Grad student challenges hypocrisy in play


Communication studies graduate student James Keane is performing research in order to obtain his degree, but it is not the kind of research one would typically expect. Instead of writing a paper, Keane has made a fictionalized recollection of his past experiences through the play “Ezra and Me.”

“Ezra is an acronym that stands for Evangelical Zealotry and Reasonable Accountability,” said Keane, who is 56 years old. “It’s a futuristic thing, the play is set on a sound stage where they’re filming a dystopian game show.”

Keane noted that he has a strong Catholic background but has been an atheist for 25 years.

“I don’t know what the exact quote is from Gandhi, but somebody asked him what he thought about Christians,” Keane said. “He said, ‘I think Christianity’s a wonderful tradition, I’ve just never met anyone that practices it.’ That’s kind of the premise of the play — these very public Christian figures who have been openly hypocritical are kidnapped, brought onto this game show, and asked ‘what would Jesus do’ questions.”

Keane was inspired to create this play through discussions he has had regarding how Christianity interacts with the United States’ actions.

“Just for an example, how do you reconcile the idea that this is a Christian country that spends $700 billion dollars a year on war and professes to believe in a god that said ‘love your enemies?’” Keane asked.

By asking questions such as these, Keane has been able to come up with ideas for his play.

Overall, Keane has found the production of “Ezra and Me” to be stressful. When the show premieres, he will be acting in a show that he wrote and produced. Even though he has encountered challenges along the way, he has been impressed by the young people who are getting involved and having discussions about the topics in his show. By going through a process of trial and error, he believes that he has gotten closer to the vision in his head.

“I’ve tried to make two things clear to everyone who has been involved with it so far,” Keane said. “First of all, this is not an anti-Christian play, even though it may be perceived that way because I’m atheist. It’s not. It really is a play that says if somehow the world were to embrace the Gospel, it would be a better place. It’s not making fun of Christianity. It is kind of poking fun at religion and hypocrisy.”

As his second point, Keane wanted to stress that his play is meant to ask questions instead of providing answers. Through “Ezra and Me,” he wants to take the opportunity to ask these types of questions in a public setting. By doing so, he’s hoping that his work will spark some dialogue.

“Ezra and Me” is showing at 7:30 p.m. from Thursday, March 7, through Saturday, March 9, in the Lang Hall Interpreters Theatre. Tickets can be reserved for free on EventBrite. If available, extra tickets will be given at the door immediately before the show.