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TCU 360

TCU 360

All TCU. All the time.

TCU 360

TCU alumni connect with each other at Guy Fieri’s Dive & Taco Joint in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. on Friday Oct. 7, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Tristen Smith)
How TCU's alumni chapters keep the Horned Frog spirit alive post-grad
By Addison Thummel, Staff Writer
Published May 11, 2024
TCU graduates can stay connected with the Horned Frog community with alumni chapters across the nation.

Jesus Christ Superstar is still challenging audiences decades later

Jesus Christ Superstar cast members rehearse with the tech team. (Ellie Griffin)

Just over 50 years ago, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice challenged audiences with “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Now, beginning Tuesday, April 16, Theatre TCU will perform the rock opera in the Jerita Foley Buschman Theatre reimagined to once again to challenge modern societal issues. 

“They were young guys trying to be ‘in your face’ with this music,” Penny Maas, the show’s director, said. “I’m just trying to take some of that in-your-face attitude and just transmute it to today.”

Loosely based on Gospel accounts of the Passion of Christ, the musical’s story is told from the viewpoint of Judas Iscariot, a disciple who betrays Jesus after becoming dissatisfied with the radical direction of Jesus and his apostles.

“My idea is that it’s contemporary,” Maas said. “If Jesus were alive, who are the minorities, the marginalized peoples, the oppressed communities that he might be representing? And there are a lot of them in America and in the whole world today, but the two groups that came to me because I relate to them the most are women’s rights and the LGBTQ community, so those are the two lenses that I am putting the show in.”

Maas said the idea originated a couple of years ago in a class focused on callbacks, where students act as directors and create their own cast lists. This class cast both men and women for all roles of Jesus Christ Superstar, which inspired Maas to look further into that idea. 

Theatre TCU isn’t the first to imagine “Jesus Christ Superstar” through a modern lens. Recently, the University of Oklahoma and Watertower Theatre in Addison, Texas—both used cross-gendered casting.

Jesus Christ Superstar (calendar.tcu.edu)

“Theatre is meant and designed to push boundaries and make people uncomfortable, since Greek theatre,” said Logan Lowery, a sophomore musical theatre major who is part of the ensemble and the understudy for Caiaphas.  “The whole point is to call out the structures we have in place.”

Alexa Morgan, a senior acting major, performs the role of Jesus and Hayley Meyer, a senior musical theatre major, is Judas.

Meyer said she’s excited to perform such an important role in her last show with Theatre TCU. Other than intense practice for the vocally demanding role, Meyer said she did a lot of Biblical research about Judas and the Gospel story in order to gain a personal perspective on her role.  

“I think Judas thinks that what he’s doing is more aligned with God’s intentions because he’s a doubter,” Meyer said. “At the end of the day, his downfall is that she doesn’t believe that Jesus is the son of God.”

The cast is not worried about negative audience reactions, Meyer said.

“We are making a very bold statement about LGBTQIA+ and female rights, and I don’t think that should be watered down or hindered, so if somebody doesn’t like the show, that’s completely fine by me,” Meyer said. “If they want to leave, then they’re not meant to be there and that’s okay, but I think the right people– the people that need the message and the people that are going to understand the message– will stay, will see it and will love it.”

Cast members rehearse in the Jerita Foley Buschman Theatre. (Ellie Griffin)

Maas said she also wanted to challenge and address the idea of cancel culture and the role of social media in granting status and revoking it. She worked with Audrey Beyersdorfer, a senior musical theatre major and student choreographer, to show Jesus gaining and losing popularity over social media.

“Penny did a concept board at the very very first meeting we ever had, so everyone was very well aware of what concepts we were going to be presenting, what political statements we would be making, and if anyone was uncomfortable with that, that was the time to speak up, and it would’ve been absolutely fine,” Meyer said. “I think everyone was really passionate about the decision we made.”

Maas said there were a few students who asked to not be cast for religious reasons, and that they were accommodated. 

Lowery said he wrestled with his own beliefs and whether he wanted to participate in the show, but was encouraged after seeing how respectful Maas, Meyer and Morgan have been in maintaining the weight and seriousness of the story. 

“There are serious moments at the end of Act II where we’re grappling with hard topics that are still really prevalent today,” Lowery said. “I think they carry it with so much grace and so much weight that it’s hard to view it as anything other than just a great story.” 

Theatre TCU will perform “Jesus Christ Superstar” seven times next week, acting, singing and dancing alongside a live band. Tickets are available now and five shows have already sold out.

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