View Full Version : Meaning(s) of "Passion Play"?
Does the phrase "passion play" have (a) a religious meaning? (b) A secular meaning? (c) Both? Perhaps this may be obvious to some, but I've only heard the expression once in a blue moon. ...not enough to draw any conclusions.
07-31-2006, 07:49 PM
Are you asking what it is? The one I went to in Arkansas is a theater performance of the events of Jesus's life and the crucifixion. That is the only way I have ever heard it used.
Shagnasty, thanks. To know this phrase assumes one has a religious background. Jethro Tull sings of "being written into the passion play", and some other song made it sound like a euphomism for the passion between a man and woman. (The latter sounds like blasphemy.) - Jinx
07-31-2006, 08:01 PM
A little more on this. Religious meaning: A play of Christ's Passion (last week or so of his life, especially the nasty parts-- passion='suffering', more or less (ie. com-passion: to suffer with)). They developed roughly in the 14th century and got very popular around 1450-1500. Maybe the most famous one is the one in Oberammergau, which still happens. Often performed on Good Friday-- one of a number of really well-developed para-liturgical dramatic practices. We still have a good number of scripts, which could be very violent, jew-baiting, and emotionally-charged. Sometimes involved a procession of the actors through town to the pefromance site beforehand or afterwards, with Jesus dragging a cross and nasty Romans and Jews and apostles and everything. We have a couple of fairly late stage schemata (I think of the ones in Frankfurt and Valenciennes.. . and Donaueschingen?)-- there would be a few distinct sites around a plaza-- "the mansion of Pilate", "Gethsemane", "Golgotha", "Hell"-- and the actors would from from place to place (plaza-- plataea; the individual stages-- loci) as the drama moved scenery/ setting. The division between actors and players was pretty permeable, compared to today's stage.
For a modern equivalent, see Mel Gibson's Passion. . . it's really pretty close in spirit.
Secular meaning? I don't know.
07-31-2006, 09:33 PM
I've only ever heard it used in its religious sense, often in reference to the famous Oberammergau production. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oberammergau_Passion_Play)
07-31-2006, 09:48 PM
That's the same Passion in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0335345/).
07-31-2006, 10:18 PM
To know this phrase assumes one has a religious background. Jethro Tull sings of "being written into the passion play", and some other song made it sound like a euphomism for the passion between a man and woman.Ian Anderson's use of this phrase for an album and song is more related to his religious views (viz My God and Hymn 43) than anything to do with sex as such, although there are certainly references in it that can be read either way (deliberately no doubt).
From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passion_play):A Passion play is a dramatic presentation depicting the Passion of Christ: the trial, suffering and death of Jesus Christ. It is a traditional part of Lent in several Christian denominations, particularly in Catholic tradition.
08-01-2006, 07:41 AM
Sometimes, the confusion between the terms is a nice marketing hook. Ingmar Bergman's film En Passion -- translated directly as A Passion -- was supposed to be referring to the Passion of Christ. However, when it came to the US, the title became The Passion of Anna, which implied the passion was hardly holy in nature.
08-01-2006, 08:31 AM
As a form, the first plays were passion plays depicting the life of Christ. The Mass, in fact, is partially a passion play, recouting the Last Supper.
The phrase has certainly been used more generically, as in Indigo Girls' "History of Us":
So we must love while these moments are still called today
Take part in the pain of this passion play
Stretching our youth as we must, until we are ashes to dust
Until time makes history of us
Of course they talk about the Jeu de Paume and Switzerland, so maybe they are on their way to Oberammergau!
A few years ago I was escorting two visiting VIPs through a museum exhibition of video art: a moderately well-known art historian, and a curator from a far away country. Basically, making chit-chat about all the art we were looking at.
Here's one video installation, let's talk about it a little: I said something to the effect of, yes, this piece reminds me of a passion play, the way the artist stages it and goes about it.
"What is that?" says the art historian. "Passion play; I hear that term sometimes, but don't know what it means."
"Well, you know." says I. "That's where they re-enact the crucifixion."
Awkward silence. "Of ... of Jesus?"
"Well ... yes." (as in, yes; surely you heard of that, lady, remember? it was in all the papers.)
More uncomfortable silence. Art historian shoots a look at the curator, 100% uncomfortable, horrified even, as if I had just told them I was a pedophile, or had farted into my hand and sniffed it lustily.
He's a real smoothie though; he says, real friendly like, "I've heard there was a lot of religion in America!"
08-01-2006, 12:33 PM
In Lake Wales, Florida, there was a permanent Passion Play, set in an ampitheater in the middle of an orange grove. Lovely setting, but a serious of hurricanes and general neglect had reduced it to this sad state (http://i14.photobucket.com/albums/a309/daithilacha/Ampi.jpg) by last June. I would have enjoyed exploring the area a little more, but I could easily see that turning into a production of The Passion of the Daithi for Anti-venom.
08-01-2006, 12:40 PM
As a form, the first plays were passion plays depicting the life of Christ.Except, of course, for all the plays before the time of Jesus.
08-01-2006, 01:25 PM
Except, of course, for all the plays before the time of Jesus.
Passion plays were among the first theatrical pieces to be openly performed in the Western world once the Church had eased its ban on theater. If one accepts Ellen Cherry's statement that the Mass is, in part, a passion play, then one can argue that the passion play is perhaps the only piece of theater performed openly in all of Christendom for a thousand years.
08-01-2006, 03:40 PM
:o Er, um, yes, I meant Western literature.
The girls today in society
Go for classical poetry.
So to win their hearts one must quote with ease
Aeschylus and Euripides.
08-01-2006, 06:17 PM
Well, to be anal-retentive, medieval-drama historians don't consider the mass "drama" per se-- a little different kind of a ritual with mimetic features-- a lot in common with drama but not exactly it.
The earliest Christian-era drama wasn't passion plays, but so-called 'mystery' plays-- technically separate from the eucharist and mass, sort of . . . church plays. They show up right around 800-1000 and I think the earliest ones are Resurrection plays-- a sort of Easter-morning dramatic reading of the Marys showing up at the empty tomb and talking to the angel with a small handful of people playing the different roles, like a radio play, with props and costumes added a little later. The Good Friday dramas show up quite a bit later. The Passion play format is pretty specific, though, and refers to the Passion proper.
Another well-known mystery play format/topic was the Corpus Christi play tradition in England, especially, which were epic, multi-day, like 50-hour long affairs with sometimes hundreds of roles.
(oh, and not all the art historians are ignorant about passion plays, RTA. . . you got a bad egg)
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