Meet the Playwright: We Talk to Mark Allan Greene about Jesus Master Builder: A Divine Comedy

Bio Pic 1What is Jesus Master Builder about? The Bible tells us that Jesus was a carpenter. That’s it. End of storyline. How unsatisfying! There are so many unanswered questions. What did he build? Was he good at it? When did he ever find the time? Jesus Master Builder takes over that story where the Bible left off, and answers the above questions: He built Homes; He was a lousy carpenter; and He had much better (and Holier) things to do. That’s all fine and good for the souls of mankind, but what about the poor Customers of Christ? The play follows the quest of Jebediah, as he leads the first ever Condo Association through biblical events to find Jesus Christ and bring Him back into their lives… to fix the deficiencies in the homes that Jesus built.

What was your inspiration for this play? I wrote this play originally to find personal liberation. I had a strict religious upbringing where it was unacceptable to see the humour in any aspect of the Bible (and there are a lot of really funny things in there). That just doesn’t seem right to me now. The Bible claims that God created man* in His* own image. For me, that must go beyond mere appearance to include one of the most heavenly gifts: a sense of humour. Would it not be a sin to squander that gift? It would have been easy for me to write a play that makes fun of religion, but I wanted to conduct an experiment. Is it possible to laugh within a religion without laughing at it? So here’s what I did:

  • I took a religiously inconsequential element of the Jesus story: his carpentry work;
  • I depicted Jesus as a really bad carpenter (but a great Son of God);
  • I gave Him a real human conflict (getting pulled in many directions and not being able to please everyone); and
  • I created the story of the disgruntled Customers of Christ: who respect him as the Son of God, but really want Him to fix their cracked steps and finish grouting their tiles.

Whether or not Jesus was a good carpenter is completely irrelevant to His Holy mission, so how could it possibly be wrong to laugh at that aspect? Stay tuned for the results of this theatrical experiment.

* Forgive the biblical male chauvinism. I didn’t write it.

What is your background in theatre? At Walterdale? With Playwriting? With writing? I was heavily involved in theatre as a teenager in school plays and as part of Theatre New Brunswick’s CentreStage Company. Those experiences made my passion for the theatre burst alive… then it simmered for about twenty years. After my non-theatrical career was established, I once again felt the draw of the stage. Realizing I would never be a great actor, I thought maybe I could provide material to great actors. Over several years, I wrote three plays (along with two novels). Jesus Master Builder is the second play that I wrote and the first to be produced.

How has the experience of seeing your play come to life been for you?
Biggest challenges? It took eight long years to get this play “From Cradle to Stage”. I ran into the classic roadblock: it is almost impossible to get people to look at your work without a track record, and you can’t get a track record until someone looks at your work. All I can say is, “Thank the Sweet Lord for Walterdale!”
Greatest joys?  There are eleven cast members, five artistic/production team members, five designers, and a full crew; all of whom are enthusiastically working on what was once just a passing thought in my head. The experience has been surreal! I’ve been welcomed with open arms into the Walterdale family, which includes some of the most talented people in the Edmonton theatre community.

What do you hope Audiences will take away from seeing your play? That is it good, right, and healthy to laugh with the Divine. I’ve seen the good and the bad of religion. In my opinion, religion goes wrong when people take it too seriously and can no longer crack a smile at a good pun, a “what if” situation, or a cartoon joke. Humour combats extremism. It desensitizes and helps people put things into perspective. We can laugh within religion. We can find humour in the Divine. We can poke fun at a story about Jesus being a lousy carpenter, and still revere Him as the Son of God.

What would Jesus do (WWJD) if he saw this play? I believe He would say, “That’s funny. Good one, Mark! You got me there!” I hope the Audiences will follow in the way of Jesus Christ on this one.

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