Sing is a short play written by playwright Nick Stokes in response to Psalm 22, verses 14-18. This work was premiered by Spark and Echo Arts on July 15, 2011, in New York City as part of evening sponsored by the Center for Faith and Work entitled “Artist and Beauty: Illuminating the Word.”
The performance featured Michael Markham as He and Emily Clare Zempel as She. They were accompanied by Jonathon Roberts on piano, Chris Nolte on bass and Anthony Taddeo on drums. Music composed by Jonathon Roberts. The piece was directed by Ryan Whinnem with movement by Deborah Wolfson.
Psalm 22:1, 14-18
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
This passage tapped into my surreal vein, or what I call surreal, which is more what people mean by surreal than what the art world classifies as Surreal. So, surreal. My first impressions of the passage were paranoia, claustrophobia, persecution, despair, exhibition, voyeurism, display.
On display, surrounded, people staring, casting lots…this performing or feeling like you’re performing…this personal stage fright and existential stage fright…this being crucified led to the quasi-metatheatrical twist.
Who has forsaken she? Is She forsaken? Is He? Where’s the power? What do we demand of that power? What are the audience’s expectations? Who are we performing for, and what for? What does She need to sing? Why sing?
The play plays with notions of freedom, perpetuity, entrapment, progress, and (old school) how to live right – how to sing? And…is the world what you encounter or create or fake? Put on a happy face. Sing.
Nick Stokes is a playwright and author living outside Seattle who sometimes packs mules in the wilderness of Montana. Find out more about him and his work at nickstokes.net.