Dustin Canez and Alec James in THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS

Robin Reed and Luke Harlan in THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS

A lot of us "theatre people" committed ourselves to our career goals when we were children -- usually as the result of some play we saw that blew our tiny little minds. For me it was an Arabian Nights play presented by the always-excellent Birmingham Children's Theatre way, way back in ... well, never mind how far back ... the point is, I not only decided I wanted to grow up to work in the live theatre, I specifically wanted to grow up to do a show based on the ancient tales collected in the "Tales of Shahrazad," better known as "The Thousand and One Nights."

There are so many "Arabian Nights" scripts out there you might wonder why on Earth anyone would want to write another one. But most "children's versions" focus on the same few stories (Aladdin, Sinbad, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves) and there are literally hundreds more that rarely get their turn onstage! So I wanted to skip the stories that are already overdone and explore some of the others...

 

So in this play audiences see the contest to find the perfect wife for a handsome prince -- a contest in which one of the candidates is an enchanted tortoise! They get to see an evil magician kidnap a young girl with his flying horse only to lose her to an even more ruthless scoundrel. And they see a wicked witch risk everything to gain the unlimited power of the Genie, and they see how foolish the lust for power can be! All of this is wrapped up in the millennia-old "framing story" about the brave and clever servant girl Shahrazad, who saves her own life by creating the serial drama (thus becoming the mother of all soap operas).

This script was written especially for the five-person tour group from Theatre UAB and worked beautifully with that cast, largely thanks to the ingenious scenery by Cliff Simon and gorgeous costumes by Kimberly Schnormeier. Our troupe enjoyed playing multiple characters, but the show could easily be performed by a larger company without the doubling.

Abu Hassan returns -- towing Princess Elakshi with great difficulty, owing to her impressive imitation of an enraged tiger. She bites, she scratches, she kicks ... it requires all the martial arts at the command of the mighty warlord Abu Hassan to maintain his grip on Elakshi. Finally they both pause, exhausted but vigilant.

ABU HASSAN
Why do you resist me, Princess? Most women would be honored to be the chosen bride of the great Abu Hassan!

PRINCESS ELAKSHI
Then perhaps most women are more desperate for a husband than I am! So release me at once, for I have no intent of marrying you or anyone besides my beloved Prince Faruz Shah!

ABU HASSAN
If your beloved Prince Faruz Shah loved you so much he should never have let you out of his sight. He should have kept you in chains, just as I will keep you in chains all the days of your life if I must!

PRINCESS ELAKSHI
Because Faruz Shah loves me, he allowed me freedom. If you want me to be your wife, you cannot force me to do things against my will. A man and wife should be friends and partners -- not a zookeeper and a caged animal!

ABU HASSAN
You will soon grow tired of pretending to be a wild animal. And when you stop acting like a beast and begin acting like a lady, then I will give you freedom -- the freedom to be my wife.

Sarah Hereford plays the unwilling bride for whom men will fight and die in THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS

PRINCESS ELAKSHI
So you will marry me the day I stop behaving like an animal?

ABU HASSAN
That very day!

She responds with a convincing impression of a rabid howler monkey -- and the fight is on again, Abu Hassan against the untamed savage -- until the CITIZEN runs in, leading FARUZ SHAH.

CITIZEN
Mighty Abu Hassan! I have found another doctor who claims he can help her!

ABU HASSAN
I have had enough doctors! Throw him out!

Elakshi is in the midst of an impressive simian imitation -- but stops cold when she recognizes Faruz Shah.

ABU HASSAN
Wait! Bring the doctor closer!

PRINCE FARUZ SHAH
Yes ... a very interesting case ...

ABU HASSAN
Yesterday she thought she was an elephant, doctor. Today she believes she is a monkey. What will she be tomorrow?

PRINCE FARUZ SHAH
I believe I know how to cure this unfortunate creature, great Hassan. But it may require much of you...

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