Jack Connelly ’20 writes, directs and produces “Jesuspalooza”

Megan Grantham, Campus Editor

This past weekend, senior Jack Connelly brought his imaginative ideas to the stage with the production of his original one act play, “Jesuspalooza.”

Connelly is studying creative writing at John Carroll, with minors in theatre and entrepreneurship. His interest in performing arts began in high school, at St. Ignatius Prep in Chicago, by participating in Improv and performing in smaller productions. His passion continued to grow at JCU, and he is now an employee of a murder mystery company theatre troupe, the American Immersion Theater’s Ohio troupe, who perform for birthday parties, charities and fundraisers.

One criteria of the theatre minor is that students must direct a one-act play. He fulfilled this requirement this past fall in directing the play “Conflict,” a comedy he had seen in high school and felt could be successful at JCU. 

“I did that and had a blast with it. I loved doing it. The whole process was just terrific,” Connelly said.

As he finishes up his time at John Carroll, Connelly wanted to do something else simply for fun. 

“Even though I enjoyed doing the one act before, it was still an assignment, and I just wanted to do something fun for the theatre community that would get people involved,” Connelly said.

Near the end of summer, while searching for a one-act play to do for fun, he could not find one that satisfied everything he was looking for. “I was trying to find a one act I wanted to do and I just couldn’t find one that appealed to me, but then I just decided, ‘What if I wrote my own?’ 

“I thought of a comedy about Jesus. That was just the first thing that came to my head,” Connelly said.

Connelly has loved comedy for his whole life and knew writing in the genre would be his best bet at creating a successful show at JCU.

“Writing comedy is fun. I like entertaining people. I feel like making people happy makes me happy.”

Connelly had specifically done religious comedy in the past, which inspired him to pursue the topic in the play, but also had a foundation in theological knowledge from his education at a Catholic high school. 

“The idea for a comedy about Jesus was something that I knew I could work with, because a lot of people know the general structure of the Bible, and specifically the story of Jesus. 

“And also, I didn’t think it would be a huge, grueling task to write, because it’s something that people are familiar with, but also something that I could have fun with and try different things,” Connelly said.

He developed the idea for his play from late summer until around Thanksgiving, ultimately writing the majority of the show in just one day. He shared that he wanted his show to have a smaller cast, but be adaptable and allow him to cast as many people as possible. The final production had 14 cast members, not including Connelly, who made a brief cameo in the play.

Connelly often looked to theatre professor Karen Gygli for advice in producing the play, especially in regards to formatting the script, holding auditions, sticking to a budget and ultimately producing a show.

“Jesuspalooza” had a pretty quick turnaround time. From casting to performance, the process happened from beginning to end in just over a month. 

“It was very quick, and it was a little tough, with scheduling and all that business, but thankfully a lot of the cast didn’t have too much to memorize and the blocking was pretty simple. But it was definitely a grueling process,” Connelly said.

While initially nervous to hold auditions, Connelly was impressed at the talent of JCU students. 

“Here at the college level, we’ve got a lot of strong performers. There’s a few people in the class who didn’t have a ton of acting experience, but you couldn’t really tell because a lot of them just had that natural knack for it.”

In terms of costuming, Connelly himself was not super concerned with the visual aspect of the show, and looked to his stage manager, junior Sophia Maltese, for help. “Comedy, to me personally, is very spoken, but Sophia really pays more attention to those aesthetic things,”  Connelly shared. He did, however, have a few key elements in mind, like Jesus wearing a white robe, Mary in a blue veil and Barrabas having ragged and bloodstained clothes.

One unique choice Connelly and Maltese made, propwise, was to have a person act as the cross on which Jesus is crucified — a living prop played by Connelly himself. 

“Sophia suggested we get someone in a brown morph suit up there, and we thought that’d be hysterical, but unfortunately we couldn’t find a brown morph suit anywhere, so I just ended up having a baggy brown shirt and pants on,” Connelly said.

The most difficult part of the entire process, Connelly shared, was crowd control at rehearsals. 

“We are all theatre people, and we all love each other, and we have so much fun. And sometimes we talk to each other too much.” Once the show came closer though, the actors became much easier to manage.

Connelly said he is incredibly pleased with how everything went with the performances this past weekend. 

“The show relies very much on crowd energy, and for comedy, that’s such a vital element. If they weren’t reacting, it was going to be a different show. But, I felt like people were laughing more than I would have had I seen this for the first time, which made me really happy.” 

Connelly said he wholeheartedly recommends doing something like this to others, if they share a passion for theatre.

“I think John Carroll’s theatre program is by no means the largest, and I don’t think right now John Carroll’s a place you come to for theatre, but that is not to say they don’t have a strong theatre presence.

“Seeing this theater community grow within my four years has been amazing, and we can’t have moments like this unless people are stepping up to it.”