Mark Your Calendars – We Are Seeing This

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J.B. is a play in verse, written by Archibald MacLeish and published in 1958 in response to the horrors the author saw during two world wars, including the Holocaust and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and is based on the Book of Job from the Old Testament. MacLeish explores how modern people can retain hope and keep on living with all the suffering in the world and offered this play as an answer.

 

The play is set in a modern circus. Two vendors, Mr. Zuss and Nickles, begin the play-within-a-play by assuming the roles of God and Satan, respectively. They watch J.B., a wealthy banker, describe his prosperity as a just reward for his faithfulness to God. J.B. and his family are healthy and wealthy, happy and loving. J.B.’s children have never known suffering or deprivation; as J.B. tells Sarah, the world seems to them ‘‘New and born and fresh and wonderful.’’ J.B. himself trusts his “luck” because it comes from God. He is safe in his knowledge that God is “just. He’ll never change.’’

 

Out of scorn, Nickles challenges Zuss that J.B. will curse God if his life is ruined. The vendors observe as J.B.’s children and property are destroyed in horrible accidents and the former millionaire takes to the streets. J.B. is visited by three Comforters (representing History, Science, and Religion) who offer contradicting explanations for his plight. He declines to believe any of them, but I will not tell you the end of the story just yet.

 

J.B. won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1959 (MacLeish’s third Pulitzer), as well as the Tony Award for best play. More important, the play sparked a national conversation about the nature of God, the nature of hope, and the role of the artist in society.

 

Best of all, there will be a Q & A discussion between the student audience and the actors afterword to debate the ideas presented in the play.

 

 

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1 Comment

  1. Nice… Sounds theologically delictable. First Comment!


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