Saturday, August 31, 2013

Yeshua section 2

ROMAN SOLDIER: [Enters with other soldiers and Jael and scaffold. She is bloody and nearly                                     or totally naked. They have just finished whipping her and she                                                      collapses. They crucify her as he speaks:]
                        Hail, friends, dogs, chattel of Rome! We won’t be here long.      She will be                                 here longer than you are she would like.

                        Bow before Caesar’s forces! Kneel before the eagle!
            [They intimidate the Jews, driving them to the edges of the stage.]          

                        Witness the punishment for murder of a citizen of Rome. This whore must                             die for it.

JAEL:     [Her delivery is bipolar but begins weak and then finds strength,             though her voice remains hoarse. She is fooled by her own    ironies so as to appear completely sincere. She must speak             extremely fast by the end but remain articulate. This actress must          be miked. As she speaks a spotlight should narrow on her until        finally there is just a needle of light on her face.]
                        What a brief toy our cheated life must seem.
            The kingdom shall to Israel be restored!
            Send forth Messiah, the time has come, O God!   
            Go unreserved to slay a thousand crows,
            A hammered thousand Roman swords that march
            In serried legions – adamant their shields,
            Gleaming their silvery helmets’ steel, and long
            The reach of javelins. Not doubting, go!
            God furnished Moses tables on the dune,
            How shall he succor you the less? And we
            The females will no refuge take in walls
            Of Jericho, that town of palm trees, nor
            Shall we pause by the sculptured stones of Gilgal,
            Nor will you at war confront the siege,
            The hunger-gnawing siege, the vanquished rape,
            Unless a forest pen you in where Rome’s
            Machines can pick you off by tens – while we
            Must watch them undermine the Temple footings,
            Watch beetles eat through Herod’s flawless stone.
            But go! Don’t question God’s ukase to arms!
            It’s clarion as the hooting owl at dusk!  
            Let nothing change your strategy. Go make
            Us safe in graveless death, expunge the blood
            Of Sarah’s race, erase Tanakh, allow
            A correspondent puff of air attest
            To what our people bore, brought forth, conceived.
            Or if not, free us from false hopes, enleague
            Israel with Parthia, Armenia –
            Extend your plot beyond Euphrates’ flux,
            And to Bactria, homeland of the Parsi
            Prophet Zoroaster, send a note.
            Or Tesiphon, if asked, her king might loan
            Rare cups of Murrhine clay, or grant us horse,
            Endorse our anti-Roman cause with spears
            And Scythian backward-shooting bowmen from
            The Tigris’ eastern shore; storm-troopers, too,
            From Babylon where Alexander died,
            Who, once he conquered, made the world to bow,
            To worship him a god. (Rome never dared
            So much.) Alarm all of the Hebrew brothers
            Living in the city Adiabene.
            Be advised: help can be quite strong-willed.   
            And willful colts won’t keep their flashing heads.
            Blessings on you, good fighting men! God bless
            You all! Success and victory. Go rid
            Our soil of Roman vermin and disease.
            And yet, remember this: when Achish, king
            Of Gath, gave refuge to Saul-hounded David,
            Granting to him Ziklag (so that town
            Pertaineth to the kings of Judah yet),
            The Philistines took arms for warfare near
            Gilboa. Saul saw battle-ready hosts
            Encamped against him and he shook
            With fear. Within an ephod box the Urim
            And the Thummim stayed until the priest
            Produced them to disclose God’s will by lot.
            But Saul learned nothing from them, nor
            From fervent prayers. Deriving nothing good
            From nightmares, nor from prophets (Samuel
            Was at this time deceased), Saul went disguised
            To Endor where a wizard dwelled, a crone
            Ugly of countenance: one eye was fogged,
            Protuberant; a red and blackish gourd
            Sprouting along one rotted row of teeth – 
            Malignant tumor – oozingly adorned
            Her antediluvian face. The king asked her
            To bring up from the house of death one he
            Should name. She first demurred, due to
            Saul’s law; so he disclosed himself, revoked
            All threat to necromancers. Samuel
            Summoned, appeared to her wrapped in white robes.
            She screamed, Why did you say bring me up Samuel?
            Why hast thou, Saul, disturbed me? Why disquiet
            Me in my rest? asked Samuel. Saul stooped
            And bent his face above the ground. Has God
            Abandoned me? Why seek me out, since he
            Answers you not? Thus spoke the priest and left
            Their presence. 
                          David then befriended his
            Old enemies, newly betrayed his friends;
            With Achish he’d have fought, had Achish him
            Allowed. The counsel of Phoenicians was
            That David stay back in Phoenicia while
            They fought. Such wasn’t David’s choice. To fight
            With Israel – it was no great sin in David’s eyes.  
            If Israel Israel fights, what keeps back Parthia?
            If David dark-of-nighted then, who wouldn’t
            Noon us now? Despite the crimes of David,
            Persians lie. The Syrians scurry home.
            And now we don’t the slight Phoenicians face.
            For Rome is strong, and smart is she in strength;
            Add fierceness to her smarts and strength and to 
            Ferocity add too her discipline. 
            Roman ships will come typhoon-like, as 
            Tsunami waves, destroying all your towers
            Like windows dressed with little potted flowers. 
            I’ve seen the tragedies of learned Greeks!
            Once, long ago ships changed to mermaids,
            Or downy swans. Can women turn to doves?
            And men to sparrows? The dawn was bronze
            When children saw debris from heights descend
            In fluttering arcs earthward, from doubled structures,
            Quite vulnerable to rabid violence,
            As frail as orange blossoms facing blizzards,
            As bougainvilleas holding back a hurricane,
            Or as a candle girl who eyes the Minotaur.
            No happy transformation comes to these –
            Unless one undetectable to senses
            Of human beings. In such inclement world,
            Dear friends, you breathe. Such instability
            Mortal life affords – weather through. Brace up
            And hold together, cling against the storms.
            Trifles kill us, insignificant small things.
            Weather through! Trust no alliances, Hebrews!
            Teasing an emperor is hopeless war,
            War unsupportable. A Jew is worth
            A thousand men of Rome. Kill all of Rome
            Or none at all. Kill all that call themselves
            Romans or Rome will turn and pave these hills. 

            [Roman soldiers come and strangle her to death. Great confusion and     shouting ensues. Horribly discordant music plays loudly. Thunder    sounds. Lightning flashes. Spot lights flash on individual faces frozen           in torment and rage. They all exit left raving after Zadok and Yacov             except Eli, who walks after them slowly and despondently with a             walking stick, and a ten-year-old Yeshua frozen watching them go.       Yeshua looks to the right where John exited through a narrow cleft in        the rocks. A boy’s voice from offstage calls): Yeshua! (Pause.) Yeshua!    (Yeshua spins back to the left and thinks of going that way for a   moment but then deliberately jogs to the right and exits where John    exited. Lights go down.] 

Yeshua Crucified part 1

Yeshua Crucified:
A Tragedy of the Christ

A Play by
Timothy Ladd

Persons of the Play:

Yeshua of Nazareth
Mother Mary
Mary Magdalene, a schizophrenic
Bartholomew, a clown
Ghost of John the Baptist
Simon Peter
Hannah, a sex-worker
Simon Magus
Gnaeus Rufius Faustus, Roman gentleman-scholar
Pontius Pilatus, Roman Governor
Caiaphas, Jewish High Priest
Soldier, a Roman
Chorus (two actors)
Charmides, a clown
Miriam, bereaved sister of Lazarus
Yacov the Proto-Zealot
John the Baptist as a Young Man
Yeshua as a ten-year-old boy
Jael, crucified woman
Various Others

{ A Note about costumes and casting. Yeshua is a man between the ages of 30 – 35. He should be of average or less height, slender build, but a strong speaking voice. He doesn’t mumble or simper. He has a scraggly beard. He wears a fedora but dresses in worn clothes. Does not wear Hassidic dress but the fedora and beard are meant to make a connection somehow with this sort of traditional Judaism. He wears an I ♡ NY T-shirt or similar. The actors in the opening of the play should dress as Jews in the Middle East dress today – i. e, variously. The Priest should dress as a Protestant or Roman Catholic. The Sadducee and the Pharisee can dress as a Hindu or Sikh and a Tibetan Buddhist monk, for instance, or some mash-up thereof. The Soldier should be either dressed in a style similar to a Stalinist or Maoist officer or a member of the US military – not a Nazi. All dress should be contemporary – if a religious costume then one that is worn somewhere in the world today. No Napoleonic admirals. Hannah should be dressed provocatively, but she is off trying to get water so she may need to take off her stilettos at some point. Many of the scenes make use of humor but it should not overpower the scenes. Charmides is a clown (he has happy circus clown make-up) but Hannah should elicit some real pathos. Pilate is in a wheelchair, but is not completely paralyzed. Faustus can wear Roman dress but not a toga and should be rather portly and about sixty years old.  There is no real need for realistic costumes. And periods can be mixed. The Soldier, for instance, can be dressed in authentic Roman armor. But Yeshua should be in contemporary clothes. He cannot wear flip-flops. The sound they make is ridiculous. If somebody has to be in flip-flops it could be Charmides. Bartholomew should wear hobo-clown make-up.}

{Part One may be omitted in performance or Jael’s speech could be cut if time is a concern in regional theaters.}

Part One

            SCENE ONE: A Cave Near Nazareth. Yeshua is ten years old.
            (Curtain rises to the Chorus standing before a scrim. The stage is mostly dark, fully  fogged.)

CHORUS ONE:  [Enters with Chorus Two. Playing simple chords on a guitar. It should be slow and folksy and be that same progression essentially as when Yeshua sings    his song later in the play.]

                        All our exhausted yesterdays, our faults
            And fractures push us back, demanding now 
            We reconsider stories of the past.
            We’re driven to this magic hall of smoke,
            Trying themes unexplored in song or prose.  
                        Immortal Rome, before her stretched out death in harsh
            Years, civil wars, disease and unrest left
            The world, for good and ill, in Latin charge.
            Ideas spread on pavement stones. The world’s
            Center beat hot with empire’s greedy blood.
            But Hebrews rankled under Caesar’s crush. 
            The whole thing will catch fire like drouted brush.
            And soon effulgence will break forth again:
            The atavistic flashing of the storm’s return.  

            [A giant map of the Roman Empire is shown on stage. Wind machine is briefly   heard. The fog is blown away. By the fifth line of the following speech the scrim    is backlit to show the shadows of Jewish men and boys.]

            [Beginning with the words “a wind’s blasts,” a fan blows the fog from the stage.           The lighting should change to suggest a cave’s interior. Some on stage can hold                      torches or battery powered lanterns.] 
                        In Galilee a wind’s blasts cross the dune,
            A storm the Arabs call habub strews sand
            On primal wilderness, indifferent
            To beastly urge or civilized man’s care.
            Gathered thereat, a clutch of worried men:
            Zealots, insurgents, thugs and holy scribes,
            Craftsmen, and lesser merchants, peasants too –
            God’s children all, in earnest synod met
            By night within a furtive cave – the son
            Of Jesse, David, from King Saul once hid
            Inside a den with friends-in-arms. There Saul
            Went to relieve himself, and David cut
            The corner of Saul’s robe – that proved God’s love
            For Saul, as sacred scripture truly says.
            [Zadok and others enter.]
                        My judgment falls for Jewish war with Rome.  
            We’ve nestled where the Spirit willed – between
            Some rocks, in sheltering crevices, whereas,
            Ensconced in syruped luxury, clients slouch
            Or sprawl. The Prefect’s parasites are these.
            Don’t they besmirch our sacred territory?
            Bring their pigs to Temple? Bring a curse
            On us, parading iron arms? They march
            Blasphemous through the gates of David’s seat,
            Before the faces of the priests, before
            The Temple courtyard in Jerusalem –
            These whoring soldiers, pledges to their heap
            Of pronking gods. Let’s fight them. Win! And wield
            The hailstones of the only Adonai.” 

OTHERS:           [Half cry out against Zadok, the other half sings, beating drums.]:
            “Judas Maccabeus Since His Youth,
            A Mighty Warrior, Praise God the Lord!”
                        A song that moves us all but deeply few.
            [Points to Zadok.] Solicitous of getting what he wants,
            As when our early Hebrew people sought
            Of Samuel an anointed king to rule
            Them as the other nations were; that turned
            Out less than what they’d liked; a king, they found,
            Becomes with ease a cruel tyrant: greed,
            His own corrupted lusts, his pride – he serves
            These only, never thinking of the poor,
            The old, the sick, the young; nor do bad kings
            Stamp out the brigand, thief or cheat, but aid
            Them in their crimes and benefit from vice,
            Outrage and felony, from homicide,
            Depravity and hate. Who hasn’t seen
            Them back from war with scars and missing limbs
            Or minus nose, thumb, eye? So many forced
            To beg once home from executing works
            Of slaughter for the palace hobbyhorse?
            Wars so foolhardy they are heinous wrongs
            To boys conscripted for the grisly fights,
            To parents whose male heirs are torn away,
            To girls betrothed only for widowing,
            To children fatherless at birth – who longs
            For such subversion of his daily peace?
            Such burdened peace as farming families know.
            Diurnal drudging has evil enough 
            Without the sordid crimes too dark to fit
            Delineated verse – no epics praise
            Our children’s pointless murder – unspeakable –
            The butchery when blinded armies clash.
            Hebrews, I’ve heard in this dim thoughtful cave
            Some echoes from our scripture in the words
            Of Zadok: echoes contradicting him. 
            Sharp alarm provokes our valid rage.
            We hate the Romans. More we hate their wars.
            Judeans have examples of desires
            Bad, or wrongheaded, past one’s reach:
            Bathsheba, object of King David’s rut –
            He killed Uriah, took the Hittite’s wife;
            Imagining a need, the people asked
            Aaron to form a golden calf, and bowed 
            Before it, called the mindless thing their God.
            Famous examples of a stupid pride,
            Or overweening arrogance, we Jews,
            Today lack none. Nor ignorant of risks
            That grow from blatant disregard of odds.  
            Often opinions stick with a stale cause.  
            Pharaoh thought Moses would go on denied. 
            Too often men are fearful of gross change. 
            Obscurer tribes don’t see the conflict’s chance.
            Them history makes obscurer still.
            The Hittites, find me one or two of them!
            The weak can blind themselves with ready qualms:
            It’s easier to squirm than vie with steel.
            Survival makes indecorous demands
            Once battle with the great has been engaged.
            How will our women beat them back to Rome
            Once crows have done with pecking out our eyes?
            Will healthy nursing drown their legions? Eh?
            Perhaps a period will win the day! 
            And look, the Maccabees are now long dead
            While Herod reigns as tetrarch. Hanukkah,
            Of course, survives today, but feasts aren’t fights.
            The fighting Maccabees are very dead.
            Zealots form bands of Dagger Men and mean
            To use Great Herod’s castles and his forts
            To manifest what many think a vain
            Revolt against Augustus’ arms – unless
            It be the will of God. I ask, is it?
            If not, can we survive it?

                        Children of IsraĆ«l, with God our shepherd,
            We’re overrun with Roman goats. Well-suited
            To our religious customs is reluctance
            To intercourse with unbelieving sinners.
            So the wise son of Abraham our father
            Declined investment in the pharaoh’s warehouse,
            When drought and famine stole life-giving viands,
            Subsistence from the land. However, Joseph
            Had prospered down in Egypt – Neighbors, neighbors!
            Hear me! Eleven brothers stayed and languished
            In Beulah, no? And what was their survival
            Dependent on? The thrift of Joseph, saving
            The grain as surety, as warned in visions
            From God. By this arrangement Israel flourished.  
            Daniel did well in Babylon, says scripture. 
            In every trouble God provides a shelter.
            Further, to taunt the Caesar is suicidal:
            The ruin of your stable, prudent futures.
            The coming of Seleucids and the Romans
            Has seen the increase of our common welfare –
            The Lord provideth! God rewards the righteous.

                        The coward does not see his cowardice.
            Groveling is not admitted by the groveler.  Filth is no
            Reward. These [pointing to Mordecai] dub it nature’s rule, or luck,
            God’s plan. Toil masters every hour. The toil
            Ceaseless and harsh throughout the years keeps bent
            The backs and necks of workers fearful, tired.
            The ones oppressed decry oppression last.
            No mirror does the beggar own. The cur
            Disgorges and returns. These worthless sons
            Of Belial [pointing to Mordecai and Eli] foist vomit onto Judah’s kin –
            The dove is yet to peck at kestrels. Cowards!
            Failure embitters, powerlessness corrupts;
            Ignored too long hardens the heart to stone –
            They’d have God’s people suckled by a wolf,
            Would pimp us to the Roman whore, would sell
            Us slaves in bondage. Latin animals
            Will play their pagan pleasures in God’s house,
            While we his chosen violate the oath,
            The sacred Covenant made in his name –
            Holy, unspoken, name above all names,
            And prostitute the blessing of our prince
            And patriarch. Authority of God
            Is what Caesar would steal, trample beneath
            The boots of Roman mercenaries. Rome
            Has wealth? What wealth has Rome? Some Mammon filched
            With wicked crimes, I say. The maidens raped,
            The babies spitted on their Roman pikes,
            Old ones dispatched with fasces, men in prime
            Cut down with wasting siege. The empire’s steel
            Is wrought of twice-damned pelf that fattens all
            Idols of Rome incestuous, impure,
            A Rome born for revolt and suicide.
            We need not conquer Caesar to dislodge
            His foothold but just hurt his heel, his toe
            Cut off, and send him limping home, across
            The fickle seas. Here is our only choice:
            Worship Rome’s king, or worship only God.
            The one is life. The other, wretched death.   
            The gnat may screech, but not so long.  Not loud –
            Some say as much. What do they know of God’s
            Righteousness? What righteous thought have they
            Of God? Is God a gnat? Is not our God
            A whirlwind in the desert? Count the men
            Gideon took to war! [A general uproar breaks out. Many would follow the        Proto-Zealot.]

                        From seminal homeland disseminated.
            Scattered. The spit of boys lost in the breeze.
            I needn’t teach you Greek: you know “diaspora.”
            Since you would not serve the Lord your God
            With joyfulness for such abundant grace
            And favor, you, therefore, shall serve the ones
            You hate, as slaves to enemies whom God
            Will send against you in your time of thirst
            And hunger, in your nakedness and lack
            Of every needful thing. He’ll fix a yoke
            Of iron on your neck and chide your back
            With an ox-whip until he has destroyed
            You and your seed. But ho! Repent! The king
            Is at the gate. Ho! And hear me. Repent!
            The Lord will bring from the earth’s ends a foe,
            A nation whose speech you won’t comprehend,
            To souse on you, an owl who hunts by night,
            Fiercer than lions seeking meat. They’ll clutch
            You as the leopard takes its sleeping prey,
            And gather you like sand. The swarm as swift
            As meteoric flares shall fall unchecked,
            Like Egypt’s plagues of fly and locust clouds.
            Hordes in gold loricated plate shall awe,
            Siege-engines made inscrutably of fright,
            Shall scratch the tops of fortified high towers
            Like spires that pierce the vault of heaven, and burst
            The thunderheads: the floods shall crush you through
            The cracks of social walls. But first the dread
            Of starving straits.  For paradise becomes
            A prison when beleaguered. Delicate
            Is she among you, tender and refined,
            So delicate she dares not set the soles
            Of her feet on the unpaved paths – one wife
            Begrudges food to son and husband, hides
            Food scraps from her own bosom child, keeps back
            Even the afterbirth, the child she bears,
            Because in secret she is eating them.
            So siege reduces everyone humane.
            But, ho! Return to me, says God your king.
            Come and buy bread from me. Buy bread and wine
            Without a price or shekel. Dearth of faith
            And righteous famine racks the land. Long days
            Stretch out the hills. Long nights expose the rocks
            And chalky skeletons of desperate towns.
            But come, be washed with primal element,
            As Naaman saved in Jordan’s turbid stream,
            That bodies cleansed and healed be once
            Again a pleasure to our father God.  
            The waters of repentance, soothing salve:   
            Be baptized with the hallowed balm of God!
            An ossuary God will nurture with his breath
            Blown on dead bones, there nervy sinew grow,
            As Naaman saved in Jordan’s sanguine flow! [Exits right.]
                        Let dogs take talk! To war! To war! To war!


                        Go stick your fat in Roman teeth! Fools! Fools!