My new play, The Lullaby Tree, is now available on Kindle. It is inspired by the shortest verse in the King James Bible:
Jesus wept. —John 11:35
Here’s a bit of PR copy:
The Lullaby Tree is the first play in Wim Coleman’s forthcoming “Aesopeia” cycle about the life of the fabled fabulist Aesop. A no-holds-barred literary and theatrical extravaganza of ideas, The Lullaby Tree reels riotously between prose and verse, vulgarity and beauty, farce and heartbreak, earthiness and mysticism.
Of course I pay my publicist good money to write this kind of hype. Even so, I hope it’s not completely undeserved. Unlike my other plays, I’d say that this one is aimed more at readers than theatrical audiences, making it what theater history books call a “closet drama.” It begins with a deus ex machina and ends with (SPOILER ALERT) the annihilation and rebirth of the universe. And since this is the first installment in a tetralogy, the remaining three plays will have bigger fish to fry.
Although trying to stage it might prove to be downright quixotic, I won’t object if a sufficiently brash director decides to tilt at this particular windmill. The Lullaby Tree will soon be out in paperback. And the Kindle price ($0.99) is modest, even if the play is anything but. I hope you’ll have a look at it.
Here’s an excerpt from early in Act II. The scene is a grove on the island of Samos. At this point in the story, the legendary Aesop has not yet received his divine gift of storytelling. He is still a mute slave—and an amazingly ugly one. His job is to dig holes for no particular reason. His overseer, the Steward, is giving him orders.
STEWARD. But—hold it now.
(AESOP stops digging.)
STEWARD. Take note of this tree—Ficus carica, the common fig, though of most uncommon stature. Observe the breadth of its trunk, the robustness of its limbs. Odd, I’ve never stopped to look at it before. A reverend specimen. Though dormant for the winter, it’s clearly alive—observe its scattering of leaves. Be careful of its roots as you dig. Don’t want to do it harm.
(AESOP starts digging again. The STEWARD moves toward the tree.)
STEWARD. Hold it now.
(AESOP stops digging. The STEWARD stares at the tree in silence for a moment.)
STEWARD. I happen to know a story about a tree such as this. There once was a prophet. A prophet of love. Went around preaching that there was nothing but love. Even the gods were nothing but love. In fact, there were no gods, since love was the only real thing there was. Inhuman teaching it was, just awful, terrifying to think about.
Well, naturally, the authorities put a death sentence upon the wretch for saying such a thing. He right well knew they would all along—knew they had no choice, what else could they do? He went to the big city to turn himself in.
On his way there, along the road, he and his followers came across a fig tree—just like this one. And just like now, it wasn’t the season for figs, too early for them. A perfectly healthy fig tree with a few leaves on it, but no figs. The prophet was hungry, and on his way to his own execution—but no figs.
He got angry. He said to the tree, “Let no man eat your fruit, from this time forever.” And the tree withered at once, and all its leaves fell.
And the prophet’s followers stared on with horror. They murmured to each other, “How quickly the fig tree withered away!”
And the prophet overheard them and said, “Love with all belief, believe in nothing but love. For whoever loves completely, with all his heart, may say to a mountain, ‘Go away from this place and throw yourself into the sea,’ and that very thing will happen. If you love completely, with all your heart, whatever you command will come to pass.”
Odd sort of story.
A prophet of love, but so full of rage that he murdered a tree.
Can’t get my head around it, somehow.
(The STEWARD and AESOP stare at the tree in silence for a moment.)
STEWARD. But you know, I almost half believe it. The whole world, the whole universe—nothing but love everywhere, as far as the eye can see, as far as the ear can hear, as far as thought can reach. Gnaws at my guts to consider it, but it seems true somehow. Wish it weren’t, but there doesn’t seem to be any way around something that’s true, once it gets stuck inside you.
Which is why I’d never tell this story to anyone but a mute idiot like you.
There’d be real hell to pay if such a truth got out.
Think of what would happen.
No one would take thought for anything in life—not what they ate, nor what they drank, nor what clothes they wore. For behold the birds of the air: they don’t sow, nor do they reap, nor do they gather into barns, yet they stay well-fed. And consider the lilies of the field: they don’t work, nor do they spin, and yet they go more handsomely clothed than the richest princes of the earth.
But we’re not birds, and we’re not lilies.
How could we bear such a life?
Happier digging holes, we are.