Lifeblood

 

This one-act drama opens as Scheherazade, the young heroine of The Tales of the Thousand and One Nights, narrates a story for King Shahrayar.  She has been the king’s consort for almost one year, and is nine months’ pregnant as the play opens.  Although the king had resolved to wed a new virgin each night, and kill her the following morning, Scheherazade has temporarily renewed the king’s favor each night by beginning a story that she leaves hanging mid-story at dawn.  She is attended by her sister, Dinarzade, who ensures that Scheherazade awakens before dawn each morning to enthrall the king with her stories.  But as she tells the story on this particular morning, Scheherazade begins to feel the pains of contractions.

In the conclusion to The Tales of the Thousand and One Nights, it is noted in retrospect that during those three years, Scheherazade had borne three male children to the king.  The entire catalog of stories is set against the backdrop of Scheherazade’s struggle to prevent the king from executing her; yet no mention of her pregnancies and labors is made in the main text of The Tales of the Thousand and One Nights.  This play, an original exploration of the life a mythical character, seeks to sharpen the focus on the difficulties faced by Scheherazade in diverting the king from his murderous aims.

At daybreak, the king leaves to attend to his kingdom.  Dinarzade comforts Scheherazade during her contractions, but the child is still not born when King Shahrayar returns that evening.  Scheherazade tries to continue her story to entertain the king, but the contractions overtake her, and Dinarzade conducts her to a birthing bed.  During the birthing process, the three characters emerge from the action and intertwine their hopes, complaints, and ideals in voice, body, and spirit.  Following the birth of the child, when the characters return to realism in their actions, Scheherazade is exhausted, and the king sends the new baby away.  But Dinarzade hopes that the ideals of all three characters can be attained if Scheherazade can rally herself to continue her narration, and Scheherazade herself struggles to meet this challenge while longing for her distant, crying child.  King Shahrayar’s tenderness, in the face of Scheherazade’s struggles, offers hope that he will bestow upon her, and upon all the women of his kingdom, a permanent pardon from death.

 

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Play Structure:

1 Act

Cast size:

3, plus optional attendants.

 

Gender:

2 female, 1 male, plus optional attendants of either sex.

Period:

The time of the Sasanid dynasty (221 to 641 A.D.).

Location:

The palace bedroom of King Shahrayar.

Technical:

Projections or visual art of scenes from The Tales of the Thousand and One Nights.

 

 

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Production History

 

Lifeblood received its premiere production by Theatre Babylon at the Union Garage in Seattle, Washington, on July 15-18, 1999, in its “Mae West Fest”.  The play was directed by Monique L. Kleinhans; the set was created by Paul Boehlke; and the play was performed by the following cast:

 

 

Scheherazade

Sheila Daniels

Dinarzade

Alyssa Keene

King Shahrayar

John Bogar