What would Jesus do? Well, according to the New Play Project’s latest production, he would do the dishes, skateboard and go out to a karaoke bar.
WWJD, written by former BYU student Anna Lewis as a part of her master’s thesis, tells the story of a group of friends whose lives are interrupted when Jesus Christ randomly shows up at their apartment and starts hanging out with them. While most of the characters do not consider themselves religious in any way, claiming to be atheist or “unaffiliated,” they quickly bond with Christ, giving him the nickname “The Chief.”
Current UVU Theater major Jason Jensen plays the role of Jesus Christ. Jensen was approached by Davey Morrison Dillard, the producer of WWJD, and was asked if he would be interested in auditioning. The two had met nearly two years ago while working on an independent film together.
Though Jensen has acted in several films and plays before, Morrison Dillard specifically asked him because Jensen looks uncannily like Jesus. With long brown hair and a full beard, Jensen is always being told he looks like Jesus Christ.
“I get it a lot,” he said. “Just the other day, I was dropping my son off for school and was approached by a woman whose husband is a painter. She wanted to know if I’d be interested in modeling as Jesus.”
The real demand for Jensen playing the Son of God is being able to accomplish physical tasks with spot-on consistency. Every performance, Jensen must fold an origami crane, sing, dance and perform complex skateboarding tricks in full view of the audience. These tasks are even more impressive considering Jensen is not a skateboarder.
“As an actor, you’re taught to always say yes when asked, ‘Can you do this?’ and then learn it really quickly,” said Jensen. “So it really is like I ‘act’ like I’m skating.”
Though the play is a comedy, it does offer a unique conceptualization of who Christ was as a person. This idea is emphasized by Jensen’s performance, who considers himself to be an agnostic.
While he was raised in Provo within the LDS faith, Jensen has since left the religion and no longer thinks of himself as religious.
“It’s somewhat ironic,” said Jensen. “I’m not religious, but I look a lot like Jesus and portray him a lot.” Jensen believes his beliefs bring a unique portrayal of Christ.
“I think I give an unbiased performance,” Jensen said. “I’m not overwhelmed by the task of being the Savior of the world. I try to portray him as a nice guy you would want to hang out with and who has unending love for all people, no matter if they are a non-practicing Jew, atheist or a Christian zealot.”
Another unique perspective Jensen brings is being a father of two. When in the play a girl named Max, played by Kristen Buchanan, falls victim to domestic abuse, Jesus comes face to face with her moments after the abuse is revealed.
“Acting techniques aside, I look at her as if she were my own daughter,” said Jensen. “She has made choices that have led to bad things and I’m disappointed in her choices, but not in her. I love her completely and I think having that perspective brings a lot to the performance.”
WWJD will be performed on March 28 and April 8-11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Provo Theatre, located at 105 E. and 100 N. in Provo.
Tickets are $6 for students and $8 for general admission. Groups of five or more are only $5 per ticket.
Tickets may be purchased at www.NewPlayProject.org/Order-Tickets or reserved by emailing NewPlayProject@gmail.com