Saturday, February 14, 2009

For the Month of Love, The Song of Songs

A retelling...

(Thought I'd post something to 33AD, since I haven't in over 2 years...)

ACT I, Scene One

Scene: King SHLOMO’s Harem in Yerushalayim. The Harem denizens are busy preparing for King SHLOMO’s arrival from Beit-Lechem, adorning, powdering and perfuming themselves. Harried looking slaves are busy putting the final touches on the garlanded, netted and bejeweled coiffures/headwear of the concubines, while these primp and inspect the progress with mirrors.

Only one concubine, SHULAMIT – the youngest member of the Harem, is not at all occupied with activity…She has no attendant busy at her side. Instead, she is crouching in the middle of her very spare-looking boudoir, inspecting the scene with a look of boredom, and, frankly, betraying a slight contempt over all the fuss. Sighing, she begins to twirl one of her lengthy (and simply braided and unadorned) locks. As she does so, a frenetic pair of feet (belonging to the GUARDSMAN) suddenly appear below a curtain divider, and, as he approaches closer from the side, he announces quickly, gutturally, and with a short breath:

GUARDSMAN: The dust (huff) of the army has been spotted on the southern ridge!

(huff)…They should be here by the time (wheeeeeze)…the shadow reaches the

top of the Mount of Olives!

All turn to the audience and squint, as if peering through a distant window. The slaves suddenly pick up their pace, while SHULAMIT’s face changes and she swings back quickly the lock that she was twirling. As the guard’s feet disappear from view, she jumps up, excitedly singing:

Song 1: Black Am I

SHULAMIT: Oh, let him kiss me

With the kisses of his mouth!…

(Shulamit looks toward the audience wistfully.)

For your love is more,

More refreshing than wine!…

(The other concubines roll their eyes, while the slave-maidens look at each other and attempt to hide their snickering with their hands.)

And your sweat is so,

So aromatic like incense;

The sound of your name,

Like oil poured to anoint—

(SHULAMIT begins spinning in circles, arms spread outward.)

Thus the maidens love you!

Take me away with you!

Let us run after you!

(The HAREM – that is, the other concubines and the slave-maidens – joins in, in a chorus and in a high, mocking tone)

HAREM: The king has brought me,

Brought me, oh dear,

Into his chambers!

(Looking towards the audience)

We will be glad

And rejoice in you!

For we find your love,…

(They extend one hand towards the audience in an exaggerated gesture, as if offering goblets.)

More refreshing than wine!…

SHULAMIT (quickly, overtaking the chorus contemptuously before they can finish):

THUS the maidens love you!

SHULAMIT addresses the Harem loudly, breaking out energetically at the first stanza, but slowing progressively into a plaintive voice towards the end:

SHULAMIT: Black am I and beautiful,


Like the tents of KeDAR,

Like the drapes of Shlo-moh!

Don’t stare at me

Because I am darker,

Because the sun,

The Sun has so loved me!

My mother’s sons,

They were angry,

So sulky angry with me.

They punished me – Me!

With vineyard keeping…

(She picks up again the lock that she was twirling and looks down at it, as she trails into a quieter voice):

But my own vineyard,

I have long neglected.

(Facing the audience, she begins singing longingly in a high, loud voice):

Tell me, tell me

Love of my soul,

Where your flock grazes,

Am I not able to run

To where your heart lazes

In the hottest hour?…

(As she is singing, a pair of tanned feet – wrapped in rough sandals and powdered with white dust – quietly appear below the curtain divider behind her, as if lowering from a higher opening.)

For why should I I!

Be as one kept veiled

Beside the thin flocks

Of your fat companions??

SHLOMO (laughing): If you don't know,

Greatest of all beauties,
Follow the heels of the sheep!…

(Startled, everyone jumps up with a yelp)…

Bring your kids bleating

Beside the shepherds' tents!

The concubines quickly veil themselves, and send the slave-maidens scurrying quickly off-stage… SHULAMIT (veil-less) runs to the curtain yanking it away to reveal the figure of King SHLOMO in dusty warrior’s raiment, and the pair enrapturously embrace. The other concubines all (somewhat artificially if you ask me) make a swooning sound…

SHLOMO (laughing): Haven’t I compared you, my love,

To a shiny black steed

Among Par`oh’s chariots?

Your glazed cheeks

Are burnished earrings!

Your sweaty neck

As if strung with jewels!

Don’t worry! (Laugh)

We will make you earrings

All golden and studded

With silver and whatnot.

Probably a jumpy number follows here, with lots of belly-dancing involved for sure, …but I’ll leave all those details to your imagination.

End of Scene One.