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Snakesong
Original concept by Buck Young
Adaptation and screenplay written by Greg Ward
and Donna Morrison-Reed

Download Script (13K)

snake.jpg (4969 bytes)

 

It is recommended for this piece that the two main characters be played in two parts; that is, there are two persons for each character - one for the voice (who reads from script into a microphone), and one for the movement. This minimizes the memorization of lines.

Cast Voice Movement
Snake John Benford Gina Maenhaut
Eve Margaret Rao Ingrida Wloszynzcki

Muse (Narrator) Donna Morrison-Reed

Adam John Reid

Elements of Garden Wendy Peebles
Avril Siddle
Animals:
Butterflies Beth Ann and Brigit McFadden
Monkeys Giselle and Vanessa Giesler
Bears Richard, Adam and Jason Kirsh
Bunnies Genevieve and Adrian Iacovino

PRELUDE

CHALICE LIGHTING
Muse:
Are you alive?
How do you know you are alive?
(ask several people)

This story is about a garden and all the creatures that live there...

(wait for the animals to run through the garden. They circle the garden and then stop and listen to the muse speak to the congregation).

Among those creatures lives a man...

(wait for the man to come out, somewhat "trance-like")

.... and a Woman

(wait for Woman).

But the man and the Woman are different from the other animals in the garden. They are not quite alive. Sure, they can breath. They walk around. They talk. But something is missing. They can’t feel all the feelings of being alive. They can’t think all the thoughts that come with being alive. So, we have to say they aren’t really fully alive.

(Light the chalice)

This morning our chalice flame represents that part of life they are missing: the fullness of life. We light our chalice because we want them to awaken and feel real joy and sorrow, to bubble with excitement and know the grip of desire. We want them to experience all the depths of what life offers. And we want to be alive ourselves.

(All the animals sit down around the edge of the worship space. The woman goes back to the tree placed behind the chalice on top of the risers. Everything is still.)

WELCOME AND GREETING

Good morning. Are you feeling alive this morning? My name is Donna Morrison-Reed, and I am one of the ministers. Welcome to the First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto. I’m glad you could join us. With me this morning are John Benford, Peter Tiefenbach and our Dance Choir. They are going to tell us a story. I’m here to help you by explaining any confusing parts, and to help you know when it’s time for you to do your part by sing a song or saying something, and because like you, I wanted to see what was going to happen this morning. After our story, I hope you’ll join me for something to eat and drink, in Workman Hall or in Shaw Hall. But now, before we get to the story part, say good morning to those who are sitting near you.

HYMN 212 We are Dancing Sarah’s Circle

(First verse - Adam, trance-like, circles around the chalice. As the verse concludes he walks away.
Second verse - Eve, trance-like, circles around the chalice. As the verse concludes she freezes while facing the chalice.
Third verse - The snake comes out and dances enthusiastically around the chalice and Eve. The snake admires Eve, even reaches out showing desire to touch, hold, caress... As the verse concludes the snake freezes while staring at Eve.
Fourth verse - All the animals of the garden come out and dance around the two of them. The animals are using huge, fluid motions contrasting Eve’s rigidity. There is passion and urgency. As the verse concludes the animals join hands circling the chalice and continue, stepping in time to the next verse.
Fifth verse - Eve still frozen. Snake dances around Eve. All animals hold hands circling around the snake and Eve. As the hymn ends the animals disperse. The snake and Eve move to the platform where there is the "Tree of knowledge.")


Snake:
She is ssssssssssssoooooooooo beautiful........ Ahem! Ahhh, yes... Well, since you are here, let me tell you what hassssssss led up to my enchantment with thisssssss beautiful creature named Eve. I, asssssss you can ssssssseeeee, am a ssssssnake! I live in thisssss tree which isss ssssurrounded by an amazssssing garden......

(In the next scene, Element1 and Element2 alternate portraying facets of nature and the garden. The animals coming in as they are called. The snake reads with growing enthusiasm and when he gets to the end, "...the ecstasy of being part of it all!" everyone freezes)

The garden I live in is alive. It moves so slowly I sometimes can’t tell it is moving. It grows so slowly I often can’t hear it being alive. But it is alive! I can tell by the green grass that bursts from the cracks in the rocks. The water tumbles through the gorge. The sky that howls, and screams and sometimes moans. The rain beats down upon plants and the plants shutter, coil and dance in return. The sun radiates energy. The moon is luminous and seemingly wise. The clouds roll by. The butterflies flit about, the monkeys run around, the rabbits scamper about, the bears thump through, the flowers blossom and the trees stretch out in the ecstasy of being part of it all.

But there is one creature in the garden more beautiful than any other I have ever seen. Her hair is the soft silken twine of the willow trees. Her eyes are every shade of blue the water and sky ever made. Her belly curves like the arc of the moon, her hands are as intricate as the roots of a tree. When I gaze upon her I know I have never seen anything as beautiful. And yet, somehow, I cannot mistake it: she is not alive.
Every day I watch her sleeping. Sleeping soft on the green grass. Sleeping soft on her back beneath the tree. So beautiful with her body pressed close against the ground, her breasts and stomach round and undulating like the distant hills. She sleeps, but she doesn’t dream. She opens her eyes, but she is never awake to her own feelings. She never wants, never laughs, or cries. She is never startled or curious, delighted or offended, serious or playful... never alive!
She only observes what the rest of us feel. Waking, walking around, she doesn’t move with the garden, or even through it, but past it - circling in blank expression like her sister moon circles the earth.

(Piano introduces muse)

Muse:
We know we are alive because we can feel the rough bark of a tree and the cold crunch of snow, with our fingers and the souls of our feet. We know we are alive because we can hear the waterfall and the thunder, we can see the flowers and the stripes on the tiger’s back, we can smell the dirt after it rains and the smoke of a fire, and we can taste raspberries and brussel sprouts and ice cream. Our senses are alive to all the gifts of the garden.

But we don’t just crunch through the cold snow. We enjoy crunching through it. We don’t just listen to the thunder, we are fearful when it really crashes. We don’t just look at the flowers, we want to show our friends because the colors are so exquisite, so beautiful. We don’t just smell smoke, but we feel alarmed. We do more than taste brussel sprouts. We either love them or hate them. We are alive. We have feelings and desires. We are alive with curiosity and love for one another. Sometimes we are so happy we soar up to the clouds. And sometimes we are so sad that it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. We love, we hate, we yearn, we dream.

(Asking people)

Are you alive?
How do you know?

(Music here to change the focus from muse to snake character - to re-focus the congregation’s attention - some snake music: rainstick shaken vigorously...)

Snake:
She is beautiful, and I want her. I want to slide down from this tree and lie beside her. I want to coil around her. Twist round her ankles and thighs. Slide up her torso, my belly against her soft skin. Rest against her shoulders and bury my head in the nape of her neck.

(Piano introduces muse)

Muse:
The snake is alive with desire, with yearning. He can see that the Woman is beautiful. But he also wants the Woman to be his friend. Have you ever wanted someone to be your friend?

(Ask some people)

(Rainstick introduces snake ....)

Snake:
I can hardly take my eyes from her. Nor can I stop thinking of her. I long to climb down and softly awaken her - to whisper in her ear:
"It is beautiful here," I would say.

Woman:
"Beautiful?" she would say.

Snake:
You are as beautiful as the earth.

Woman:
"Beautiful?" she would say.

Snake:
What do you think of when you lie on the grass?

Woman
I think of sleep.

Snake:
And when you eat a raspberry, how does it taste?

Woman:
It tastes like food.

Snake:
Do they not taste wonderful?

Woman:
Wonderful?

Snake:
How does the grass feel on your feet?

Woman:
It feels like grass.

Snake:
Does it not feel amazing and different every time?" "Does each blade flexing, yielding gently to your weight not make your body quiver? Not make you want to move and dance and roll and sing?

Woman:
I do not understand.

Snake:
(Sighs.... Confused, frustrated)
What does make you want to sing as if you were a bird? What makes you feel as if you could fly?

Woman:
I do not understand anything you are saying.

(After she speaks she turns and wanders away)

(Piano introduces muse)

Muse:
Are you alive?
How do you know?
(Ask some people)

The woman does not know that our senses are meant for pleasure. She can walk and talk and eat and drink, but she does not know about things like beautiful, like sadness, like squishy, or crunchy... like interesting. She does not know that being alive is a wonderful, wonderful gift. She doesn’t know what it means to be alive. Maybe she’ll hear us and she’ll understand, if we sing loud enough.

HYMN 151 I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free

(Hymn ends and rainstick introduces the snake’s next speaking part.)

MEDITATION

Snake:
(Snake comes down from stage and joins Muse)
Slowly I realize that there is more to this Woman than simply her beauty. She runs about, circling the world not even knowing she is alive. She has never thought to climb a mountain, has never seen a valley. Never known she was born nor that she will die. If she would only dare - I am sure - she could be a goddess. Lift this veil from your life, I beg. Open your eyes!!!

(Piano introduces muse)

Muse:
(Guided imagery)
The Woman isn’t really alive, because her eyes and ears and heart are not really open. She can’t see behind things. She does not hear the inner voices, never wishes for anything. She doesn’t understand mountain-tops or the taste of raspberries or the birth of spring or the leaves final flourish before they die.

Are you alive? How do you know? Close your eyes. What do you see when your eyes are closed? What do you feel with the souls of your feet and the tips of your fingers and the skin on the top of your head. And what do you feel with your heart and your mind? What do you hear when your ears are listening to the silence?

SILENCE

MUSIC FOR MEDITATION (Candles for Joy and Concern)

HYMN 112 Do You Hear?

(Hymn ends and rainstick introduces the snake’s next speaking part.)

Snake:
I wonder what makes her so. Why she does not understand when I sing to her of mountain-tops, of the birth of spring and leaves final flourish before they die. I wonder. I follow her each day and watch and wonder why she, of all creatures, is so blind. Perhaps it is something she has eaten. Something that has shut her eyes and ears, something that has turned off her taste buds, numbed her skin, stopped her from dreaming.

(Piano introduces muse)

Muse:
(Asking people)
Why do you think the Woman isn’t really alive?
Do you have any ideas?

(Rainstick introduces snake)

Snake:
I look to the rocks who are as stoney and unresponsive as she. Has she eaten them and therefore become somehow like them?

(Piano introduces muse)

Muse:
Have you ever eaten rocks? No? Have you ever been so asleep that someone asked if you had rocks in your head?

(Rainstick introduces snake)

Snake:
I know the mud can cool a hot temperament or smooth out our rough exteriors. Could it be that she has eaten the mud?

(Piano introduces muse)

Muse:
(Asking people)
Have you ever eaten mud?
Is that what is keeping her from being alive?

(Rainstick introduces snake)

Snake:
I know she can be stiff and rigid. Could she have feasted on the bark and become like a tree?

(Piano introduces muse)

Muse:
Have you ever tasted the bark of a tree? Has eating trees made this man and woman dense?

(Rainstick introduces snake)

Snake:
No, it couldn’t be something she has eaten. I watch and I wonder. Perhaps, her sullen and slow behavior has more to do with something she does not eat instead: a dietary deficiency. She eats her vegetables, she drinks water, she eats the fruit of the garden, she sometimes even eats meat, which I know makes the wolves want to sing and dance and shout and howl. I watch carefully, and then I believe I see something I had not noticed before. She eats everything all other creatures eat - everything but apples. Silly, I thought. Why not eat apples, red, ripe, delicious apples. They taste good. They are so succulent and sinfully delightful. So why not eat them? It must be the apples. Who would have thought? If this is true, I think, and I am right, the answer is simple. I’ll just pick an apple and give it to her.

(Piano introduces muse)

Muse:
(Asking people)
What do you think?
Should he pick an apple and give it to her?
What might happen if she eats the apple?

(Rainstick introduces snake)

Snake:
I watch her as she sleeps on the grass. So peaceful and calm she rests. How peaceful and calm she always is. Perhaps - perhaps it is because she does not see behind things, does not hear the inner voices, never wishes for anything, nor longs for what is not there, never hopes to become something she is not.... Perhaps it is because she lives with none of these feelings that she is so peaceful. Perhaps within this lies the secret of her beauty.
Perhaps with every laugh comes a tear, with every pleasure a sorrow, perhaps my own eternal loneliness is the price I pay for my occasional ecstasy.

(Piano introduces muse)

Muse:
(Asking people)
What do you think?
Should he pick the apple and give it to her?
Knowing what you know now, if you were the Woman, would you eat it?
If eating the apple brings with it the full range of human emotions and sensations, if eating the apple means an end to paradise and the beginning of mortality and all the pleasure and pain of being alive, would you eat it?

(Rainstick introduces snake)

Snake:
But if she were here with me, if she could understand, I know I would never feel that loneliness again. I could show her the shapes of the clouds as they drift by, we could listen to the singing of the crickets together and sing back at them, together we could fish and hunt mushrooms and climb mountains. Never to be lonely again. Is this why I want her? Is this why I wish to give her this gift? Is it to cure my own loneliness by sharing it with her? Perhaps. Perhaps it is. But why should I be damned to suffer this loneliness eternally alone? Why have I been given this fate? And if the apple is the answer, should this answer not to be shared? I have within my grasp the gift of earth and sky. The gift of the taste of wine, the feel of silk, of cool rain on skin, the pain of death, the exultation of rising again, to dream, to yearn, to love.

(Piano introduces muse)

Muse:
That poor snake. No one to talk to in the garden. No one to play with. No friend. No companion. Alone in his alive-ness. Alone in his aloneness.
(Ask someone)
Have you ever felt like that? Has it ever seemed to you that you have no friend... that you’re a long way from home...?

HYMN 97 Sometime I Feel Like a Motherless Child

(Hymn ends and rainstick introduces the snake’s next speaking part.)

Snake:
I have to listen to my passions - I can’t ignore them any longer. I will slide down from my tree and whisper in this beautiful Woman’s ear -

(Snake character slithers down from the tree and sidles up next to the Woman)

(whispering)
Come with me child
Awake and rise
Grow with me forever
As we explore the earth and skies

Do you not eat of the fruit of every tree in the garden, my love?

Woman:
I may eat all the fruit of all the trees in the garden, but the tree in the midst of the garden, I am forbidden. If I eat it or touch it, I shall die.

Snake:
You surely shall not die. If you eat of that tree your eyes shall open, and you shall be as a goddess.

(Piano introduces muse)

Muse:
The Woman could see that the fruit of the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to her eyes, and she heard the snake’s promise that it would make her wise. She took of the fruit, and ate. (pause while Woman takes of the fruit) And her eyes opened, and all at once she shouted with joy!!! She leapt and she sang. She rolled in the grass, she lay before the flowers and inhaled their perfumes. She gazed at the sky and laughed out loud until her belly ached. She plucked a raspberry and slowly chewed. Her eyes opened wide and she wept at its sweet taste.

She thanked the snake and hugged him close to her. The snake was delighted at the changes he saw, and how alive she had become. And before he knew it she reached out to pick another apple.

(Rainstick introduces snake)

Snake:
"Another already?" I chuckled.

Woman:
"No," she said, "this is for Adam. I must share all this with him,"

(Piano introduces muse - a little bit more dire or disappointing. Snake looks very sad.)

Muse:
And she ran off to find Adam and tell him of her amazing experience. When Adam saw that it was good he ate it too. And he laughed. He laughed, and he jumped and he cried and he sang and he too admired what a truly beautiful creature Eve was. Eve admired him in the same way. So much they had never noticed. As they danced together they decorated their bodies with the leaves of the tree of knowledge. And they danced with all the creatures of the garden.

All except the snake
(Rainstick shaken very slowly and sadly)
who, alone, watched from the edge of the clearing. He watched Eve rejoice in her newfound understanding. He saw her share her joy with Adam in the garden’s beautiful surroundings, until one day when their curiosity took them beyond the garden’s walls. And that was the last the snake ever saw of Eve.

OFFERTORY
We are alive. Freely do we receive of gifts that minister to our needs of body and spirit. Now let us share with this community and its wide concerns a portion of that bounty. We will receive the offering.

(During the offering animals carry around baskets with apple slices and hand them out for an apple communion)

HYMN 19 The Sun That Shines

(Hymn ends and piano introduces muse)

CLOSING WORDS
Muse:
And her eyes opened, and all at once she shouted with joy!!! She leapt and she sang. She rolled in the grass, she lay before the flowers and inhaled their perfumes. She gazed at the sky and laughed out loud until her belly ached. She plucked a raspberry and slowly chewed. Her eyes opened wide and she wept at its sweet taste.

(Invite people, at their seats, to taste the apples)
And so might we too see and hear, taste and smell and feel the stirrings of life and love deep within - among - and beyond us this very day. Go in peace.


CLOSING SONG
As we depart this special place
May truth yet guide our ways.
May peace the nations’ madness grace
and Love fulfill our days.