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Full text of Bethlehem, by Julián Mesri

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  • Bethlehem (4/20/15) A fantasy in Judea By Julin Mesri Characters Beulah (Bule) co-owner of the inn Ednah (Eddie) co-owner of the inn Zilpah (Zilpy) Essene Peleg (Pell) The tax collector Sergius (Serge) Roman Census taker Dinah Samaritan Prostitute Setting: A small inn, the only inn, in Bethlehem, a town that is out of the way, on the eve of the Roman census. We are in the reception room. Which has a front desk complete with a little tree and presents. Outside of the reception room is the desert. There is a manger completely offstage ACT 1 IO SATURNALA (Ensemble) Everybody loves Saturnalia. What isnt there to love? Weve got masters serving slaves With little gifts and trinkets, And gambling it pays. Everybody loves Saturnalia. What isnt there to love? A Roman holiday even Jews can celebrate. With masters serving slaves. With little gifts and trinkets. And everyone gets laid. Io io io saturnalia. Io io io. Io io io saturnalia. Io io io. Everybody loves Saturnalia. But we forgot who its for.

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    (Sergius) The God, hes one of many. He gave us agriculture (Ensemble) And for that we are glad. (Sergius) He gave us fields, And he never got mad. (Ensemble) Not like so many of our other Gods. Whose Gods are those, not mine. Io io io saturnalia. Io io io. Io io io saturnalia. (Peleg) I have one God. Just the one God. (Peleg and Beulah) I have one God. Just the one God. One God. But what the hell I also have Saturnalia. (Ensemble) Io io io saturnalia. Io io io. Io io io saturnalia. BEULAH Eddie. Eddie. EDNAH What? BEULAH What did you do, Eddie? EDNAH I didnt do anything. BEULAH You did something, Eddie. You know what you did, Eddie.

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    EDNAH Ohhh, you mean the manger? BEULAH Yeah. I happened to want to check on the two goats we have left, and what did I find in the manger. EDNAH Oh you mean BEULAH Yes, Eddie. Thats what I mean. EDNAH Oh you know, they were looking for a place on account of its BEULAH Eddie! EDNAH Oh, its nothing Bule. BEULAH Did you charge them? EDNAH I mean BEULAH Did you charge them, Eddie? EDNAH Its Saturnalia, Bule, how was I to charge them? BEULAH The same way you charge everyone else! How else do you expect us to stay in business? EDNAH Oh, Bule, I know, but I got into the holiday spirit. BEULAH Excuse me?

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    EDNAH Whats the matter? BEULAH What did I tell you about keeping Roman holidays? EDNAH Oh, but its the only one, Bule. Its such a fun one too. BEULAH Whats wrong with Hanukkah? EDNAH Hanukkahs just to compete with Saturnalia. I dont know, whats so important about Hanukkah? BEULAH If we celebrated Hanukkah more often, youd understand the value of Hanukkah. Its about being warriors, and fighting to keep whats yours. And being lazy is what got us into this whole mess with the Romans in the first place. EDNAH Eh, the Romans aint so bad. Theyre good tippers. BEULAH Theyre not the chosen people, Eddie. How many times do I have to tell you? And throw away that stupid tree. EDNAH Aw, but thats my Saturnalia tree! BEULAH It smells awful. EDNAH Jeez, Bule, youre in one of those moods today. BEULAH Just, I dont know. Dont leave without getting at least a goat from that couple. EDNAH Yeah, yeah, Ill check on them later.

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    BEULAH Good. EDNAH Hey, Bule. BEULAH What do you want? EDNAH I love you. BEULAH Yes. I love you too. EDNAH Hey Bule. BEULAH What? EDNAH Happy Saturnalia! BEULAH Oh please! (Beulah storms out) A LITTLE WHILE (Ednah) I know that shes not friendly I know shes seldom kind. But hey when Im around her. I seldom seem to mind. But it would be, So great to see, Her look at me and smile. And every morning that I let her go, I see a bit of evening worries show, And I could be, so happy if Shed stay here for a while.

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    Stay here for while. Theres so much left for us to live, So much for us to find. I dont think well be here for long. And when we leave, I dont know if Well leave on the same road. So long. And every morning that we share is so Completely inconsequential but who cares, Its all I need, to be happy. Well just be here for a while. Be here for a while. 2 Zilpah enters EDNAH Evening, Zilpy. ZILPAH Eh. EDNAH Yeah. ZILPAH Your mangers full. EDNAH Yeah. ZILPAH Busy night, huh. EDNAH Pretty busy, doesnt make Beulah any happier though. ZILPAH

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    Oh, that girl. Shes been through a lot. Its OK. Hey do you have any figs? EDNAH Fresh out. ZILPAH Aw crud. I was hoping for a fig. EDNAH Eh, just joshing you. I never leave the orchard without a fig for Zilpah! ZILPAH Oh bless you. Bless you. That husband of mine. Such a good idea that. Go into the desert. And god knows what. But you always have a fig for me. EDNAH Its a privilege to be an Essene, Zilpy. People look up to you guys. ZILPAH I miss the figs. EDNAH Yeah. ZILPAH Where we lived there was a fig tree. It aint the same since the Romans been coming around for good. Thats when my husband said, hed had enough. Didnt trust any of those Pharisees, or Sadduccees or what have you. And now Im in the desert. Im in the desert. And no figs. EDNAH Yeah. Fig season is here, though. And Ill always have a fig for you, Zilpy. ZILPAH Wheres your other half? EDNAH Bule probably went to tend to the rooms. Full house tonight. ZILPAH Yeah, I heard. EDNAH

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    Are you going to present yourself? ZILPAH For the census? Of course, are you kidding? Have you seen those spears? You dont think the Romans come out to the desert? They go everywhere. They were up this morning handing my husband and my eldest the news. EDNAH More taxes then. ZILPAH More taxes. I just hope they dont tax the figs. EDNAH Oh, theyll tax them alright. ZILPAHS TAX SONG (Zilpah and Ednah) Theres a tax for the temples, And well pay it though we know that its corrupt But hey theyre religious so its cool. But the Romans when they tax us They go above the call of duty they tax The roads, bridges, theaters and then the emperor. There are tolls in the markets There are duties on the goods, Theres a toll on each death in every neighborhood. Theres even a tax for being alive, But the worst tax is the one yet to arrive. When Herod was around we thought man this is so rough But now hes dead and Rome is back and everyone has had enough. And the second that we turn around to have a little meeting, Then the soldiers have one too and give us all quite the beating. And when they all retire they expect us to admire And in addition shell out some more cash, I would say to blame the Romans, But my tax collectors Jewish so what gives? Who do we trash?

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    (Ednah + Beulah) There are tolls in the markets, There are duties on the goods, Theres a toll on each death in every neighborhood. Theres even a tax thats yet to arrive. But the worst tax is just being alive. ZILPAH Bah. EDNAH You know it, Zilpy. I dont know whats going to happen you know Bule, shes been talking up a storm about it, and I dont know shes been thinking of ZILPAH No. EDNAH Yeah. Keeps talking on about how the Maccabees, would have gotten it right but it was just bad luck. ZILPAH Well, you cant stop some people. EDNAH But I dont know, I dont mind the Romans so much. But Bule, shes convinced that in a few years itll all oh god, I dont know, its too much to think sometimes. ZILPAH Sometimes you have to ask yourself Eddie do I want to do something important which means risking everything for a very very very small chance at not even happiness, but I guess importance. Or, do you want to give up on the important stuff, and just have a fig and see how it goes? EDNAH Theres nothing wrong with seeing how it goes. I like seeing how it goes. It gets you nowhere, but you learn a lot on the process. ZILPAH Oh, before I forget. EDNAH

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    What is it, Zilpy? ZILPAH Io Saturnalia! Zilpah pulls out a lovely star and places it on the tree EDNAH Oh, Zilpy, its beautiful. ZILPAH Me and the youngest made a bunch of Saturnalia ornaments. My husband cant stand it, but I tell him theres no afterlife, so who cares. And he just shrugs and goes back to praying. EDNAH Oh, Zilpy, you know the true meaning of Saturnalia. Peleg enters carrying a sack of money. He is the tax collector. He sings from afar. LOOK AT ALL THOSE PEOPLE (Peleg) Look at all those people, Singing songs under the Saturn tree. Someone brings some good news, And a delicious meal, quite possibly. Tell me do I want to fear them? Tell me do I want to hurt them? Tell me how much do I have to charge them? Or do I want to see them smile? Do I want to see them smile? Theres nothing like a good ring On a finger made for showing off. Theres nothing like a real house, In a town where caves are considered nice. Tell me do I want to fear them? Tell me do I want to hurt them? Tell me how much do I have to charge them? Or do I want to see them smile? Do I want to see them smile?

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    Its the only way to make a living. The Bible says, as long as Im faithful. To all the Laws, our dear Lord taught me. I dont have to see them smile. Still I want to see them smile. Still I want to see them smile at me. Scene 4 Peleg enters PELEG Yes, Im here. EDNAH Io Saturnalia Peleg! PELEG Really? EDNAH Of course! PELEG Oh. Im so sorry, Ednah. You know what Im here for. EDNAH Of course I do, Peleg. PELEG Evening, Zilpah. ZILPAH Ah, put a fig in it, Peleg. I dont need your charity. PELEG I was