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The Gospel According to James

The Indiana Repertory Theatre is currently hosting the world premier of The Gospel According the James. The powerful show tells the story of the horrific lynching that happened in Marion, Ind. in the 1930s. Two individuals who were involved in the event, Mary and James, reconnect after 50 years and find that their memories differ in some drastic ways. The line between fiction and truth blurs with time and perspective and that is never clearer than when you’re comparing your memories with another person.

Playwright Charles Smith’s dialogue sparks with life in every line. One of the best aspects of the show is the dual nature of each character. There is no clear hero and villain in the traditional sense. Instead each person feels real, with conflicting desires and selfish decisions which cause them to act the way they do.

The production, artfully directed by Chuck Smith, is perfectly cast. Each of the talented actors, many of whom hail from Chicago and are new to the IRT, bring life and empathy to their roles. Tony-nominee Andre De Shields’ performance as James, the only survivor of the lynching, is especially moving. James become the bearer of all memories and mementos of the event and finds his life shaped by the continual telling of the story.

The haunting set combines a mortuary in the 1980s and a forest in the 1930s. The simplicity and beauty of this design offers a smooth flow between the memories and their tellers. Instead of being distracted by rotating sets or backdrop changes, the show never falters, continually peeling away layers of veneer that cover the truth.

There is some adult language and obviously the themes are serious, but everything is relevant and necessary to the story being told. People often go to the theatre purely to be entertained and distracted from their everyday lives, but this is one show that shouldn’t be missed. I’d implore you to make time to see it, because it is an essential piece of Hoosier history. As the play reminds us, it doesn’t help anyone to ignore the past, instead, we need to learn from our ancestors mistakes and never let anything like this happen again.

For more information about the actual lynching visit here.

Don't Miss the Show

The Indiana Repertory Theatre is located at 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, one-half block west of the Circle Center Mall between northbound Illinois St. and southbound Capitol Ave. "The Gospel According to James" runs until Sunday, April 10 on IRT's Main Stage. Times for performances can be found at or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252. To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at

Photos Courtesy of the Indiana Repertory Theatre