Open Forum

Female Jesus in Godspell

  • 1.  Female Jesus in Godspell

    Posted 03-15-2019 12:18
    I'm bouncing around ideas for next year's musical and I wanted to see if the hive mind here can help me. First, what would you think about a female jesus in Godspell? Also what repercussions might you see coming at me in a fairly conservative community if did the above casting? Please explain your response so I can gather some context. Thank you to anyone who responds. 


  • 2.  RE: Female Jesus in Godspell

    Posted 03-15-2019 16:14
    Just for clarification: would you have the female play Jesus as a male or as a female? How would the audience know you made that choice?

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    Terry Davis
    Albuquerque NM
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  • 3.  RE: Female Jesus in Godspell

    Posted 03-15-2019 16:25
    She would be playing it as a female. I would change to the correct pronouns for the actress.

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    Jason Maddy
    El Cajon CA
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  • 4.  RE: Female Jesus in Godspell

    Posted 03-16-2019 07:45
    Having a female Jesus shouldn’t be an issue. I’m currently in tech week for “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and my Jesus, Judas, and Mary are all women, as are all 12 of the apostles, and it works beautifully. The men in the show play Pilate, Herod and the Priests. It was somewhat accidental that we ended up with the theme of “The men have the titles. The women have the power.”

    However, one of the reasons that it works beautifully is that we have changed no pronouns, are not doing anything with hair, costuming, or makeup to make any of them look more masculine. It was a choice that we made when we chose the show (to not alter the gender of the characters).

    Additionally, the licensing for the show does not allow us to make any changes without approval. MTI was the same way when we did “Into the Woods.” I called before I cast the show to inquire about having a male play the witch and a female play Jack. They said that I could do both (I ended up doing neither because we had “audition surprises,”), but they were very specific that we could not change the gender of the characters. Jack couldn’t become Jackie and the Witch could not be a warlock. No pronouns could be changed. They were very specific.

    As for community reaction, the people who will react negatively to a female Jesus are the same people who will react negatively to the choice of the show. I know I had a parent producer tell me that people weren’t going to come to our show because of the title alone and how disrespectful it “sounds,” or that there would be a “church and state” ruckus. But if people are going to react that negatively, they will most likely not even see the show.




  • 5.  RE: Female Jesus in Godspell

    Posted 03-16-2019 11:14
    I've seen a female Jesus (played as a woman) in productions of Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. I'm personally very liberal but I live in a very conservative area in Ohio. I wasn't offended and I'm not sure if any audience members were.

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    Irene Imboden
    Teacher/ Drama Director
    Troy City Schools
    OH
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  • 6.  RE: Female Jesus in Godspell

    Posted 03-16-2019 11:54
    Although the entire show is essentially an improv on parables, I would be careful of messing with genders. Even in a progressive community, you would most definitely have some offended Christians.

    Mr. Benjamin Cossitor
    Instructor of English/Drama
    Altoona Area High School
    1415 6th Ave
    Altoona, PA 16602
    (814) 327-9076
    bencossitor@altoonasd.com




  • 7.  RE: Female Jesus in Godspell

    Posted 03-16-2019 12:11
    Edited by Michael Johnson 03-16-2019 12:14
    I'm not sure you can make those alterations to the script.  I would check with the publisher/author's agent to make sure that is ok.  But if the publisher says that is ok, good to go in my opinion.

    We make changes like this all the time to Shakespeare as it is royalty free, and I think those sorts of alterations and adaptations can serve to further our understanding of a work.  I know in out current work with the Tempest, it has been very interesting to have Prospera, Antonia and Gonsala in the work.

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    Michael Johnson
    Trinity NC
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  • 8.  RE: Female Jesus in Godspell

    Posted 03-17-2019 13:13
    The question is, before auditions, is WHY you are casting a female. Like color-blind casting, are you leaving yourself open to giving the role to the BEST performer for that role, or are you trying to say something by casting a female? If a male performer auditions best, would he not get the part because you want a girl?

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    Roger Paolini
    Buffalo NY
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  • 9.  RE: Female Jesus in Godspell

    Posted 03-18-2019 01:09
    Hello. Two years ago I did Godspell for the second time and this time around I decided to use a female Jesus because the best person for the part was a girl. She was a very strong Christian, and just so you know I am a practicing Christian as well. Her parents were a little concerned because they are very conservative, but they were quickly won over when they saw the quality of the show and that there was nothing disrespectful about it in any way. After all, it is the words of the gospel according to Matthew and we didn’t change any of that. I did write to Stephen Schwartz and received his permission and it was a wonderful, wonderful show. After all, the whole point is to say Jesus is every man, or rather Everywoman and we should all be the hands and feet of Jesus. The only song that became a slight issue was turn back old man; we did not change the lyrics but we staged it to make it less about something seductive. If you would like to message me privately, feel free to do so and I will be happy to share with you my experience. It’s a beautiful show no matter how you slice it. My email is pmaranian@nmusd.uspmaranian@nmusd.us>.



    Sent from my iPad

    Sent from my iPad




  • 10.  RE: Female Jesus in Godspell

    Posted 03-16-2019 15:33
    You might want to check the licensing agreement. There might be language prohibiting such a casting choice. Additionally, you’d probably need to get approval for language changes.

    Also consider the change in the relationship between Jesus and Judas if Jesus were to be a woman. There would certainly be a shift in the dynamic there.
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  • 11.  RE: Female Jesus in Godspell

    Posted 03-17-2019 12:20
    Hello. Two years ago I did Godspell for the second time and this time around I decided to use a female Jesus because the best person for the part was a girl. She was a very strong Christian, and just so you know I am a practicing Christian as well. Her parents were a little concerned because they are very conservative, but they were quickly won over when they saw the quality of the show and that there was nothing disrespectful about it in any way. After all, it is the words of the gospel according to Matthew and we didn’t change any of that. I did write to Stephen Schwartz and received his permission and it was a wonderful, wonderful show. After all, the whole point is to say Jesus is every man, or rather Everywoman and we should all be the hands and feet of Jesus. The only song that became a slight issue was turn back old man; we did not change the lyrics but we staged it to make it less about something seductive. If you would like to message me privately, feel free to do so and I will be happy to share with you my experience. It’s a beautiful show no matter how you slice it. My email is pmaranian@nmusd.us.



    Sent from my iPad




  • 12.  RE: Female Jesus in Godspell

    Posted 03-16-2019 13:00
    When I was teaching middle school, once I got Godspell Jr approved, and after auditions, I decided to use three Jesuses.  One was female and it worked beautifully.  To my knowledge, no one complained. And ImI in North GA.

    The concept was basically a bunch of kids recreating the stories.  We did an urban/hip hop style - and the named characters had snapback hats with their names printed on it - the Jesus hat was passed from one actor to the next throughout the show - and they all three came out for the crucification (all with their hats).

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    Keith Rollins
    Chatsworth GA
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  • 13.  RE: Female Jesus in Godspell

    Posted 03-16-2019 14:08
    I didn't mean to come off as shutting you down, but there are some in my community that have a strict interpretation of the bible, and any show veering from that would bother them (e.g. the huge backlash that came from our community theater doing Jesus Christ Superstar a while ago). However, reading Keith's comment, maybe depending on how it is portrayed with the rest of the show, it might not be a concern. I think you just have to make it clear you're not trying to make some kind of political statement with your casting choice. I always try to veer on the careful side when it comes to religion. 

    --
    Mr. Benjamin Cossitor
    English/Gifted Support/Drama
    Altoona Area High School
    1415 6th Ave
    Altoona, PA 16602
    (814) 505-1510 ext. 8822





  • 14.  RE: Female Jesus in Godspell

    Posted 03-17-2019 12:34
    A female Jesus in Godspell sounds like a lovely idea, and feels like it's keeping with the spirit of the show, which has always been a playground for more experimental staging concepts. There probably will be a few people who don't love the idea, but I bet they'll be 'won over' when they actually see it (and those who aren't are probably the same types who don't like the show to begin with).

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    Brooke Pierce
    Co-author of the "spy musical" Sympathy Jones
    www.sympathyjones.com
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  • 15.  RE: Female Jesus in Godspell

    Posted 03-17-2019 13:02
    Hello. Two years ago I did Godspell for the second time and this time around I decided to use a female Jesus because the best person for the part was a girl. She was a very strong Christian, and just so you know I am a practicing Christian as well. Her parents were a little concerned because they are very conservative, but they were quickly won over when they saw the quality of the show and that there was nothing disrespectful about it in any way. After all, it is the words of the gospel according to Matthew and we didn't change any of that. I did write to Stephen Schwartz and received his permission and it was a wonderful, wonderful show. After all, the whole point is to say Jesus is every man, or rather Everywoman and we should all be the hands and feet of Jesus. The only song that became a slight issue was turn back old man; we did not change the lyrics but we staged it to make it less about something seductive. If you would like to message me privately, feel free to do so and I will be happy to share with you my experience. It's a beautiful show no matter how you slice it. My email is pmaranian@nmusd.us.



    Sent from my iPad

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    Pauline Maranian
    Costa Mesa CA
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  • 16.  RE: Female Jesus in Godspell

    Posted 03-18-2019 08:30
    Conceptually---I love this idea.  I've seen two productions with a female Jesus and the only caveat is that you lose the lovely tenor, light sound that is the main vehicle in the show to make us connect with Jesus and is a metaphor for his spirit.  The alto sound makes Jesus sound dark and intellectual rather than full of love and brightness and you lose alot of the diction of the lyrics, which, is also, important for our understanding of Jesus.  I don't say don't do it, but I do say keep these things in mind and use all the elements at your disposal to help us connect to Jesus as this inspiring, uplifting character because you (and the actress) will be working against the music instead of in concert (pun intended) with it.    

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  • 17.  RE: Female Jesus in Godspell

    Posted 03-18-2019 10:38
    I asked God and SHE said it was okay. Sorry, I couldn't resist. Whatever...it's all for the best!!!

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    Garry Tiller
    Theatre Arts Teaching Artist
    Sidwell Friends
    Washington, DC
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