Tommy Bilczo ’24 is a natural actor. His easygoing personality and love for story help him get into character.
What he is not, however, is a lifelong Catholic. Unlike many of his peers at Saint Ignatius, he did not attend Catholic grade schools or grow up in the faith. And yet, he will take on the role of Jesus in the upcoming Harlequins production of Godspell
“When I got to Ignatius, it was all kind of new to me,” he says. “I was pretty lost in Theology— like how can God be three things?”
Tommy grew up attending Sheffield Lake public schools and was involved in theater productions throughout his childhood. But he chose to come to Saint Ignatius because of the strong fine arts program.
“I just felt a calling,” Tommy says. “It started in seventh grade. My parents first pitched the idea. … The idea just kept coming up in my mind, like maybe this is a possibility.”
Excited about the theater program in The Breen Center for the Performing Arts, he jumped into the Harlequins immediately. He worked on the crew for True West
in fall of 2020 and was the lone freshman in Pippin
last spring. While he was at home in the Hummer Theater, his classes on the second floor of Loyola Hall didn’t yield the same familiarity.
“I kind of felt out of place, but I think that the Theology Department here really did a good job of opening this idea of faith up to me, and ever since then I’ve always been curious about it,” Tommy says. “And I’m still curious and always asking questions, but I think that’s something every Catholic deals with.”
Fr. Cyril Pinchak, S.J. was Tommy’s first Theology teacher and helped him begin to understand who Jesus was and what Catholic teaching means. Harlequins Director Amanda Martin also teaches in the Theology Department and has answered a lot of Tommy’s questions about Christ—especially as he has prepared to play Jesus this spring.
“I learned that Jesus was human,” Tommy says. “When I initially got the role, I was like, How am I going to be bigger and better than everyone else on stage?
But now I’m thinking: That’s not what Jesus was. He was just kind of like one of us.
So that’s really helped me in my faith experience to find out that Jesus was human.”
Martin says that she pushed Tommy to simply be Christ-like in order to best prepare for the show.
“I challenged Tommy at the start of the production to method act his role—to actually be the Jesus amongst the cast, to welcome each person and be someone that no one could hate,” she says. “He has really stepped up to the challenge to try and be an inclusive cast member, a friend to everyone, rather than a divisive member, which can so often be the case in drama.”
And yet, taking on this lead role initially gave him the type of anxiety one might expect of a young actor and Catholic-in-formation.
“It was very scary…because every now and then, I’m like, What if I do something really offensive on stage?
Because I’m still new to the faith, so what if I do or say something that’s kind of contradicting to Catholicism? Because a lot of the show is improvised.”
Reflecting on the entire cast and crew, Martin suggests that the show has helped everyone to grow a little bit deeper in faith.
“In a way, the cast is their own band of disciples trying to determine who they need Jesus to be in their lives,” she says. “Very few people can saw they played Jesus while becoming Catholic, but my goal was for this role to help Tommy discover who Jesus really is, and to help him draw closer to Him. I hope by the close of the show he can say we achieved that.”
Tommy says that Martin has been a helpful mentor and director through all of the preparation for the big day.
“She’s been a really big source of guidance,” he says. “Even though I’m in RCIA and I’m confused about some things in the faith, and I’m always asking questions, she’s always there to answer and help. It’s pretty amazing.”
In addition to drama and Theology, Tommy has enjoyed his English classes and is part of the Magis Scholars Program, an initiative that helps outstanding students afford Saint Ignatius
. Outside of the Harlequins, he is involved with the Cat-O’-Tonics, Student Senate, and performed as part of the Homegrown Series of the Christmas Concert in 2020. He was also a part of the Ultimate Frisbee club until his RCIA training created a time conflict—but he remains committed to becoming a confirmed Catholic.
“I joined RCIA because Catholicism is something that I want to grow deeper into,” he says. “It is something that I’m very interested in.”
“I would rather do it than anything.”
will run March 18-20 and 25-26 in The Breen Center for the Performing Arts.