10 Reflections on playing Jesus in The Mark Drama

James Squire recently played the role of Jesus in Grace Anglican Church’s production of The Mark Drama. Here he reflects on the 6-week learning process as well as his experiences during the rehearsals and the performances themselves.

These reflections might be helpful for you if you are considering playing Jesus in the drama, or just if you are interested in what goes into making a Mark Drama happen.

1. Stay humble. Ask God to guard your heart from pride.

It’s tempting to feel special and extra important, especially in the rehearsals when everyone calls you Jesus, or when in Section 5 everyone is literally cheering for you as Jesus enters Jerusalem.

Remember, “even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” You’re a humble jar of clay! (2 Cor 4:7)

2. Start memorising early.

There’s just too much content to cram it all in the last couple of weeks. You won’t learn it properly that way. God’s word is meant to be meditated upon, not crammed!

Follow the Mark Drama structure of one Section per week, starting 6 or 7 weeks out from performance date, and you’ll be right 🙂

3. Have a practice buddy/sibling/wife

I found the best way to practice as this: learn the lines by myself with my script, and then have someone whom you live with to test you. Give them your clipboard, while you act out and recite the lines. They can stop you when you make a mistake.

It’s even better if that person is also acting in the Mark Drama, because (1) it’s bonus learning for them, and (2) if they are learning the structure faithfully, they will be able to help you think through how to deliver Jesus’ lines to that particular audience.

For example, you might be concentrating so hard on remembering the lines that you forget to put expression in your voice. But they might point out how Jesus would have had compassion on the woman bleeding for 12 years, and how that needs to come through in the way you speak. (You’re an actor, not just regurgitating lines!)

4. Everywhere you go, always take your script with you!

Not the weather, but your clipboard. I highly, highly recommend putting your script in a clipboard. Leave it in your bag, so that wherever you go, if you have some extra time by yourself or with others who can help test you, you can get in some extra memory practice.

A great opportunity I found was in the car! I would drive and recite, and the passenger would have the clipboard in front of them, checking.

5. Focus on the script, but learn the structure as well, particularly for Section 1

Once you’ve nailed the lines, try to memorise as much of the structure as you can. As you’ll notice, lots of the time, a subsection will start off with a question or objection from the disciples or the Pharisees to which Jesus then responds. This is great, because it means you don’t need to know which scene is next.

However, sometimes Jesus cues the next scene change, and for these you need to know what comes next as you finish a section. You kinda need to wait till the rehearsals to know which scenes you cue, but you can still prepare for it by learning the structure.

Try to nail Section 1 structure in particular. This section has less of a pattern between its subsections (in my opinion), but as it’s the first section, if you nail it in the performance, it will boost your confidence for the rest of the Drama.

6. Take A6 flashcards to rehearsals and write cues on them

When you begin rehearsals, bring these flashcards with you.

Write at which points you need to say a line, or walk off in a particular direction, to drive the Drama into the next scene. This will help you immensely.

See an example below:

7. It’s a lot to memorise, but it’s not that hard

When you sink the hours in, it’s not that bad. You can get a lot done in 6 weeks! I suggest replacing whatever you’re reading for your daily Bible reading with Mark’s gospel:

  • Read the Bible passage for a Section
  • Read the relevant chapter of the Mark Experiment book
  • Then go over the Jesus script to figure out which lines you need to learn, and practice saying them aloud.

Lots of the stories and lines may be familiar to you already. Enjoy this opportunity to get to know our Lord and his compassion, authority, power and love better!

8. Honey, hot water and milk are fantastic for a ripped voice

The Mark Drama is pretty hard on the voice. In rehearsals you (especially as Jesus) will be talking a LOT for many hours on end. Also, you will need to scream when Jesus is crucified (heads up!) which is obviously hard on the voice too.

I highly recommend mixing some honey in with boiling water and drinking it. You may like to add tea, or milk. This will wonderfully soothe your voice.

9. Use the Mark Drama to point people to Jesus!

You’re acting the Mark Drama – great! Let me encourage you to use this opportunity for evangelism. Invite your non-Christian family or friends along. (They will probably say yes, because you are acting in it!) And pray for them that they might come to know Jesus as Lord.

10. You’re just pretending, but Jesus did it for real.

Remember, stay humble. After the performance, people will likely be very impressed with you. But please remember to point them to Jesus. After the performance, ask them which parts stood out to them or struck them the most.

Perhaps the conversation might go…

Audience member: “Wow! You were amazing! That was so powerful!”

You: “Thanks! Which part of the Drama stood out to you the most?”

Audience member: “Hmm… probably the part where Jesus died on the cross.”

You: “Yeah. It’s powerful, isn’t it. I was just acting it out, but Jesus did it for real. What a great Saviour we have!”

Indeed, what a great Saviour we have.