The 12 Days of Christmas: Revisited

In the spirit of the season, I’m happy to publish below a little piece I wrote earlier this year entitled “The 12 Days of Christmas Revisited.”  It was performed brilliantly by Seth Kelly and the RLT Players in their recent Christmas show.  It can be used and performed with attribution however you like.  Try it out on Christmas Eve with your family. Enjoy!

 

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …

… a partridge in a pear tree.

It’s creative, I’ll give my true love that. Nothing says Christmas like a bird in a tree. I guess it’s that existential relationship between fruit trees, birds, and Christmas that I never learned about. I’m assuming this is a tree in a planter, and come spring I can transplant it in the yard. A symbol of our love growing, perhaps, that it’s stable, dependable year after year. But the partridge. I don’t know. Does the tree come with a bird house? At least it wasn’t a vulture in a dead tree. Chocolates would have been nice.

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me …

… Two turtle doves. I’m not sure I like where this is going. On day one, at least I received a fruit tree. And let’s not get haughty and sophisticated about this. A turtle dove is a pigeon. A pigeon. You got me two pigeons for Christmas. What is wrong with you?

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me …

… three French hens. Okay, hens are a step above pigeons. They have some practicality. But is this a hint, my true love? Have your eggs not been fresh enough lately? How would you like your omelet?

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me …

… four calling birds.

What is this fascination with birds, my love? We are only on the fourth day of Christmas and my house is starting to look and smell like an aviary. That’s 10 birds. You gave me ten birds in the last four days.  How much do my relatives hate me? I’m an ophthalmologist, not an ornithologist.

(yelling to the birds)

Get down from there.

(bird poops on his shoulder)

Really. You had to do it right there, didn’t you?

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me …

… five golden rings. Okay, this is actually sweet.  You’re trying to make up for the birds aren’t you. I think 5 golden rings will do that admirably. But I really don’t need 5 rings, so if you don’t mind, I’m going to put them to good use. I’m going to sell this one to build a bird aviary in the back yard. I’m going to sell rings 2 and 3 to buy the adjacent property. It has a nice open field and a large pond. I’m going to sell the fourth ring so I can graft that pear tree you gave me into the perfect strand, and then I’ll plant an orchard in my newly acquired land. And the fifth ring? I’ll keep it … as a symbol of our true love.

On the six day of Christmas my true love gave to me …

… six geese a laying. We are back to the birds? What happened to the gold? I’m going to give my true love a goose egg or two. The omelets are getting bigger. Geese, go, go roam in the pear orchard.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me …

… seven swans a swimming.  I knew that pond would come in handy. Swans, get thee to your lake. And in case you lost count, my true love, you have now given me 23 birds. 23!

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me …

… eight maids a milking. Really. I was not aware that I had cows, even one cow. But enough cows to employ eight maids? In case you forgot,  I have birds. Birds! And anyhow, how can you gift me eight maids? Is that even legal?

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me …

… nine ladies dancing. My true love, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but what is wrong with you? Are we having a party you didn’t tell me about? Is that what all the birds were for and you just forgot to send the skewers? Do I have a say as to what type of dance these nine ladies will be performing?

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me …

… ten Lords a leaping.

(awkward look at the audience)

I am very curious about this one. Ten lords. And they are leaping. Why are they leaping?  And are these real lords? Like the British parliament kind of lords? I did not know that leaping lords could be hired out for Christmas parties. Will they be donning their gay apparel? Perhaps a rendition of swan lake? We have the ballerinas, the swans, and a lake already. We could make Tchaikovsky proud. This is going to be some party.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me …

… eleven pipers piping. Now it’s making complete sense. We needed music to keep those ladies dancing and those lords leaping. My love, perhaps you should sit down, you look flush. You have been busy.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me …

… twelve drummers drumming. I gave it some thought. And the only thing I can figure is this:  The 12 drummers drumming and the eleven pipers piping form the fife and drum corps, so therefore you were not giving me a subtle hint about ballet. No, fife and drum corps can only mean one thing: war. You are at war. With what? I have no idea. Perhaps sanity. Perhaps an aviary has harmed you in the past and you are seeking retribution. Or perhaps you are at war with me. Is that it? You are marching in with fife and drums to announce it’s over. If that is true, then I will tell you what I will do.

Take back your …

Twelve drummers drumming

And your eleven pipers piping

Remove your

Ten lords a leaping

And your

Nine ladies dancing

Fire your

8  maids a milking

And those

7 swans a swimming

Cook the eggs of the

6 geese a laying

But I will keep the

5 golden rings

Call away your

4 calling birds

Fillet those

3 French hens

Release those

2 turtle doves

And cut down the partridge out of the pear tree.

 

What?

This was meant as a joke?

You mean you do love me?

Oh, well thank you my dear. I loved it.

(geese honking)

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Good Friday: Dead is Dead

Good Friday is the penultimate day for Christians around the world. It’s a reminder that the first day of the week is coming, the day that brings hope, the day that brings faith. But I’m sure the first Good Friday didn’t feel like it was a penultimate day, waiting for another reveal. Not, it would have had an air of finality about it. After all, dead is dead. Or is it?

To commemorate this Good Friday, I’d like to share with you a short play I wrote for a Good Friday service last year, simply entitled “Dead is Dead”.


 

Characters

Jabez, husband of Naarah, follower of Jesus

Naarah, wife of Jabez, follower of Jesus

Daughter, of Jabez and Naarah

Roman Soldier

Setting: At their home in Jerusalem the day after the crucifixion of Jesus.

 

Jabez is sitting eating some bread, giving it to her child. Child runs off to the side of the stage and is playing in the dirt. The Jabez is standing in a contemplative pose.

 

NAARAH: Do you want something to eat? (He shrugs it off.) I remember the first time I saw him. He had a single loaf of bread in his hand. (in thought) On the hillside. The crowd was massive, and I pushed my way in. I was just curious, nothing else.

JABEZ: Curiosity is better left alone unless you want a dagger in your heart.

NAARAH: I refuse to believe it was all for nothing.

JABEZ: It doesn’t matter what you believe when yesterday is still seared into our memory. We saw it with our own eyes, and that’s the end of it.

(The girl runs up from behind and tugs on the arm of her papa.)

GIRL: Papa, papa. Come here. Come here.

NAARAH: But it doesn’t make any sense. How can it be finished? There’s more to it than just yesterday. Our eyes have seen things, and you know it. It’s not like the first unbelievable thing we saw was yesterday.

GIRL: Papa, papa.

JABEZ: (gruffly to girl) Not now. Can’t you see your mother and I are in a conversation? (The girls runs off and starts digging and playing in the dirt off the side of the stage.) Why did I let you drag me into this?

NAARAH: Don’t blame your lack of faith on me.

JABEZ: Faith is now the last thing we need. We have given everything for him. And now what are we going to do? We’ll be outcasts. That bread in your hand might be some of the last you’ll ever have.

NAARAH: Stop it.

JABEZ: How could we have been so foolish?

NAARAH: I came to you and told you what I saw. That’s all. The rest was your decision.

JABEZ: And what exactly did you see? Perhaps your heart was a little too emotionally involved to see things objectively.

NAARAH: I’m not going to let your bitterness cloud my vision. I was on that hillside, and he took that loaf of bread and a small fish and fed thousands with them. Emotion doesn’t fill an ox cart full of bread. Tears have never multiplied fish. It happened, and you know it happened. Because you saw what he did for the blind beggar. (He turns away disgusted.) Don’t turn away from me. You know what I’m talking about. How many times did you pass him in the streets as he sat near the well in his ragged clothes? And you saw the rabbi heal him. I know it. I saw the faith in your eyes when you came home that day.

JABEZ (emotion) Where is faith now? Nailed to a bloody, wooden cross.

(The daughter comes back over to him.)

GIRL: (pulling on his arm) Papa! Come over here and look.

JABEZ: Not now!

(Daughter walks away again.)

NAARAH: It may not all make sense, but I refuse to believe it was all for nothing.

JABEZ: Yes, I saw with these very eyes what he did to the blind beggar, and I can’t explain it. But those same eyes witnessed something very different yesterday. Stop blinding yourself with reckless faith. Stop seeing what you only want to see. He’s gone.

NAARAH: But perhaps …

JABEZ: Dead is dead. It’s no different if he had fallen into a well or been bit by a viper or the Roman Legion sliced off his head. Either way, dead is dead, and we’d both be much better off if we can admit that fact. Jesus of Nazareth is dead. And life doesn’t come from death.

GIRL: Papa …

JABEZ: Not now!

GIRL:  Someone’s coming.

(He looks and sees a Roman soldier coming at him quickly.)

ROMAN:  Jabez!

(Jabez tries to run, but knocks into his daughter who falls to the ground. He stops to pick her up and Naarah comes to get the girl as the soldier punches Jabez to the ground.)

I should slice you here, and I would if it were up to me.

(Standing over him with a sword to his throat.)

JABEZ: What have I done?

ROMAN: Your neighbors have let it be known that your household was part of the rebellious movement of Jesus of Nazareth.

JABEZ: Please don’t hurt my family.

ROMAN: I am here to make one thing perfectly clear, and let the pointed edge of my sword re-enforce it. The governor of Judaea will crush anyone who perpetuates rumors or prophecies about the Nazarene. He is dead, and all thoughts of rebellion are buried in his corpse, or the likes of you will be buried alongside him. Do I make myself understood?

JABEZ: Yes.

ROMAN: Stand to your feet. (Jabez slowly stands) I just need to make sure you understand.

(He smacks him twice and Jabez staggers to the other side of the stage and falls on his face near the place the girl had been playing. Naarah and the girl are crying, and they go to his side.)

ROMAN: I think we understand each other now.

(The soldier exits.)

NAARAH: Jabez. Are you all right? Oh, God our father help us. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of God. Jabez. He’s gone. It’s okay. He’s gone. Are you all right?

JABEZ: No matter what happened yesterday, I’m not going to let Roman tyranny rip the faith out of me.

NAARAH (smiling) No, I suppose you wouldn’t.

GIRL: Papa, I want you to see something. Look! (She points out to a place in front of them.) The olive seeds we planted. Remember, you said they were no good. But look, they are sprouting, papa!

(He looks out on the plants and reaches for them.)

JABEZ: That’s impossible. I stopped watering those a month ago.

NAARAH: Look at them!

(Jabez starts laughing.)

JABEZ: A miracle in the desert. Life indeed coming from death.

(Holding on to each other.)

Maybe we should wait and see what tomorrow will bring.

 

Monologue #2: A Battle Cry

Here’s the second monologue added to the PAGES on the right of my site.

In my play “Life with Stewart”, Nicholas Stewart, an aged Hollywood movie star, is asked to deliver again his famous speech as the unforgettable protagonist Wellesly Green from the movie “Surrender has no Tomorrow”. (Of course, all of this is fictional.)  So imagine a staggering figure, clad in battle gear, trying to rally his comrades to continue fighting against insurmountable odds in order to stave off certain death. Here is the monologue in its entirety.

NICHOLAS STEWART:

Character.  That is what stands between us and our destiny.  Each of us has sacrificed much to arrive at this point; the battered souls we are would give up the fight if it was merely up to us. If we were only flesh and blood, only here and now, only eyes and ears, surely we would not insist on pushing forward. For our eyes witness odds that our hearts cannot derive courage from.  Our ears hear not any reassurance to continue fighting, but only weakness and bickering, coming from our tired, cowardly jaws –  the ones we earned by witnessing too much death and experiencing too much despair.  Yes, our eyes and ears reveal how human we have become, how cold our flesh feels, and how much colder our blood may soon be.  But history reminds us that we are not only flesh and blood.  We are not only here and now.  We are not only eyes and ears.  We are made of more, much more.  Time has poured its tired hands into our being, strengthening us with wisdom gleaned from a thousand souls who came before us.  Those who knew us and loved us.  Those we never knew but influenced the mechanisms of support that we have come to live by.  Our character has been built by the sacrifices of these and others who lived their lives and suffered their deaths for our survival. If we extinguish the flickering flame of hope that the winds of fear are ferociously trying to snuff out, then we are not worthy to be called the sons or daughters of the ones that came before us.  As the poet Asophie said, “When a pebble dropped in a vast sea splashes beyond its capacity, crashing barriers that were never meant to be crossed, all that one is left with is the realization that the pebble was no small stone and the causality is no one’s fault but your own.”  If we die, then we shall be at fault.  If we live, then we too shall be the cause of that.  As for me, I choose life.  What choose you?

“Dead is Dead” – A Script for Easter

I was asked to write a Good Friday script for our school’s chapel. It’s entitled “Dead is Dead.”  My actors did an incredible job with it – about a disillusioned couple the day after the crucifixion. To celebrate Easter, I’ve included the full script of “Dead is Dead” below. Would love your feedback on it.

If you celebrate, I hope you have a great one!

_________________________________________________________________________

Dead is Dead

by

Mark W. Sasse

Characters

Jabez, husband of Naarah, follower of Jesus

Naarah, wife of Jabez, follower of Jesus

Daughter, of Jabez and Naarah

Roman Soldier

Setting: At their home in Jerusalem the day after the crucifixion of Jesus.

Jabez is sitting eating some bread, giving it to her child. Child runs off to the side of the stage and is playing in the dirt. The JABEZ is standing in a contemplative pose.

NAARAH

Do you want something to eat?

(He shrugs it off.)

I remember the first time I saw him. He had a single loaf of bread in his hand.

(in thought)

On the hillside. The crowd was massive, and I pushed my way in. I was just curious, nothing else.

JABEZ

Curiosity is better left alone unless you want a dagger in your heart.

NAARAH

I refuse to believe it was all for nothing.

JABEZ

It doesn’t matter what you believe when yesterday is still seared into our memory. We saw it with our own eyes, and that’s the end of it.

(The girl runs up from behind and tugs on the arm of her papa.)

GIRL

Papa, papa. Come here. Come here.

NAARAH

But it doesn’t make any sense. How can it be finished? There’s more to it than just yesterday. Our eyes have seen things, and you know it. It’s not like the first unbelievable thing we saw was yesterday.

GIRL

Papa, papa.

JABEZ

(gruffly to girl)

Not now. Can’t you see your mother and I are in a conversation?

(The girls runs off and starts digging and playing in the dirt off the side of the stage.)

Why did I let you drag me into this?

NAARAH

Don’t blame your lack of faith on me.

JABEZ

Faith is now the last thing we need. We have given everything for him. And now what are we going to do? We’ll be outcasts. That bread in your hand might be some of the last you’ll ever have.

 

NAARAH

Stop it.

JABEZ

How could we have been so foolish?

NAARAH

I came to you and told you what I saw. That’s all. The rest was your decision.

JABEZ

And what exactly did you see? Perhaps your heart was a little too emotionally involved to see things objectively.

NAARAH

I’m not going to let your bitterness cloud my vision. I was on that hillside, and he took that loaf of bread and a small fish and fed thousands with them. Emotion doesn’t fill an ox cart full of bread. Tears have never multiplied fish. It happened, and you know it happened. Because you saw what he did for the blind beggar.

(He turns away disgusted.)

Don’t turn away from me. You know what I’m talking about. How many times did you pass him in the streets as he sat near the well in his ragged clothes? And you saw the rabbi heal him. I know it. I saw the faith in your eyes when you came home that day.

JABEZ

(emotion)

Where is faith now? Nailed to a bloody, wooden cross.

(The daughter comes back over to him.)

GIRL

                (pulling on his arm)

Papa! Come over here and look.

JABEZ

Not now!

(Daughter walks away again.)

NAARAH

It may not all make sense, but I refuse to believe it was all for nothing.

JABEZ

Yes, I saw with these very eyes what he did to the blind beggar, and I can’t explain it. But those same eyes witnessed something very different yesterday. Stop blinding yourself with reckless faith. Stop seeing what you only want to see. He’s gone.

NAARAH

But perhaps …

JABEZ

Dead is dead. It’s no different if he had fallen into a well or been bit by a viper or the Roman Legion sliced off his head. Either way, dead is dead, and we’d both be much better off if we can admit that fact. Jesus of Nazareth is dead. And life doesn’t come from death.

GIRL

Papa …

JABEZ

Not now!

GIRL

Someone’s coming.

(He looks and sees a Roman soldier coming at him quickly.)

ROMAN SOLDIER

Jabez!

(Jabez tries to run, but knocks into his daughter who falls to the ground. He stops to pick her up and Naarah comes to get the girl as the soldier punches Jabez to the ground.)

I should slice you here, and I would if it were up to me.

(Standing over him with a sword to his throat.)

JABEZ

What have I done?

ROMAN SOLDIER

Your neighbors have let it be known that your household was part of the rebellious movement of Jesus of Nazareth.

JABEZ

Please don’t hurt my family.

ROMAN

I am here to make one thing perfectly clear, and let the pointed edge of my sword re-enforce it. The governor of Judaea will crush anyone who perpetuates rumors or prophecies about the Nazarene. He is dead, and all thoughts of rebellion are buried in his corpse, or the likes of you will be buried alongside him. Do I make myself understood?

JABEZ

Yes.

ROMAN

Stand to your feet.

(Jabez slowly stands)

I just need to make sure you understand.

(He smacks him twice and Jabez staggers to the other side of the stage and falls on his face near the place the girl had been playing. Naarah and the girl are crying, and they go to his side.)

I think we understand each other now.

(The soldier exits.)

NAARAH

Jabez. Are you all right? Oh, God our father help us. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of God. Jabez.

(He starts to move.)

Jabez.

(She helps him to sit up.)

He’s gone. It’s okay. He’s gone. Are you all right?

JABEZ

No matter what happened yesterday, I’m not going to let Roman tyranny rip the faith out of me.

NAARAH

                (smiling)

No, I suppose you wouldn’t.

GIRL

Papa, I want you to see something. Look!

(She points out to a place in front of them.)

The olive seeds we planted. Remember, you said they were no good. But look, they are sprouting, papa!

(He looks out on the plants and reaches for them.)

JABEZ

That’s impossible. I stopped watering those a month ago.

 

NAARAH

Look at them!

(Jabez starts laughing.)

JABEZ

A miracle in the desert. Life indeed coming from death.

(Holding on to each other.)

Maybe we should wait and see what tomorrow will bring.

 

Valentine’s Day Excerpt: Princess Pearl Speaks of Her Love, Casimir

For Valentine’s Day, here’s an excerpt from my new play “The Secrets of the Magic Pool.” In this excerpt, Princess Pearl is anxious for her Prince to arrive, and she banters back and forth with her loyal servant, Majji.  

 

PRINCESS: (overly dramatic) But it’s truer than the rise of mercury in the noon day sun. He commands my every breath.   (worried) Does my face look blotchy?

MAJJI: Perfectly clear, unlike your cloudy, dust-ridden mind.

PRINCESS: Do you think I’m too mad for him?

MAJJI: Well, he is dapper.

PRINCESS: Dapper. You talk of him like he’s a basset hound dressed in a silk tunic.

MAJJI: You talk of him like he’s a Greek god.

PRINCESS: If it were true, Zeus himself would bow down in front of him, and slightly peak up with jealous eyes to see his well-defined physique, heroic jaw and dreamy blue eyes.

MAJJI: Zeus would be jealous of his eyes?

PRINCESS: Truer than the azure sky around Mount Olympus. Do you think I speak too highly of him?

MAJJI: Zeus?

PRINCESS: No, Casimir.

MAJJI: All I know is there can be only one sun in the sky at noon.

PRINCESS: And his eyes emit rays of poetry. Love poetry. Romantic poetry. Silly rhyming poetry.

MAJJI:  (laughing) You are quite insane.

PRINCESS: Do you think he knows my true thoughts?

MAJJI: As obvious as deep burgundy sits on a petal of a rose, or as red as the blush on your cheeks.

PRINCESS: You said my cheeks were clear. Ohhh— (like a spoiled child) Then why doesn’t he come?

COMING to PENANGPAC:  May 13-14, 2016

A Momentary Stare at a Blank Page

Before I go and write I wanted to reflect on the blank page that awaits me.

I have an idea in my head and I am ready to start putting it on paper. Two hours from now the blank will be filled, but I am not yet sure what I will have.

Will the words be meaningful? Will the plot fit together? Will my jumbled idea about 4 chairs suddenly flow and stream the right emotions to touch an audience? Will it be moving? Will it be memorable? Will people walk away and ponder? Will they be entertained? Will they be changed?

But right now it’s only blank.

Only time stands in its way. It’s pure the way it is. It’s an untapped idea, but once I start exploring it will no longer be that way. Once I begin, the ideas and thoughts that rattle around in my mind will be affected by it. I will no longer be the same once the page no longer stands empty.

But right now it’s only blank.

The muse has spoken. All it needs is time and direction to rearrange the letters, to blend all the words, to connect all the ideas, to form something larger than each of its individual parts. All it needs is time and that is what I will now give it.

Right now it’s only blank.

But now for long.

Short & Sweet Musical Opens Tonight – and I’m Not There!

Unfortunately, I’m going to be missing the “World Premiere” of my mini-musical (written with Shion Beak) called Captured in Time & Space. It’s showing as part of the Short & Sweet Musical KL starting tonight through Saturday. I will be there Friday and Saturday nights, at least.

I thought I’d give you a short walk-through with what the musical is all about.

The Prologue is a call for acknowledgement that there are a lot of lonely and desperate people in this place. Here are the lyrics which really sum this up:

“That rich or poor, all people need much more, than paint-on smiles fronting empty stores. If we could be the mirror and look deep into your face, if only we could capture truth in time and space.”

LOVE SICK is a woman who can’t except the fact that the man that she loves doesn’t love her. She sings:

“Why did you put him in my life an unattainable goal, taunting, laughing, prodding, baffling, vengeful god, who doesn’t want me to be happy.”

LONELINESS SICK is a man who has lived his whole life alone and has no one.

“I pretend to have a lady present, and we waltz the night to the Blue Danube, and I ask her for her hand in marriage, and she blushes once before saying ‘I do’. What a farce I’ve been searching after. I’m alone as I will die. Perhaps loneliness is worse than death. Cause it requires a constant breath.”

Finally, MONEY SICK comes along. A man who has everything but nothing.

“I sat in the audience of presidents, but I bowed not to them, for they bowed at my money, I sat tin the audience of presidents, I was their promise land, full of milk and honey. … Look at me in my BMW and now that I die, what did I gain? What is the final measurement of my earthly worth? Six feet of dirt.”

They all get together in the end, along with the ensemble and sing the chorus:

“Where you want to go? What you want me to say? Where you want me to go, my Lord, but I can’t go alone.”

It’s fun, poignant, and upbeat.

I hope everyone likes it. I can’t wait to see it.