The countdown is on. It’s one month until the World Premiere of my new play We Are the Body!
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been heartbroken to hear of the conflict people of faith are facing day after day. Conflict is an understatement. The tragic news of 147 brutal murders of Christian students at Garissa University in Kenya is a sobering of what’s at stake for so many. Souls being scorched by the dragon that breaths fire across the world. That’s how one of the characters in We Are the Body describes such horrific suffering.
I’m surprised, though I likely shouldn’t be, at how timely are the themes of the play.
What is the place of faith in public life? How strongly can one hold onto belief in the heart? What actions can those internal beliefs produce, especially under duress? How brave ought we to be in the face of adversity or threat and what resolve remains when everything about our convictions is challenged? Who has final word on what we hold onto–is it our very self, the cultural or political hegemony at work, is it God?
For me, these are some of the questions that prompted me to write as I considered the history of the main characters I wrote in We Are the Body and the conflict they face.
The play begins with lights up on Elise, she is alone in a confined space. “The dragon was moving across the world,” she says. “Sweeping its tail to knock about the stars.” She is imprisoned and in solitary confinement and tortured for her faith. It’s an imagined story based on real life events from the circumstances of real prisoners of conscience behind the Iron Curtain of post-war Romania.
At some point during her imprisonment, Elsie meets Richard. Not in person, not even through the sound of the lonely man’s voice, but through his distinct and persistent tapping of Morse code from the confines of his cell, where he too is imprisoned. They share a common faith, a common experience and perhaps even the same hope–of one day being released to live a normal life again.
How, ultimately, are we known? Elsie comes to hear Richard’s tapping like it is his own voice. His survival mechanism, of tapping out sermons in Morse code to remain sound in his own mind, becomes a way for both of them to be known to each other.
RICHARD FEATURETTE – WE ARE THE BODY BY ANDREW KOOMAN HD
The sound of the Richard’s tapping also triggers memories that pull Elsie in and out of her narrative before the war, becoming the staccato sound of rain, the keys of a typewriter, gunfire that weave together a greater picture of who she is, how she ended up in prison in the first place and what she’s fighting for.
These two characters, though they remain confined in subterranean cells, go on a spectacular journey in We Are the Body, travelling in and out of time, caught somewhere between the terrible facts of their imprisonment and the beautiful memories of better times towards the truth of who they are.
The story will be told for the first time before a live audience this coming May.