Playing Jesus: Making Holy Human, Says 'Superstar''s Alex Prakken


How do you play Jesus? Alex Prakken is faced with that question for the title role in Jesus Christ Superstar, which is the final show of Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s Nutmeg Summer Series. The production, directed by Terrence Mann, runs July 12-22 at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre on the UConn campus in Storrs.

“You try to play the man, not the god,” the New York-based actor says. “It’s often a role that is difficult to play [in films] because, from a historic and Biblical standpoint, Jesus is viewed as this very stoic creature. But in Superstar we see Jesus behind the scenes, so to speak, when the crowd isn’t watching.

“This show creates a very complicated picture of Jesus. It really puts him in a very vulnerable place, taking place three days before his death and follows him to the very end. He’s in a very human state. In front of the crowds he is this composed messenger of peace, but behind the scenes we see him slowly crumbling and see his fear of impending doom. It’s so fascinating to see him contemplate his death and see how he’s scared of it, feeling these normal human emotions. I want to portray someone who is strong in his resolution but perhaps slightly unsure if he’s actually doing the right thing or not.”

This is not Prakken’s first go-round as the prophet. He previously played the role in his high school production in St. Louis. “I recently watched a tape of that performance and I was making some … er … interesting choices.”

Is there something about him that makes him perfectly cast as Jesus?

“I think I got the role because I had the ‘scream belt’ [voice] down in high school,” he says, laughing.