“Cold Journey in the Dark” by Parke Godwin

This post is in the theme Influences on my own Creative Work. Read the first.

December 26, Baton Rouge: When I left the wrestling team in high school (yes, I know) it was for Drama Club. I stuck with theater for three year of high school and then I dabbled a little in college. At some point in there, I took an independent theater class in downtown St. Petersburg (my parents won it in an auction) and the instructor gave me this scene to do with a partner.

“Cold Journey in the Dark” is the only play published by science fiction author Parke Godwin. In it, the ghosts of Jesus and Judas meet again for the first time in a modern day cathedral (the play should be performed in a church) and argue over their shared legacy. Jesus is the misunderstood teacher, the intellectual leader caught up in the emotions of his emotional followers. Judas is the follower who needed a leader and found his choice to be wanting. It’s a pretty great conversation. I chose Judas.

Later, gearing up for State Thespian competition I needed a dramatic monologue. This one from Judas was the one I chose. I got real good at this.

From Cold Journey in the Dark
Everything from “I didn’t want to understand…” to “Dead, you’re a god.”

The play tickled at some threads of memory as I read it, but this monologue sang in my heart. I couldn’t recite it from memory today, but I know every single word as I read it. I knew this thing so well. I remembered the various intonations I tried with it. I remembered the ones that stuck. All the unwritten enunciations and emphases. The material is fantastic, too. Solid, polysyllabic material with multiple builds to crescendo and then that perfect final line: “Alive, you were nothing but a troublesome ethic. Dead, you’re a god.” Ah, it’s so good.

It wasn’t the last thing I ever performed, but this monologue was probably the height of my theater career. I poured myself into this one. And after my Dad died, this was exactly the right tenor to leech out the complex of emotions around fury and betrayal and deep, lost loneliness. Throughout that time of my life, theater was a great release, but I didn’t want to be an actor forever. I would rather write the stories then act them out. I tried a couple of times in this time of my life to write similar material, but the best I ever did was a one act play (in desperate need of an a few edits) about a bastard son of Jesus shot through with similar themes of betrayal and anger.

I did well at State competition with this monologue, but the comedic monologue paired with this one dragged my scores down and I didn’t quite make Nationals. It was fine. This is what I needed from the stage: emotional release. Stand up in front of a crowd and purge the worst. And how better to do that than as Judas, yelling at Jesus?

I had to buy a used copy of a collection of plays to find this again. There’s one in there by William Gibson!

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