10 Questions with Penn State Thespians’ Jesus

Want Jesus to answer your most difficult questions? So do we, but you’ve got the wrong article. Want answers about the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar from the man himself? That we can do. Ladies and gentleman, meet Jesus. Part time Jesus that is, because after Saturday he reverts back to Rob McNeil, freshman Penn State student and member of the Penn State Thespians. Find out the perks of being a Jesus in this interview with the almighty:

Onward State: How did you become involved with the Penn State Thespians?
Rob McNeil: Actually it was through my a cappella group. I’m in the Pennharmonics and in that group there are several people that are in Thespians and they encouraged me to go audition with them. I had no real hopes for it, just kind of a “let’s audition,” because I missed theater and I wanted to get back into it. I got the call back and it ended up working out.

OS: Can you tell us a little bit about Jesus Christ Superstar?
RM: Well, it takes the story of the last week of Jesus’ life, but it’s not from a biblical standpoint. So there’s a lot of people who know the story of Jesus, but this one is told through the eyes of Judas Iscariot, who was one of the apostles and also a very close friend of Jesus. What you see a lot of in the show is more of the human side of Jesus, because there is a lot of gray area where people think Jesus is purely God, and the bible lets you know that Jesus is both God and man at the same time. The show kind of shows you Jesus as a man, as the human character, through the eyes of Judas.

OS: What’s it like to play Jesus?
RM: It’s really cool. I went to Catholic school for 4 years so I’ve got all this education on the bible, but by breaking it down and showing the human side of it I get to delve deeper into the story. The character of Jesus is a really dynamic character, he goes through these huge emotional roller coasters and you see that in the show. In the beginning, he’s got one dynamic, and as he gets closer to the crucifixion, his mentality changes and his character flourishes. It’s a really cool experience to be playing a character that is so well known, but also being able to show people a different side than what they think they know.

OS: Are you feeling more divine as a person now that you’re Jesus?
RM: No, people always make jokes and they’ll say out loud “ah Jesus!” and then they’ll look at me and laugh. I won’t let it go to my head.

OS: Have you tried walking on water yet?
RM: Well, there are puddles everywhere, and of course every time I get the chance to I just like to pretend.

OS: What’s your costume like? Are you sporting the traditional Jesus look?
RM: No, Jesus Christ Superstar was written in the 70’s and we’re going with that theme. It’s like a rock concert in the desert. We’re still working out the pants: I’m either going to wear jeans or white canvas pants. For my shirt, it’s going to be a very loosely fitting robe. So for the most part I’m essentially shirtless for the whole show. And of course they made me grow out the beard.

OS: You’re only a freshman and you’re already Jesus, what’s next?
RM: Whatever show, I’m up for anything whether it’s a lead or not. I just really enjoy being a part of the process. This show is very big on the ensemble, and it can’t be just a show about leads. If I were in the ensemble, I’d be having just as much fun.

OS: How long have you been preparing for the show?
RM: I think the rehearsals were in full swing after spring break, but we started two weeks before THON.

OS: What can people expect from the show?
RM: Great musical numbers. Great dance numbers. The costumes are awesome. The acting talent of these people is incredible. It’s just a really entertaining show. It’s interactive, the cast will be walking up and down the aisles, so the audience will be welcomed into the cast almost. It’s entertaining but it’s also very powerful, because it is the last week of Jesus’ life. You do have to have all of those biblical elements in it, including the crucifixion. So hopefully the audience ¬†will be going on an emotional roller coaster, same with the cast. Starting happy and entertained, and then get sucked right into the story.

OS: Do you have an uncontrollable urge to walk around the street healing people?
RM: Healing people? Not quite. But jokes are always fun. People always say, “yay Jesus!” and “Jesus, show us your talents!” and I’ll try to show them walking on water or I’ll turn their juice into… more juice.

According to Jesus, the nickname that Rob McNeil will now forever hold, the show will be this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in Schwab Auditorium. Start times are 7:30 p.m. every night, and there’s also an additional showing on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets can be bought ahead of time at Eisenhower Auditorium: $5 for Penn State students, and $10 for community members. Tickets can also be bought at the door.

Go watch Jesus heal the blind and turn water into wine this weekend!

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