begins in the script itself. Playwright Evan Webber recounts that "it was written in a single go, but many times." He created the piece in the context of Tarragon Theatre's Playwright's Unit, where artists receive an honorarium and produce a series of drafts to be read. Webber decided to fuse these working conditions into both the work's process and product, allocating a set number of hours to writing his script based on an hourly wage calculated from the funding provided. Within these parameters, he explains, "The only way I could theoretically conceive of doing the work was if I was divinely inspired—I guess that was the joke." Conceptually, the resulting process of intense and continuous writing admitted no mistakes or revisions.

The play's idiosyncratic timbre—the way it sometimes stumbles or lurches a little in performance—directly indexes the method of its creation. Yet it is not the presence of gaps, elisions, or textual trips that feels most impactful, but rather the performers' commitment to giving these as much space or weight as anything else. As Webber explains, "we thought that if we tried to stage this thing that's full of holes, there would be these places where you might see this kind of void, or where things don't make sense—and don't make sense in a surprising, and hopefully revealing, way." Choreography operates similarly in Other Jesus: The process guided by Ame Henderson mirrored Webber's writing method, with quick decisions and dedication to whatever came out of them (Webber).


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(l–r): Liz Peterson, William Ellis, and Ishan Davé in Other Jesus.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1920-941X
Print ISSN
0315-0836
Pages
pp. 83-86
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-14
Open Access
No
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