SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — The world premiere of “Jesus, Son of Man” opens Friday night in Syracuse. Thanasis Theatre Group will perform the new play at the Everson Museum of Art April 15-17 and 22-24.
The show tells the story of Jesus through the words of those who knew him. Bianca Hallett, who plays Mary Magdalene and serves as the assistant director for the production, said “Jesus, Son of Man” approaches the well-known story of Jesus from a different angle.
“It’s more of a humanistic side to Jesus,” Hallett said. “It’s really based on who he was and how he interacted with each person.”
It is rare to act in a world premiere, and Ahmad Maher, a Middle Eastern actor based in New York City, said he is excited for the unusual opportunity.
“It’s so cool to be involved in something from the beginning,” said Maher, who plays three different roles in the play. “It’s not something that’s already there and has been there and been done before for however many years. This is the very first step.”
The performance includes characters who love Jesus, those who hate him and those who fall somewhere in between.
“There are not necessarily good people and villains; there’s just very complex characters that all have their different perspectives,” Maher said.
The emphasis on varying perspectives in “Jesus, Son of Man” is mirrored by Thanasis’ focus on diversity and inclusion.
Thanasis founder and “Jesus, Son of Man” director Jordan Westfall said his company is devoted to promoting minority voices and creating opportunities for marginalized groups.
“I mean we really want to bring everyone that we can into the fold,” Westfall said. “Whether that be black or indigenous people of color or members of the LGBT community that have not really been given their fair shot at performing things because they’re quite limited. Same with disabled actors.”
Hallett echoed Westfall’s sentiment.
“It’s definitely at the forefront of the company here, making sure that everybody has the same opportunities, regardless of your background, regardless of your race,” Hallett said.
Westfall said that ensuring diversity in Thanasis’ productions begins with selecting the right shows.
“I really believe that the work that we choose to present is what ultimately separates us,” Westfall said. “I personally look for works that allow equitable representation.”
Hallett expanded on the importance of diversity and representation in the arts.
“As a person of color, I think it’s so important to see other people like myself on stage, and not just in roles dedicated for certain stereotypes,” Hallet said. “I think that’s so important, especially for little kids that are growing up that want to see themselves. If you don’t see yourself, you don’t really have that idea that you can do it.”
Maher said he hopes that “Jesus, Son of Man” can help audiences learn to consider diverse viewpoints.
“I want it to be thought-provoking. I think ideally people would start thinking about things a little bit differently, seeing new perspectives,” Maher said.
Binaifer Dabu, who plays Mary, mother of Jesus, in the play, said she believes the message behind “Jesus, Son of Man” is one of inclusion.
“Regardless of faith, beliefs and where you come from, humanity and the experience of being human is absolutely universal,” Dabu said.
Tickets for “Jesus, Son of Man” are available here.