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Easter's meaning takes center stage

By: Eileen Wilson Telegraph Correspondent
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With the Easter Bunny on his way, many people have dying eggs and chocolate rabbits on their minds this season. But for one group of actors, only the real Easter story will do. “The Lower Room,” which will open on Thursday, April 14, and close, fittingly, on Easter Sunday, is a play that looks at the humanity behind the story of Christ’s Last Supper — a look through the eyes of women. Written by Pat Wooley, and performed, originally, by the Broadway Players in Fort Worth, Texas in the early 80s, the inspirational story is told from a different perspective than we usually see in relation to the Crucifixion of Christ. “I’ve never done a show commemorating this particular event with my own company,” said DeeDee Eldridge, executive director of T.H.E. Actors Workshop in Folsom. “I found the story to be very compelling — it has a different perspective than any I have seen about the Last Supper, and that’s what attracted me to it.” According to Eldridge, there isn’t a lot of information available about what the women were doing during the Crucifixion. “The playwright took what is written in scripture about some of the women and filled in from there using other historical records, creating a work of historical fiction,” Eldridge said. According to the playwright, he researched the Bible extensively, and characters and action follow the biblical record, with a few conclusions drawn on the basis of other clues given in scripture. While the story’s focus is women, it’s a play that will appeal to both genders. “This is a story about the realness of the people involved. They are not just ‘Bible characters’,” Eldridge said. “While I think women will appreciate the fact that this looks at the event of the Crucifixion and Resurrection from the perspective of some of the women who were disciples and followers of Christ during his sojourn on Earth, what I get most from it is that we see the thoughts and emotions of real people reacting to the event as it happened. The men and women were real people with real human emotions.” From the actors’ perspective, the show is not only inspirational, but “gives the cast goose bumps every time they rehearse.” While the show has an obvious appeal to Christians during one of their most sacred holidays, the play is not meant to exclude non-believers. “I think that people will see a perspective of the story of the Last Supper and its subsequent events in a different way, no matter what religious affiliation they have,” said Jared Doegey, the actor who portrays Judas. If the hallmark of excellent theater is a show that makes audiences think, then this play may be perfection. “The mission of this theater is to inspire and provoke thought and conversation in our patrons after they leave this theater, while being entertaining, no matter what script we produce,” Eldridge said. “This is no where near a ‘traditional’ Easter story.” Doegey agreed that the play is though provoking, and said Judas, rather than being portrayed as a villain, is simply a character who thinks he’s doing the right thing — but for selfish reasons. “In the short time Judas is presented on stage, the audience … will see many different emotions, from an emotional character,” Doegey said. “I believe a person can deeply ponder the messages contained in the show.” * * * “The Lower Room” Who: T.H.E. Actors Workshop When: 7 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays, April 14-24 Where: 800 Reading St., Folsom, Victory Life Church stage How much: $14 general, $12 ages 55 and over, military and students, SARTA and SEEaPLAY members, $7 for children under 12 Information: Actorsworkshop.net