Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Zombie Jesus Day

I’m traveling to Washington, DC and Baltimore this week, so that gives me some time to write some posts and do a bit of catch-up. Monday is spent on the train, taking pictures of a development site near Union Station in DC, and Tuesday brings a dog and pony show to some engineers working for BWI Airport. All in all a welcome leisurely pace for the beginning of the week. It will get more hectic as the week progresses, with me making up for the time I am enjoying. But the week ends on a good note – with Zombie Jesus Day.

It’s Holy week, after all, the most important time in the Christian Calendar and an excellent time for spiritual reflection. My brother is ‘grid blogging’ (a term I wasn't familiar with) the Stations of the Cross with a group of people this week. Essentially a series of topical sermons which is something he is quite good at, even if he is giving Christ two Stations number 4 (our savior never gets a break). My Holy week began with a terrific play on Friday night and a Palm Sunday performance of Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion.

The Phoenix Theatre (of which Kathy and I are board members) began it’s Spring Season Friday with the opening of Glyn Maxwell’s ‘Wolfpit’. Mr. Maxwell has a friend who apparently sends him tidbits of information on a regular basis concerning the accounts of 12th century Monks. Or something like that – I couldn’t get him to give me a complete answer after the play, although by that point it was approaching 5:00 AM and most of us (cast, crew, board members and playwright) were pretty sloshed. In this particular case, Mr. Maxwell’s friend told him about the written accounts of Monks covering a peculiar event that happened during the harvest season in 1154 in Suffolk. It seems that two completely green children crawled out of a ‘WolfPit’ (essentially a large ditch) speaking gibberish and causing much confusion in the nearby village. The accounts offer more details, but to go into them here would spoil the plot of the play. It’s a complete fairytale (filled with magic and truth as I mentioned to them that night), in the good and juicy style of the real Grimm. Death, rape and general unpleasantness rule the show and make for a thoroughly magical evening. The reviews are already coming out and are raving about the play and the production, so this is all excellent news for the company.

By Sunday, Kathy and I had recovered enough to attend another event at BAM, a follow up to the tragic-comic Hedda we saw a few weeks ago. It was a new production of Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion, with this production being ‘staged.’ These days it’s apparently not enough to do something straightforward, such as a traditional staging of a play or musical piece. No, instead we must reimagine it or add something to it. In the case of Hedda it failed – in the case of Bach, it didn’t.

The gist of the performance was to have the musicians and singers minimally act out their roles. A violinist will walk over to a singer during a duet, soloists will look confused when singing the word ‘what?’ or ‘who?’ in a call or response moment of the piece. People will walk around all informal-like while they sing, acting out their roles. And on and on. The whole effect was that of a Baroque production of Jesus Christ Superstar, which ultimately I didn’t mind because it really didn’t take away from the wonderfully performed music and chorus. It all looked rather silly and didn’t add anything to the piece in my mind, but what the hell? In the end if these singers and players want to roam the halls looking like amateur actors while they ply their wonderful craft, then who am I to care? It sounded glorious.

But our Holy week will end with our annual celebration of Zombie Jesus Day. It is a crowd favorite holiday for our guests, what with Kathy doing her usual amazing dance in the kitchen. This year will be no exception – currently it looks like a first course of soup (perhaps four lily soup, perhaps another), a fish course of scallops, and the main course of lamb, fingerling potatoes, beans, peas, chard and squash. It’s looking like a dozen or so will attend, meaning two lambs, so Kathy will brine one and marinate the other to give everyone a taste test of the two approaches. I’ll be on wine patrol, and I’m currently leaning towards a Spanish Rioja or something similar. And, of course at least three different desserts will be served, including the famous crème brule.

But the focus of the evening will be the incredible irreverence with which we treat the resurrection of our Savior. I came up with Zombie Jesus Day after watching a series of episodes of Futurama, where the old fart character occasionally screams out “Sweet Zombie Jesus!’ when something surprises him. The phrase seemed so bizarre that it stuck with me, and after letting it stew in my mind I decided that it was a keeper. Of course, I'm not the only one. But we celebrate the day that Christ rose from the dead by cracking undead jokes and generally poking fun at the piousness of most religious folk. All while enjoying a terrific meal.

Actually most cultures have irreverent celebrations of the dead. Halloween is but one example. Mexico’s Day of the Dead a better one. And when one thinks about it, brains and bunnies are both equally absurd ways of celebrating a resurrection. If one can cross pollinate an Easter celebration with various Spring fertility rites to get Chocolate Rabbits and Peeps, then why not mix up the Passion with some good old fashioned horror stories to get a seriously fine meal. Besides, as Kathy well knows, I can’t stand those damn Peeps.