“After I graduated from the University of the Arts in 2007, I had this concept bouncing around my head about meeting Jesus somewhere mundane like a convenience store,” says Alejandro Morales.
It would inspire a film project he’s dubbed Jesus & Johnny. While the script is still being finished, he’s hosting a comedy fundraiser this week along with Jess Carpenter, T.J. Hurley, Ben Fidler, Julia Scotti and Sidney Gantt – along with improv groups Sad Trombone and Bed Savage. Comedian Deconstruction presents: A Real Piece of Work (Nov. 15) kicks off at L’etage at 8 p.m. to raise money for the project, which taps into Morales’ standup.
“A combination of a personal HIV scare and a tragic shooting of a trans sex worker in the Gayborhood sort of crystallized the characters and the kind of story I wanted to tell,” he says. “I spent the next three years working on the screenplay.”
If it sounds serious, it is. Sort of. Jesus & Johnny is essentially Morales’ version of the second coming. “I believe that a component of faith is the story of faith, and in the last decade I was really dissatisfied with the story the way it was being told by the fundamentalist conservative Christian right. So I set out to create my own Jesus mythology, one that would speak to the experience of being a person on the fringes of society, a story that would speak to me and people like me.”
Not only does he pull from his own background as an openly gay man, but Morales says that the script challenges many notions about religion and humanity – especially when it comes down to the big issues like class, poverty, gender and identity.
“The Jesus character in this story is named Jay (short for Jorge), and at the outset he has no idea that there’s anything special about him at all,” says Morales. “I’m iffy on using words like ‘choice’ to describe how he came to be the person he is in the story, because – and this is where I start to sound like a Tori Amos interview from the 90s – he came to me that way, just like the other characters. Once the spark for the film story went off, the characters appeared to me almost like ghosts, just faint outlines, and as I wrote the screenplay I got to know them better. It’s almost like they told me the story; I just had to know how to listen for it. So for me it wasn’t necessarily that I decided to make him homeless or Puerto Rican, it’s just that’s how he introduced himself to me.”
Did Morales have a calling? You could say that. But he’s also intent on making people laugh this week and think about what it would be like if Jesus, well, showed up in the Gayborhood.
A Real Piece of Work, a fundraiser for Jesus & Johnny, Nov. 17, 8 p.m.. L’Etage, 624 South 6th Street, 215-592-0656.