INTERVIEW: Judas Redux Team Talks Community Building, Fan Pride and Connecting Social Media To Theater


Corey Lubowich and Julia Albain talk Judas

The nail-biting is over, and StarKid members Julia Albain and Corey Lubowich, along with the rest of their creative team, can breathe a sigh of relief that their Kickstarter project to fund “Judas Redux,” an interactive experience of putting on “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” has exceeded it’s 36,000 dollar funding goal. Now the real work begins, and we caught up with Albain and Lubowich to talk about the project, the fan reaction and what they’re hoping to achieve. The most pressing question, of course, is why go back to a show they already successfully produced in college?

“I think that part of the reason we are re-doing it is because we can’t even fully understand why this play has us captivated by it,” Albain explained. “I read it a couple years before I decided to put it on, I’d find something new every time I read it.  At the time we jokingly said we’d do it again.  As the years went on, it really did speak to me as an experience then that was so special, but I’d always find so much more we could have done with it.”

Aside from the nostalgia factor, Albain says the message of the play also connects with her and the play’s other producers at this transitional point in their lives.

“There’s this strong message in the play, or a strong message I latched on to this time around– participating in this life and participating in your own quote-unquote salvation,” she said. “Outside of the context of religion, I think of it as the saving of your own life.  The act of participating in moving you through to the next phase. I think that’s a powerful message to a lot of us right now.  To be in a phase in life that you don’t know what’s coming next, but instead of sitting back, being a person that’s actively participant in your life. You have to actively participate in your life.”

The project reached its fundraising goal within 82 hours, and both Albain and Lubowich stressed that they weren’t looking to raise tons of capital off the project, but instead to engage as many fans as possible.

“I am fascinated by this idea of how many backers we can get, more than how many dollars or how big the pledges are,” Albain explained. “I think it would be fascinating to have 5 thousand backers.  It ups the stakes on what a dollar means, what difference a dollar makes. I think that’s what Kickstarer is about, more people focus on the money but I think it’s more the sense of creating a community.”

Lubowich elaborated, “Raising 200 thousand dollars isn’t going to make the project 7 times as good. It’s about the energy and the passion.”

To amplify that passion and connection, the Judas crew took some new steps in producing the show.  First, they brought in three StarKids better known as actors into the process as producers as well — Lauren Lopez, Brian Rosenthal and Joey Richter.

“Their enthusiasm for the project was just incredible, in terms of wanting to do anything and everything to make it happen,” explained Lubowich.  “We wanted to give them the opportunity to use that energy.  It’s also a matter of empowering to a certain degree. As an actor a lot of times your fate and destiny is out of your hands, you just audition and do your best. So many things are out of your control, this was an chance to give them something that was in their control.”

They’re also opening the process up to their backers, trying to use their considerable expertise with social media connectivity with their fans to make Judas more than just a Chicago-based run of shows, but some that illuminates the process and allows their greater network of fans to be involved without feeling left out.  Lubowich said they took inspiration from a variety of sources — from theater companies to vloggers.

“It’s a lot of influences, a lot of what other people are doing, but not necessarily all at once,” he elaborated. “There are a lot of theater companies, regional theater, all have programs on social media and YouTube trying to connect with audiences, but I don’t think they have the sort of built-in following or even some of the technical know how of an online world. Also seeing some of our friends who are vloggers who get to have great meetups and things like that, that we haven’t seen attached to a theatrical production before.  We’re going thru the process anyways, it’s not like we have to do a ton of additional work.  The show needs a process to happen, there isn’t a downside to sharing that process with fans.”

As a project, “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” isn’t a foreign concept to all StarKid fans. Lubowich said he knew there was some fan interest already. “Production photos from that production circulate a lot,” he said. “And it involved so many of what would be the StarKid people right before any of the StarKid stuff happened.  We figured there would be some, but I don’t think any of us were expecting the overwhelming response.”

Albain noted that the biggest surprise to her was how many fans reacted to the project by revealing their own theater kid status, or engaging with existing theater in a way they may never have before.

“Not that I’ve missed [the theater kid aspect] before with other stuff that we’ve done, but I’ve never felt it in such an intensity.  It’s like we’re doing something that other people loved on their own accord. I love the fact taht some kids are buying a script they might never read otherwise.  They want to know what roles people might be playing.
I think that will, in a way, amp up the excitement.”

For Albain though, the most touching fan experience is fan reaction of pride, and how that emotion has felt different for her with this project.

“It’s such an interesting thing to have an audience say to you, ’I’m so proud of you.’ It felt like all these hands on my back,” she explained. “That was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had with this fandom to date, honestly. It’s such a new level of intimacy. To have someone say, ’I’m proud of you,’ is such an intimate exchange, it’s the closest I’ve ever felt to the fans.”