James Krag ’80: From Blackfriars Guild to Broadway

James Krag ‘80 returns to Fenwick High School this Lent for a free performance of “According to Mark,” the Gospel of Mark in spoken word.

A professional actor with decades of experience on stage and screen, Mr. Krag has most recently performed at Drury Lane and Farmers Alley Theatre, playing roles in “A Christmas Carol” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”

He believes his years at Fenwick laid the foundation for his thespian future: “I have always said that out of all the projects I have been involved with throughout my career, none of them provided me with the pure joy I received from the shows at Fenwick. Doing shows with Mr. [Roger] Finnell taught me the basics of stagecraft and being on stage. Having the opportunity to sing, dance, emcee and write skits for Banua gave me a taste of what a theatre career would be.”

Performing in shows like “Guys and Dolls” during his years in Blackfriars Theatre Guild also helped him “build the confidence and poise needed to perform in front of an audience.” He took those qualities to Steppenwolf Theatre and eventually to Broadway, understudying the role of Larry in Landford Wilson’s “Burn This” alongside John Malkovich and Joan Allen.

“My journey to Broadway can be described as unbelievably lucky, or simply being in the right place at the right time – and being prepared,” Mr. Krag said. “I was a young actor working as an understudy [during] Steppenwolf’s heyday, when they first began doing the exciting shows that put them on the map…I wasn’t expecting anything to come out of it, I just wanted to learn.”

He saw every rehearsal and performance of “Burn This” in Chicago before being asked to understudy one of the play’s four characters six months into its Manhattan run. “I arrived in New York, dove into rehearsals, and two weeks later I was performing. I stayed with the show for the rest of the run, continuing to do performances when needed. It was glorious.”

He went on to originate the roles of EKO in the Pulitzer Prize finalist “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” and Sandy in “Duck Hunter Shoots Angel” by Mitch Albom of “Tuesdays with Morrie” fame. In addition to his onscreen work in “While You Were Sleeping,” “Mercury Rising,” “Ellen” and “Chicago PD,” he starred in “Romeo and Juliet” at Oak Park Festival Theatre.

Bringing this production of “According to Mark” to Fenwick was important to Mr. Krag, who collaborated with director Jeff Christian to bring Mark’s gospel to life on stage. Their goal is to present the story “as if it might have been first heard” by early Christians.

“I tried to forget everything I knew about the story of Jesus and approach the gospel fresh. I found Jesus as described by Mark to be very human and complex. He is at points boisterous, lighthearted, sure of himself, loving, in your face, petulant, angry and frightened.”

Mr. Krag believes Mark’s Gospel “has all the elements of great storytelling: a strong leader, humorous sidekicks, villains, intrigue and great tragedy…I guarantee the audience will hear things differently than they have ever before.”

“According to Mark” will be performed Tuesday, March 26 at 7 p.m. in Fenwick’s Roger A. Finnell Auditorium. Registration is required for this free event.

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