Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?
A dramatization of Isaiah 53 and Luke 22
This script is based on Isaiah 53:1-9 and Luke 22:42-24:53 (NRSV).
- Simple staging (the least amount of scenery/props/costumes/lighting/sound effects.) We used nothing except wireless microphones.
- Use of live music when feasible.
- Dialogue mostly spoken by the character who originally spoke it. But not in every case.
- Narration spoken by a character to whom it matters emotionally. (In other words, use of Story Theatre with a combination of Choral Reading techniques.)
- Use of some group speech to create atmosphere or provide emotion.
- Verbatim scripture, but some phrases are repeated to create effects (especially crowds). The text is from the New Revised Standard Version with the following slight changes: “crock crowed” is changed to “cock crew”; “This” is changed to “Barabbas”; “was at the table” is changed to “was at supper”.
- Use of vocal effects (unison humming, melodic humming, dissonant humming, breathing sound).
- Use of movement and also use of tableaux.
- Use of both on-stage and off-stage focus.
- All actors (except the one playing Jesus) may play several roles.
The dram team included 8 performers. More or fewer persons may be used.
Reader 1: Judas, Chief Priest, Leader, Soldier, Joseph, Angel #2
Reader 2: John, Scribe, Cleopas
Reader 3: Jesus
Reader 4: Angel, Simon of Cyrene, Chief Priest, Leader
Reader 5: Peter, Soldier, Leader, Centurion
Reader 6: Chief Priest, Criminal #2
Reader 7: Servant Girl, Scribe, Herod, Leader, Criminal #1
Reader 8: Pilate
(Reader 1 walks onto the stage and begins singing, rhythmically free.)
Reader 1: Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
(Reader 2 walks onto the stage.)
Reader 2: Who has believed what we have heard, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
Reader 1: Were you there…
Reader 2: He was despised and rejected by others;
Reader 1:...when they crucified my Lord. Oh-oh-oh-oh…
Reader 2: a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised,
Reader 1: sometimes…
Reader 2: and we held him of no account.
Reader 1: ...it causes me to tremble…
Reader 2: Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases;
Reader 1: ...tremble…
Reader 2:yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.
Reader 1: ...tremble.
Reader 2: But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities;
Reader 1: Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Reader 2: upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.
Reader 1: (spoken)
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
(Reader 1 gestures for audience to join in singing the second verse.)
All Actors and Audience:
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? Oh-oh-oh-oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
(All continue to hum underneath Reader 2, coming onto stage and forming a single-file line, facing upstage.)
Reader 2: All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. (Hum fades out as Reader 2 joins line.)
Jesus: Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.
Angel: (turning around) Then
Other Angels: (turning and kneeling down) an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength.
Jesus: In his anguish he prayed more earnestly,
Angel: and his sweat became like great drops of
Other Angels: (gasp) blood (Other Angels fall on ground and become sleeping disciples.)
Angel: falling down on the ground.
Jesus: (standing) When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.
All: (overlapping and repeating to create sound of crowd; standing to form a crowd) While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came,
Reader 2: and the one called Judas, (Others echo “Judas” as Judas steps forward.)
Reader 6: one of the twelve,
Reader 8: was leading them.
Judas: (taking Jesus’ hand) He approached Jesus
Other Disciples: (overlapping) to kiss him; (Judas kisses Jesus on both cheeks.)
Judas: but Jesus said to him,
Jesus: Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man? (Judas moves away and joins Other Disciples.)
Other Disciples: (overlapping; turning focus to stage left) When those who were around him saw what was coming,
Reader 2: they asked, Lord, should we strike with the sword?
Reader 5: (moving forward and miming swinging a sword) Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.
Reader 6:But Jesus said,
Jesus: No more of this! (Everyone backs away from Jesus. Reader 8 grabs Reader 5’s arm, pulling her back)
Jesus: (continued, kneeling down) and he touched his ear
Reader 7: and healed him.
Reader 4: Then Jesus said to the chief priests,
Reader 2: the officers of the temple police,
Reader 6: and the elders who had come for him,
Jesus: (standing and facing the audience) Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!
Reader 8: (taking one of Jesus’ arms) Then they seized him
Reader 1: (taking Jesus’ other arm and leading him upstage) and led him away,
Reader 2: bringing him into the high priest’s house.
Peter: But Peter was following at a distance.
Reader 1: When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. (Reader 2, Reader 6, Reader 4, and Peter make tableau of sitting by a fire. Servant Girl is standing and pointing at Peter.)
Reader 8: Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said,
Servant Girl: This man also was with him. (Reader 2, Reader 6, Reader 4 rise to their feet and look at Peter suspiciously.)
Reader 1: But he denied it, saying
Peter: (standing and moving away) Woman, I do not know him. (Reader 2, Reader 6, Reader 7 form a new tableau around fire. Reader 4 freezes standing, looking at Peter.)
Reader 8: A little later someone else, on seeing him, said,
Reader 4: (standing and pointing) You! Also are one of them.
Reader 1: But Peter said,
Peter: Man, I am not!
Reader 2, Reader 6, Reader 4, Reader 7: (overlapping; breaking fire tableau, standing and staring at Peter in offstage focus) Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.
Reader 1: Then about an hour later yet another kept insisting,
Reader 6: Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean. (Reader 2, Reader 6, Reader 4, and Reader 7 all freeze, facing audience.)
Reader 8: But Peter said,
Peter: Man, I do not know what you are talking about!
Reader 8: (standing to join tableau with Reader 1) At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crew.
Jesus: (turning to stand next to Peter) The Lord turned and looked at Peter.
Reader 1: Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord,
Reader 8: how he had said to him,
Jesus, Peter: Before the cock crows today,
Jesus: you will deny me three times. (Peter turns upstage and runs away, knocking Jesus’ shoulder as he passes him.)
Reader 8: and he went out and wept bitterly. (All break tableau and start laughing mockingly at Jesus, coming around him.)
Reader 7: Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him;
Reader 6: (miming tying a cloth around Jesus’ eyes) they also blindfolded him (All face front, seeing Jesus in offstage focus.)
Reader 2: and kept asking him, Prophesy! (At the same time, Reader 2 slaps the air as if slapping Jesus, Reader 6 claps, and Jesus turns his head as though struck.)
Reader 2 (continued): Who is it that struck you?
Reader 8, Reader 5: They kept heaping many other insults on him. (Reader 5 and Reader 8 move Jesus to council tableau. Reader 4, as narrator, stands apart from others.)
Reader 4: When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes,
Chief Priests and Scribes: gathered together, (Chief Priests stand behind Scribes who sit miming writing.)
Reader 4: and they brought him to their council. They said,
Reader 6: If you are the Messiah, tell us.
Reader 4: He replied,
Jesus: If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.
Reader 4: All of them asked,
Chief Priests and Scribes: (overlapping) Are you, then, the Son of God?
Reader 4: He said to them,
Jesus: You say that I am.
Reader 4: Then they said,
Reader 2: What further testimony do we need?
Reader 1: We have heard it ourselves from his own lips. (Characters other than Pilate and Jesus form an angry crowd.)
Reader 4: Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus
Pilate: before Pilate.
Reader 7: They began to accuse him, saying, We found this man perverting our nation,
Reader 5: forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor,
Reader 4: and saying that he himself is the Messiah,
All: a king.
Pilate: Then Pilate asked him, Are you the king of the Jews?
All: He answered,
Jesus: You say so.
Pilate: Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, I find no basis for an accusation against this man.
Reader 1: But they were insistent and said, He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea,
Reader 2: from Galilee where he began even to this place.
Pilate: When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. and when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off (Pilate crosses upstage. Others form tableau of Herod and Soldiers standing, Jesus kneeling before him, and Chief Priests and Scribes kneeling behind Jesus.)
Herod: to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. (Herod gestures for Soldiers to untie Jesus.)
He questioned him at some length, Henchmen, but Jesus gave him no answer.
Chief Priests and Scribes: (standing and crossing stage left) The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. (Herod freezes in a low bow; tableau of Herod’s henchmen putting an “elegant robe” on Jesus.)
Reader 8: (turning around) Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him,
(Henchmen take Jesus upstage and freeze.)
Reader 6: and sent him back to Pilate. (Tableau of Pilate and Herod shaking hands.) That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.
Reader 2: Pilate then called together (Reader 6 and Reader 2 move into positions behind Pilate as his guards.)
Leaders: (moving into a group, speaking in unison) the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, (Overlapping.) Pilate called together
Leaders: (Reader 7 shushes the others) and said to them,
Pilate: You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. (Pilate crosses to Jesus.) Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him. (Pilate begins to cross back to Reader 6 and Reader 2)
Chief Priests and Leaders: Then they all shouted out together, (overlapping and repeating to create crowd effect) Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us! (Pilate raises hand to silence crowd. All except Reader 6 and Reader 2 freeze.)
Reader 6: Barabbas was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city,
Reader 2: and for murder.
Pilate: (turns to address audience as crowd) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting,
Leaders: (overlapping and repeating, increasing in volume) Crucify, crucify him!
Pilate: (shouting above Leaders) A third time he said to them, Why! what evil has he done? (All fall silent.) I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.
Leaders: (building in volume) But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified;
Pilate: and their voices prevailed. (Long pause.) So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for,
Reader 6: the one who had been put in prison for insurrection
Reader 2: and murder,
Pilate: and he handed Jesus over as they wished. (Pilate mimes washing hands and flinging off the water. Tableau of SIMON carrying cross with two others following at a distance, and Jesus is on the ground turning to speak to weeping women.)
Reader 1: As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. (Reader 1 freezes in tableau, joining of weeping women.)
Reader 7: For the days are surely coming when they will say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed. Then they will begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry? (Low tone of unison hum begins. Jesus stands center and forms cross with his arms. Criminals move to stand under Jesus’ arms, supporting them. They do not yet spread their own arms.)
Reader 4: Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.
Reader 1: Then Jesus said,
Jesus: Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.
Reader 5: (coming forward with Reader 4 to cast lots) and they cast lots to divide his clothing.
Reader 2: (coming forward with Reader 1 and Reader 8) and the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying,
Reader 8: He saved others;
Reader 1: let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God,
Reader 2: his chosen one!
Reader 4:(coming forward to offer wine) The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!
Reader 8: There was also an inscription over him, (All hold their hands above and behind Jesus’ head, with fingers spread.)
All: This is the King of the Jews.
Reader 5: One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying,
Criminal #1: (stepping away from Jesus) Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us! (She puts arms out as though on a cross.)
Reader 1: But the other rebuked him, saying,
Criminal #2: (stepping away from Jesus) Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? and we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.
Reader 1: Then he said,
Reader 6: (putting arms out as though on a cross) Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
Reader 2: He replied,
Jesus: Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise. (Low tone turns to dissonance, increasing in volume. All begin to crouch on the ground)
Reader 8: It was now about noon,
Reader 4: and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon,
Reader 1: while the sun’s light failed;
Reader 7: and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. (Reader 6 and Reader 7, who were the Criminals, split either direction and crouch.)
Reader 2: Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said,
Jesus: Father, into your hands I commend my spirit! (Dissonant tone increases in pitch and volume, then All take one final audible inhale and exhale, representing Jesus’ final breath.)
Reader 6: Having said this, he breathed his last.
Reader 5: When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, Certainly this man was innocent.
Reader 8: (standing) and when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. (Reader 6 and Reader 5 join Reader 8 in the back, facing upstage.)
Reader 7: (standing) But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Reader 1: Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. (Reader 1, as Joseph, kneels next to Jesus and puts her hand on his side.)
Reader 4: He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea,
Reader 2: and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God.
Reader 7: This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. (All take Jesus off cross and surround him on the ground.)
Reader 8: Then he took it down,
Reader 6: wrapped it in a linen cloth,
Reader 7: and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb
Reader 4: where no one had ever been laid.
Reader 2: It was the day of Preparation,
Reader 5: and the sabbath was beginning.
All: The women who had come with him from Galilee (a beat) followed,
Reader 1: and they saw the tomb
Reader 6:and how his body was laid.
Reader 8: Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.
All: On the sabbath they rested
Reader 7: according to the commandment.
Reader 6: But… (All begin humming “Were You There” and move into single file line facing upstage.as at the beginning.)
on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, (Tableau with Reader 7, Reader 2, Reader 8 as women on ground, and Reader 4 and Reader 1 as angels.)
suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.
The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them,
Angel: (breaking the tableau) Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.
Angel 2: Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
Reader 6: Then they remembered his words, (Reader 7, Reader 2, Reader 8 move to tableau of going to the disciples. The Angels become the disciples) and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter (Tableau of Peter and Others looking into tomb facing audience. Jesus comes up behind them all to look into tomb as well.) got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. (Peter runs out of tableau upstage.)
Reader 8: (stepping out of tableau and moving to sit upstage) Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,
Reader 4: (following Reader 8) and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.
Reader 1: (following Reader 4) While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,
Reader 7: (following Reader 1) but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
Jesus: and he said to them, (Reader 6 and Cleopas break freeze.) What are you discussing with each other while you walk along? They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him,
Cleopas: Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?
Jesus: He asked them, What things? They replied,
Cleopas: The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.
Reader 6: But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
Cleopas: Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.
Reader 6: (crossing stage left) Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.
Cleopas: Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.
Jesus: Then he said to them, Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory? Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. (Jesus puts arms around them and the three walk stage right, then loop around and enter the stage again and begin greeting people.)
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.
Reader 6: But they urged him strongly, saying,
Cleopas: Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.
Jesus: (Others form tableau holding food or children) So he went in to stay with them. When he was at supper with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. (Cleopas and Reader 6 gasp; Others look over; All freeze)
Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. (All remain frozen as Jesus moves upstage. When he is gone, they suddenly break the freeze, shocked.)
All: (overlapping, some repeating with natural sound) and he vanished from their sight!
Reader 6: They said to each other, Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?
Reader 2: That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; (Reader 6 and Reader 2 walk stage left, turn and re-enter stage. All others form group of Disciples.) and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.
Reader 5: They were saying, The Lord has risen indeed,
Reader 1: and he has appeared to Simon!
Reader 6: Then they told what had happened on the road,
Reader 2: and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
All: (overlapping) While they were talking about this,
Reader 7: Jesus himself
Reader 2: stood among them (Reader 5, Reader 6, Reader 2, Reader 1 hug Jesus. Reader 7, Reader 4, Reader 8 are frightened.)
Jesus: and said to them, Peace be with you. They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; (He sits.) for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. (All move closer around him on the floor and touch his hands and feet.)
Reader 4: and when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
Reader 2: While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering,
Jesus: he said to them, Have you anything here to eat?
Reader 4: (miming giving him a plate of fish) and they gave him a piece of broiled fish,
Reader 7: and
Reader 4: he took it
Reader 5: and ate in their presence. (All begin to laugh in amazement. Then sit in circle.)
Jesus: (laying his hands on some of them and blessing them) Then he said to them, These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled. Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. and see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. (All stand and follow Jesus as he moves front.) Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. (Jesus exits.)
All: (slowly gazing up towards sky) While he was blessing them,
Reader 7: he withdrew from them
Reader 5: and was carried up into heaven. (Reader 1 begins singing “Where You There” inviting audience to join.)
Reader 1: Were you there when he rose into the sky? Were you there when he rose into the sky? Oh-oh-oh-oh, sometimes I feel like shouting glory, glory, glory.Were you there when he rose into the sky?
All: and they worshiped him,
Reader 8: and returned to Jerusalem with great joy;
All: (walking towards audience and continuing off) and they were continually in the temple blessing God!