Mary of Magdala: the musical

Casper College students, working with New York professionals, are developing an original musical by James Olm and Shad Olsen and directed by Richard Burk about Mary Magdalene, whom they describe as “a woman who becomes friend, lover, and ultimate number one disciple of Christ, much to the chagrin of the patriarchal society of the time.”

According to the playwright, James Olm, the musical depicts the life of Mary Magdalene and Jesus based on the Gnostic Gospels found in Egypt in 1945.

Elysia Conner writes in The Caper (WY) Journal:

In the 500s, Pope Gregory combined three different people in the Bible and Mary Magdalene was known from then on as a prostitute. However, the Catholic Church in 1968 renounced what Pope Gregory had stated, Olm said.

Olm and his former high school student, Olsen, started writing the play in 2002.

“He was the first one to tell me that Mary Magdalene wasn’t a prostitute,” Olsen said. Before the bestselling novel, “The Da Vinci Code,” the idea was little heard of.

Creating the production has been an opportunity for theological reflection as well as storytelling. Conner describes a discussion between the playwright and the director as to when the disciples will come to understand what has happened on the cross:

As the apostle Peter lowers his friend from the cross, he should show understanding and redemption, playwright James Olm said. No, director Richard Burk countered, the redemption shouldn’t come for another three days. A theological discussion ensues, with a few opinions from other collaborators.

And students have had the challenge of imagining a living, breathing interaction with a not-yet-crucified Jesus and making that come alive on stage.

“From a woman’s perspective,” said actor Sarah Matteucci, who plays Mary of Magdala, “it’s very exciting to be able to play a strong, powerful, flawed n yet wonderfully flawed n woman, particularly in a time period when that was not the norm for that society.”

“You know who he is but at the same time you’re sort of rediscovering him,” said Olsen, who plays Yeshua, the Aramaic name for Jesus.

“As a matter of fact,” Olm said, “the first question that we always ask after a read-through is …:”

“Do you want to go have a beer with this guy?” Olsen finished.

The show opens tonight at Casper College’s Black Box theater. Break a leg!

Read the rest here.

Past Posts