Midrashing the Book of Ruth.
THE following is a Script developed by seven young women incarcerated in a California State Prison. We spent two days a week for about six weeks in the Summer of 2016 to develop this Script. It was acted out by the seven girls in front of other inmates and their guards with a question and answer session. after.
I share this script with my viewers in order for them to use with their students. The process is truly more important than the product..but this is a good product… With deep appreciation for everyone involved.
Dr. Cynthia Yoshitomi
The Book of Ruth: A Drama Movement Midrash
Scene 1: Staging: (Dark stage with one empty (wisdom) chair and basket stage left. (With the dignity of wise women storytellers, ALL enter from back of church using HOLY WALK) Narrator’s 1 and 2 first in line then go to podium. Others go to side rooms as assigned. ALL REMAIN STILL UNTIL INTRODUCTIONS BY NARRATOR)
Narrator 2: (Gong rings once then three times) LONG PAUSE
Narrator 1: (Slowly, Remember…..You are telling a very interesting story)
Women are not mentioned in the Scriptures very much, but when they are they become very important to the story. There are 93 Women speak in the Bible. 49 are named. Women speak 14,056 words in the Holy Scriptures–roughly 1.1% of the total words in the Bible. One needs only to read the Bible– no matter what translation–to discover that woman go through tremendous trauma and oppression.—Yet this pain has largely been silenced over the years, as well as many of the contributions they have made to faith and world history. We are here in this space and time, to finally uncover their stories.
Narrator 2: ( Slowly, like being a Storyteller to small children)
The covenants that God made with Women in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures have been forgotten in our holy and secular history. Redeeming and Reclaiming these stories is the great task of women today. This perhaps can best be done by Midrash, an ancient text practice handed down to all of us from the Jewish Rabbinic tradition. In this ancient tradition, we take the scriptures very seriously but not literally, just like the story tellers and the originators of the Canon of the Bible many centuries ago. We will be using “the word” (Breath…)Yahweh, for the name of God. You see, even to this day, Jewish people will not use the holy name of God in Vain, so they don’t use it at all…..
They use the word, Yahweh (Narrator obviously breathing it in and out) instead. Midrash should never, ever be done alone, for that would distort the WE part of the story.
Narrator 1: This practice of Midrash liberates the stories from the dominated perspective of the authorities at the time to a refreshing and more inclusive perspective of our Holy Scriptures. The holy possibilities present in the practice of Modern Day Midrash, is helping us understand differences and forgive and forgive One Another. This mercy and reconciliation can only occur if we take on the responsibility of sharing our own stories with one another and listen with the “ear of our hearts”.
Narrator 2: Our first Midrash Drama is taken from the Book of Ruth.
This story was written around four centuries before Jesus was born. It is a delightful novel in the Bible, that preserves for us scenes from the lives of Palestinian farmers, Christ’s ancestors. It is a story of openness to strangers, and the importance of the love of family and neighbor. It is also about courageous women, and good men who chose love and inclusion over hate and divisiveness.
Narrator 1: Please let me introduce the characters: (slowly-wait for each to come out and bow). We have three main characters Naomi (actor comes out and bows stays in stage center)….. and Ruth (actor comes out and bows-stays next to Naomi)…… and Orpah. Orpah does not stay long in the story, so a villager will briefly play her (bows in place).
Narrator 2: There are two men in the story Boaz and an unnamed man called “First Kinsman” which means close relative: May I introduce Boaz: (Boaz Actor enters stage and bows—(Moves next to the other actors). We will use our imagination for the First Kinsman and a group of 10 men that help Boaz make a decision. There is also a group of villagers that are necessary this play. (Villagers come out, bow) and move to join the actors on stage). Let’s begin this story:
(Pause as actors go to their places Off Stage:
Narrator 1: (Story telling begins very slowly: Audience is using Imagination)
There was a famine in the land during the time of the Judges and a man from Bethlehem in Judah departed with his wife Naomi and their two grown sons, Mahlon and Chilion to find food and housing for themselves. These were very difficult times for the people who lived in Judah.
The air was dry and dusty, and the land scorched from a drought that had lasted many years. There was little food.
Narrator 2: (Taking the story up and looking at the audience)
After several days on the dusty road, they entered the land of Moab, where they found work and shelter…. In addition, there were strangers that welcomed them! After they had settled for a few years: Mahlon fell in love with Ruth and married her. Soon after Chilion feel in love with Orpah and married her. Both women were Moabites and would be considered outsiders in the land of Judah, but in Moab, both marriages were welcomed and considered righteous! After just a few years Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died. (Pause: Naomi enters)
In those days, women were considered property of men. Women and children whose men had died were not safe in society.
(Naomi moves to center stage and weeps and mourns alone) Pause
Narrator 1: After living in Moab for about ten years, Mahlon and Chilion also died and Naomi was left with no husband and no sons to take care of her. She did, however, have the comfort of Ruth and Orpah. (Pause for Ruth and Oprah to enter)
(Ruth and Orpah join Naomi and comfort their mother-in law center stage)
Narrator 1: After the mourning period was over, Naomi heard from a messenger, that Yahweh had come to help his people by giving them food once again by ending the drought in Judah. Naomi began to prepare to return home to her people. With her two daughter-in-law’s, she took the road back to Judah. (Long Pause for traveling on stage)
(Naomi, Ruth and Orpah (Narrator 1) move forward and travel (Holy Walk) around stage acting how hot and dusty it is; Returning to Center stage)
Narrator 2: It was then that Naomi was finally able to think about the reality and the future of her two daughters in law. Naomi turned and said to both Ruth and Orpah:
Naomi: “Go back, each of you to your mother’s house, you will be safer there.” May Yahweh be kind to you, as you have been so Kind to your dead and to me…May Yahweh also bless each of you rest in the home of another husband.”
Narrator 2: She kissed them goodbye, but they wept aloud and Ruth said to her:
Ruth: “No, we will go back with you and to your people.” We know they will have difficulty accepting us because we are strangers, but we must go with you.”
Narrator 2: Naomi said:
Naomi: “Return home, my daughters. Why should you come with me? I have no more sons to become your husbands? I am too old to marry again. Even if I hope to have a husband tonight and give birth to sons, would you remain unmarried waiting for them to grow up? No, my daughters, I will not share my lot with you for it is too bitter.”
Narrator 2 (Very Tenderly): Again, they sobbed and wept. Then Orpah, kissed her mother-in law good-bye and left. ( Pause) (Villager who is playing Orpah goes back to her place); but Ruth clung to her. Naomi said to Ruth:
Naomi: “Look your sister in law returns to her people and her gods. You too must go back. Please Ruth. Go after her.”
Narrator 2: Ruth replied: (slowly and tenderly but must be heard by audience)
Ruth: “Do not ask me to leave you. For I will go where you go and stay where you stay. Your people will be my people and your God, my God. Where you will die, there will I die and be buried.” (Pause)
Narrator 2: Realizing that Ruth was determined to go with her, Naomi stopped urging her, so the two went on until they reach Naomi’s hometown, Bethlehem. Their arrival set the town astir. (Pause) (Villagers come on stage–Villagers move to greet Naomi and Ruth saying “Naomi, Naomi”).
Narrator 2: It had been over 15 years since Naomi’s neighbors had seen her! They remembered her so they called her by name. Naomi says to them all:
Naomi: “My Dear Friends, do not call me Naomi, call me Mara, for Yahweh has made my life bitter for me. When I left you I was full, but now I come back empty, except for Ruth, my dear daughter in law who has been so loyal to me.
Narrator 2: (Inside information-to the Audience) You see in Hebrew, Naomi means “amiable”, which means “good natured”// and Mara means very bitter. Thus, it was that Naomi returned from Moab with her Moabite daughter-in-law and arrived in Bethlehem as the Barley harvest began.
(Long pause, actors freeze—villagers move to the side back stage-Ruth and Naomi remain in the center looking kindly at one another)
End of Scene 1 —-Pause—-
Narrator 1: Now Naomi had a well to do relative, whose name was Boaz. He was from the same clan of her husband. Ruth did not know this…..But she did know that they were both hungry, so Ruth said to Naomi:
Ruth: “Let me go to pick up the left over grain in the field. I will find an owner that will allow me that favor.”
Narrator 1: Naomi said back:
Naomi: “Go ahead my daughter, but be very careful”
Narrator 1: So Ruth went to glean in the fields behind the harvesters she saw working the barley fields. (Ruth moves around stage with the villagers and they all act out picking the crops)
Narrator 1: It happened that the field she entered belonged to Boaz. When Boaz came to check on his fields, he greeted the harvesters and they returned the greeting. Boaz was a good man who cared about his workers, but he did “Notice Ruth”, a newcomer….. Boaz asked:
Boaz: “To whom does that woman belong? I have not seen her before.”
Narrator 1: One of the villagers replied to Boaz (Villager acts its out silently): “She is the Moabite who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She came this morning and asked permission to glean behind the harvesters. Since then she has been working without a moment’s rest.” Boaz asked Ruth to come closer to him and said to her:
Boaz: “Listen my daughter. Do not go away from here to glean in anyone else’s field. Stay here with my women servants. See where the harvesters are and follow behind. I have ordered the men in the field not to molest you. The women have filled some jars with water. Go there and drink when you are thirsty.”
Narrator 1: Ruth bows down because of the kindness showed to her, and says back to Boaz;
Ruth: “Why have I a foreigner, found such favor in your eyes?”
Narrator 1: Boaz answered:
“I have been told all about you—what you have done for your mother in law since your husband’s death. May Yahweh reward you for this! You are an Honorable Women filled with Courage and Dignity and Grace. May, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge, continue to protect you!”
Narrator 1: Ruth hearing the words of Boaz said back:
Ruth: May I prove worthy of your favor, my lord. You have healed your servant with your kind words.” (To audience: “Boy, he is not like any man I’ve met before!)
(Boaz slowly and humbly but with a smile on his face and a little swagger, goes to the back of stage left—near, but behind the wisdom chair-Freezes)
Narrator 1 : Ruth worked until sunset and carried back to town some barley given to her by Boaz. (Ruth moves to stage behind altar—Naomi comes out and moves next to her) Ruth proudly showed the barley to Naomi. Naomi, being very impressed with the amount of barley, asked her:
Naomi: “Where did you find work today, Ruth?”
Narrator 1: Ruth told her about the kindness of the owner of the field and said that his name was Boaz. Naomi exclaimed to Ruth:
Naomi; (Praising God) “May Yahweh bless him! This man is a very close relative of mine. He is known for his honesty, goodness, and respect.”
(Ruth and Naomi Freeze) (Pause)
Narrator 1: Later that night, after some time reflecting on her and Ruth’s desperate situation…..Naomi said to Ruth:
Naomi: (Very carefully, like a nice secret plot) “My daughter, is it not my duty to see you settled in a home where you will be well provided for? It is Boaz’s obligation by law. Tonight at the threshing floor, he will be winnowing barley…..So bathe and perfume yourself, then put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor. But do not let him see you until he is finished eating and drinking with his men.….Take note of the place where lies down to sleep: Then go, uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what do.”
(Naomi slowly moves off stage—Ruth moves to center stage)
Narrator 1: Ruth trusted the words of Naomi as she was older and more familiar with the laws and culture, so she bathed and perfumed herself and went down to the threshing floor and did as her mother-in law told her.
(Ruth moves back to spy on Boaz; She watches Boaz feeling happy sitting in the wisdom chair eating and drinking slowly falling asleep. Boaz happily moves to the floor in front of the altar, (Carrying his Blanket) near Center Stage. Carefully as he goes to sleep, Ruth then moves and sleeps under his feet and uncovers them.)
Narrator 1: At midnight the man awoke when he turned over and felt someone lying at his feet. He got up and was startled to find a woman there. In a sleepy tone and gaze he asked:
Boaz: (loudly and startled) Who are you?
Narrator 1: The answer came:
Ruth: “I am Ruth, your Servant; my lord…..Spread the corner of your cloak over me for you are a kinsman who has the right of ownership over me!”
(Pause: Ruth and Boaz Freeze looking at one another with loving kindness)
Narrator 2: (Off the cuff—carefully– but directed at the audience)
It must be said here, that both Boaz and Ruth now understand what is really going on. Ruth is asking Boaz to marry her rather than Naomi. This is because they both knew about the Jewish laws surrounding marriage and widows: When a man died without leaving children, the sacred duty of his widow is to marry the nearest relative of her deceased husband. The first son she would have from him would bear the name of the dead husband and would be considered his son. This explains Ruth’s sacrifice. She gives up marrying a young man and accepts being the wife of an older man, because that man, Boaz, is the one who can give her a son “for” her dead husband. This was called, “The Levirate Law” and it can be found in the book of Genesis, Chapter 38. (Pause)
Narrator 1: Thus, Ruth fulfills the mysterious plan of God who would make her a grandmother to King David and the Great, Great; Great, Great; Great, Great; Great, Great; Great, Great; Grandmother to Jesus. (On Joseph’s side)
Ruth: (Getting up and with funny authority): “If you don’t believe us, check out the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.” Boaz and Ruth stand and move to center stage looking at each other and acting out Narrator’s words)
(End of Scene 2)
Narrator 2: (Very Story telling like)
But, that is not the end of the story. There was another complication: Boaz was a second kinsman to Naomi so Boaz had to explain to Ruth that he had to ask this first kinsman if it was alright to marry Ruth, but he also cared about Ruth’s reputation especially being seen coming from a man’s tent late at night. So….. He had her hold out her dress to collect Barley and sent her back to Naomi’s tent when everyone was asleep. (Ruth collects the barley and moves to the back of the altar where Naomi joins her: Boaz moves to center stage and freezes with a concerned look). Ruth returned home to her mother in law, who asked:
Naomi: “How did you fare my daughter?” Did it all work out?
Narrator 1: Ruth explained the whole story to Naomi; Everything! Naomi stated:
Naomi: “Wait, my daughter, until you learn what happens next. Boaz is a good man and will not rest until all this is settled Today.”
(Ruth and Naomi exit- Boaz unfreezes and goes forward on stage looking at the audience like he is expecting someone)
Narrator 2: Boaz went to the town gate…That was where important decisions were made…He sat there waiting for the closer relative, his kinsman to arrive. When he saw him, he called him by name and asked him to sit down…Using our imaginations we can see the kinsman doing what Boaz asked of him. We can also see the 10 elders of the village who were there to make sure all was by done by the law. Boaz reminded them of the obligations of the “Levirate Law”. (Boaz is making motions here.) The man who had “first rights” for Ruth and Naomi decided not to take a chance of owning Ruth, as it might endanger his family and his own wealth. He said: “Redeem Ruth yourself, Boaz”! That made Boaz very happy! And everyone else.
(Boaz stays on stage standing but moves off center, and is very happy–Ruth and Naomi return with the villagers: (EVERYONE IS ON STAGE AND SILENTLY HAPPY)
Narrator 1: So Ruth was taken by Boaz and became his wife. Yahweh had her conceive and give birth to a son. (Villager hands baby in basket to Ruth//Ruth hands the baby to Boaz, and then Boaz hands the baby over to Naomi) The women of the village said to Naomi:
Villager or Narrator 1: “Blessed be Yahweh, who has provided you with an heir. May he become famous in Israel. He will be your comfort. For he is born of a daughter in law who loves and honors you//And is worth more than Seven Sons!”
Narrator 2: Naomi took the child as her own and became his loving and caring grandmother. And the women in the village gave him his name, Obed. He was the father of Jesse, who was the father of King David. (Pause).
Narrator 1: Naomi and Ruth continued on with their lives and were happy together and with Obed, but they still prayed for and wondered about Orpah, their beloved sister who had chosen to go back to her home in Moab. We wonder too! Maybe that will be our next Midrash!
Narrator 2 (Final Gong)
(Applause and Bowing) Answer questions of Audience?
………..I noticed….……………………And…………………………I wonder……….
Credits: Copywriters: “A Collection of Mid-rashes from the Inside Out”
Props: Two podiums and microphones; Meditation Gong; Wisdom chair and large Bible; Scarves; Perfumed bottle: Hat for Boaz? Or robe; Blanket for Boaz; Gong; Baby doll Obed; Cups and plates for Boaz to drink and eat from.