Rituals of Signs and Transformations

(2013) By Sa’dallah Wannous. Adapted and translated into English by Robert Myers and Nada Saab. Grant from the MacArthur Foundation with Silk Road Rising Theatre, AUB and LAU. Readings in Beirut (October 2013), Chicago (March 2014). World premiere directed by Sahar Assaf, Babel Theatre, Beirut (December 2013).



Where’s your green turban?


That’s the insignia of my rank, Warda.


I’ll put your insignia on my head and use it to embellish my dance.


Put it wherever you’d like.  Let me tell you something serious, Warda.  `Abd Allah never allows anyone to share with him the water that gives him life.  If I ever find out that another man is touching these treasures …


What will my jealous man do if another man touches these treasures?


The skies will erupt with thunder and lightning. All hell will break loose.


How delicious you are!  A woman who knows `Abd Allah has no need of another man.

(HARIM enters Unseen, holding a hand drum. He stares at the couple’s lovemaking antics, amazed)


Praise be to God.  Come here.

(He bends down and gets on the floor on his hands and knees) 

Come here, ride on my back.

(WARDA rides on his back, laughing) 

My God, how light you are!  Sensuous silk floating on my back.  Pinch me so I know it’s not a cloud.

(`ABD ALLAH sees HARIM, who, startled, drops the drum and hurriedly exits. `ABD ALLAH drinks what’s in the glass in one gulp, picks up the tambourine, sits and puts it on his lap and tests it with a few taps, then adjusts his beat until it becomes a dance beat. WARDA begins to dance. HARIM re-enters surreptitiously with BASMA, the female servant. They watch the couple with astonishment. As she dances, WARDA comes closer to `ABD ALLAH, bending backwards towards him, causing the turban to drop.  He puts the turban back on her head. The MUSIC makes him ecstatic.  He rises and continues to BEAT ON THE DRUM and sways in front of her.  She puts her scarf around his buttocks and leads his movements, laughing, ecstatic and drunk. `IZZAT BEK, the chief of police, enters followed by TWO POLICEMEN. `ABD ALLAH and WARDA freeze and look at him astounded)


Good heavens, what have we here? What an intimate atmosphere, music and love!