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Guarding the Garden

An Eco – Fermist Play

Who says feminists can’t be funny? Who says Adam and Eve don’t need Deborah Tannen? The following are excerpts from David Schecter’s screwball musical comedy (music and lyrics by Margot Stein Azen), one of the most intelligent Jewish renderings of eco-feminism that we’ve yet seen.

(ADAM and LILITH are walking around pointing to things in the Garden, debating what to name them.)

ADAM: “Air eater.”

LIL: “Feather head.”

ADAM: “Bird!”

LIL: (In agreement) “Bird!”

LIL: “Green hand.”

ADAM: “Bug airport.”

LIL: “Bug airport?!”

ADAM: “Leaf.”

(Both ADAM and LILITH notice their hands are covered with earth. She loves it, he loathes it.)

ADAM: “Blucchhh!” LIL: “Muchum!”

ADAM: “Dirt!”

LIL: “Soil!”

ADAM: “Dirt!”

LIL: “Soil!”

ADAM: “DIRT!”

LIL: “SOIL!”

(ADAM climbs tree to talk to the big voice in the sky.)

ADAM: It’s “dirt.” Right, Voice? Isn’t it “dirt?” Tell her it’s not called soil, it’s called…. Why don’t I go invent a what? A wheel? Hmmm …

(Suddenly, LILITH hears the voice of SHEKHINA, the Tree of Life theme, coming from the soil. She puts her ear to the ground.)

ADAM: What are you doing down there?

LIL: Nothing, I just thought I heard…. what are YOU doing up THERE?

ADAM: I’m trying to figure out how to invent a wheel.

LIL: What’s a wheel?

ADAM: I don’t know yet.

LIL: Why do you need to invent anything? There’s so much here already!

ADAM: Yeah, well that’s just it. Creation is so impressive, I wanna try my hand at it, too.

LIL: At what?

ADAM: At creating.

LIL: Oh. Well, don’t create too much, or it’s going to get pretty crowded around here, don’t you think? Look, Adam, there’s a whole bunch more of those .. . those green things.

ADAM: “Leafs.”

LIL: “Leafs,” that’s right. Well, they’re everywhere. Aren’t they beautiful? Ooo! Look at this! There’s something shining here. It’s wonderful — like a cloud stretched between these leafs. What is it?

ADAM: I dunno. You found it, YOU name it.

LIL: I can name it?

ADAM: Yeah, sure. I guess it won’t hurt if you name something once in a while.

LIL: That’s mighty of you. Let me think — I’ll call it.. . uh . . . this is hard! How do you do this all the time?

ADAM: I get help from the big voice up there.

LIL: Really? (She shouts to the sky.) Hello! Hello! Can you help me please? Can you even hear me? (Tree of Life theme, SHEKHINA’s voice, is heard. LILITH puts her ear to the ground again.) Hello? Hello? I hear the voice down here!

EVE: (To audience) Then, once again, Lilith heard the voice she’d heard before. It seemed to come from the ground, from the roots, from the blades of grass and the leaves. It was a different voice from the one Adam heard. It was the voice of Shekhina.

LIL: There it goes again. Can’t you hear it? Listen, Adam!

ADAM: You definitely have an overactive imagination. There’s no voice down there. The only voice is up . . .

LIL: SHHH! I’m trying to hear what .she’s saying. Could you please go…climb that “leaf-holder” or something?

ADAM: It’s not a “leaf-holder!” It’s a “tree.” And I think I figured out a way to build a house up in it, so that if the “river” ever floods the Garden, you won’t get wet.

LIL: Gee, thanks. What’s a “river”?

ADAM: You know, that long wet thing you like to soak in.

LIL: Shekhina! Are you still there? (Ear back to ground) Yes, yes, we love it here! Creation is really beautiful! And Adam’s been inventing all kinds of useful things, so it’s been lovely. The reason I called is that we found this shining, cloudlike thing between two leaves and I was gonna name it but I . ..

ADAM: (In tree) Shhh! Keep your voice down! The “souffle” I just invented will fall!

LIL: (Whispering) Sorry! I just wanted to tell you that Shekhina says that…

ADAM: “Shekhina?” Who’s “Shekhina?”

LIL: She’s the voice I’ve been telling you about, and she says that the shining thing I saw, well, she says the spider made it, so the spider should name it, since that’s what’s fair.

ADAM: Back up, will ya? There is NO VOICE down there. The voice is up here.

LIL: Adam, I’m telling you . ..

ADAM: And I’m telling YOU, there is nothing down there but dirt!

LIL: It’s not “dirt!” It’s “SOIL!” (She turns to audience.) “Soil.”
ADAM: How could the ground, or a spider, have anything to say?

LIL: How come your voice has something to say but my voice doesn’t have anything to say?

ADAM: It’s not MY voice or YOUR voice, it’s THE voice. And if it doesn’t talk to you, I’m sorry.

LIL: Well, clearly there’s more than one voice!

ADAM: There can’t be more than one voice.

LIL: Why not? There’s more than one leaf, we keep finding more. Why can’t there be more than one voice?

ADAM: There’s no end to your arrogance.

LIL: Arrogance! ARROGANCE! And just what is “arrogance,” please?

ADAM: It’s claiming to hear voices where they don’t exist.

LIL: You’re just jealous because you don’t hear Shekhina, and maybe the spider and the leaves and I can hear her. Look, I don’t wanna talk about it anymore. I’m getting very upset. I’m gonna go soak for a while in the long wet thing.

ADAM: “River.”

LIL: On second thought, I’m gonna go find some Pepperidge Farm cookies.

ADAM: What’s “Pepperidge Fami cookies?”

LIL: I don’t know, but whenever you get me feeling like this, I wanna eat a whole lot of them. (She storms off and we hear her crash into something.) Adam?! What’s this thing in my way?

ADAM: I call it a “fence.”

LIL: A “fence?” When did you find it?

ADAM: I didn’t find it. I built it.

LIL: You BUILT it? Why?!

ADAM: To guard the Garden. It’s a jungle out there. We need protection, ya know.

LIL: (Reappearing on stage) Protection? Against what?

ADAM: Against wild things. Like your “Shekhina.” And “shakhane.”

LIL: “Shakhane?”

ADAM: Neighbors.

LIL: “Neighbors?” What’s that?

ADAM: It’s whoever we have to guard the Garden from.

LIL: You mean we’re not the only ones?! You take down that fence! I wanna go find them.

ADAM: No way!

LIL: Look, Adam. I just want to explore. I want to look for some more of those shining, cloudlike things the spider made.

ADAM: Well, I’m not taking down the fence, so you can’t leave the Garden. I’m in charge here.

LIL: Excuse me, you’re WHAT?

ADAM: I’m in charge.

LIL: Excuse me, you are NOT in charge here!

ADAM: Oh no? Who is then? You?!

LIL: Me?! Shekhina forbid!

ADAM: Well, the big voice talks to me, I know the rules, so I’m in charge.

LIL: I’m outta here.

ADAM: What?! LIL: Outta here! OUT! Gone! History! Vamoose!!

ADAM: You can’t go, I just built you a closet for all your shoes!

LIL: Shoes? What are “shoes?”

ADAM: (Grabbing her feet) You know, “shoes!”

LIL: You mean those weird things you wanted me to walk in? I hate them! I hate them! I don’t know what they are and I hate them! ADAM: What do you mean? They keep the shmutz off your feet.

LIL: It isn’t “shmutz!” It’s “SOIL!”

ADAM: Soil, soil! You’re not allowed to go. It’s against the rules and I won’t let you.

LIL: You are unbelievable! GOODBYE! (She leaves.)

ADAM: LILITH! How are you going to get through the fence?!

LIL: (Offstage) I’ll invent agate!

ADAM: You’re gonna DIE out there!! (To sky) Voice! VOICE!! What am I gonna do without her?

(There is a cymbal crash and ADAM collapses to the ground, fast asleep. He begins clutching his side and muttering about his rib. Simultaneously, EVE appears with the high-heeled shoes ADAM made for LILITH . She is like a child trying to figure out what to do with a new toy. Finally she realizes they fit on her feet and she hobbles over to ADAM.)

EVE: Adam! Adam, wake up!

ADAM: (Opening his eyes) Who are you?

EVE: I just wanna say thanks for the closet full of shoes!

LIL: (Popping her head around the set) You gave someone ELSE a closet full of shoes?! Men are pigs!

ADAM: What?!

LIL: Nothing. I just thought I’d make up a cliche that’ll last about three billion years.

ADAM: Get lost! (She does. He turns back to EVE.) So, you really like the shoes?

EVE: Well, they’re a little hard to walk in because they have these funny little stick-things on the back, but if you like them, I’m sure I can get used to them, with a little practice.

LIL: (Offstage) Hey you with the shoes! Come here, I want to introduce you to Shekhina!

ADAM: Don’t listen to her, she’s crazy! She listens to weird things.

EVE: Like what?

ADAM: Like dirt.

EVE: What do you mean, “She listens to dirt?”

ADAM: She puts her ear in the dirt and rubs it around and thinks that she hears things.

EVE: (Trying it) What do you mean?

ADAM: NO! No, don’t try it!

LIL: Why not?

ADAM: Because . . . because . . . I said so. Because . . . because . . . I’m in charge . .. because . . . the voice is up!

EVE: Oh.

ADAM: Jeesh. It was never that easy with Lilith.

LIL: (Reappearing) (To EVE) What’s your name? (To ADAM) Did you give her a name yet?

ADAM: I was about to when you came along.

LIL: I’ll give you a name. Let me think . . . “Web!” That’s what we’ll call you, “Web.” That’s what I was going to call the shining, cloudlike thing the spider made, but we decided the spider should name that.

EVE: (A little depressed) “Web?”

LIL: So, Web, let me fill you in a little, tell you how it was for Adam and me.

ADAM: Ancient history!

LIL: We were hanging out in the Garden, having a swell time, I mean, I was anyway and then I heard this voice called Shekhina. But this voice wasn’t coming from where Adam said his voice came from, so he got all threatened and claimed to be “in charge.” But, Shekhina said that no one was actually “in charge,” but that the way it all works is more like .. . like the shiny, cloudlike thing the spider made that I was gonna call a “web” before we decided to call YOU, “Web”. . . see, Shekhina says that Creation is more like that, like a “web”— if I’d called it a “web”—which we all weave together, where no one’s supposed to be really, like, “in charge.”

ADAM: (Brandishing his stick) Get out of here, before I use my “poke-thing” on you!

LIL: Oh, now you’re back to the “poke-thing!”

ADAM: I’m warning you, out! OUT!

EVE: Wait, Adam. I wanna know more!

LIL: (To EVE) Come with me! If you stay here, I guarantee he’ll start telling you all kinds of things you can and cannot do!

EVE: I’m frightened! I don’t know what to do!

LIL: Ask Shekhina! She’ll help you out! (To EVE) Listen, I won’t forget you! I promise I’ll be back! (She runs off’.)

(Later… LILITH appears on stage alone, followed by EVE playing SHEKHINA)

LIL: (Eating cookies from bag) Shekhina! Shekhina! I’m worried about the garden. He never really takes the time to listen to it and to care what it has to say. He just names it and uses it and walks on it and fences things in and dams things up. And she — this Web — is learning some pretty bad habits from him. You’ve got to do something. Please make Adam listen to your voice!

SHEK: (Played by EVE) He can’t hear voice down here. He only hears it from the sky, and thinks it promises him eternal life in the garden.

LIL: Then make her listen.

SHEK: She can’t hear my voice either. She’s too afraid of losing Adam.

LIL: If I can live without him, so can Web.

SHEK: She now calls herself “Life”. She’s going to be the Mother of All Life. Hava. Eve.

LIL: Wait a minute, Shekhina. She’s gonna be the Mother of All Life?

SHEK: Yeah, it didn’t seem like you had the temperament for all those diapers.

LIL: You’re right.

SHEK: But she’s got to understand that if she and Adam keep treating the garden the way they do, life will not survive.

LIL: So what are you going to do about it?

SHEK: What are you going to do, Lilith?

LIL: Me? I’m out of it, remember? (Throws empty bag of cookies on ground)

SHEK: You’re far from out of it, though your role has changed. And don’t litter. What you do still affects the garden. Only you can go back and talk to Eve, and only she can open Adam’s ears.

LIL: But how can I even get near her? Adam won’t let me back in the garden, and if he catches me there, well he’s getting pretty handy with that stick-thing. How can I sneak back in?

(Mysterious underscoring creeps in as EVE/ SHEKHINA takes a prayer shawl, transforms it into the skin of a serpent, and wraps LILITH in it.)

(EVE reappears as EVE in high heels.)

EVE: Adam? Adam? (Sees Adam’s not around) Oh, good! (She removes shoes.) Veyismeer! Oy, my feet! My poor, poor feet!

LIL: (In tree) Psst! Psst! Eve!

EVE: Who’s that? Where are you?

LIL: Over here, in the tree. It’s me, Lilith.

EVE: Lilith? Is that you?! I wouldn’t have recognized you. You’ve changed your look.

LIL: Yeah, well, I wanted to try something with a little more pizzazz — snake skin. EVE: Well, it’s very slinky.

LIL: Thanks.

EVE: Listen, I’m sorry about how Adam treated you last time. He can get a little stubborn.

LIL: Thanks, but it’s not how he treats me that I’m worried about. Eve. It’s how you and he treat the garden.

EVE: Why are you calling me EVE? What about Web? Really, I’ve decided to call myself Life.

LIL: Well, that makes sense. Shekhina says that you’re going to be the Mother of All Life and that’s what Eve means.

EVE: She said that? The Mother of ALL Life? Really?!

LIL: Well, I guess all HUMAN life.

EVE: Gosh, I’d better start doing some menu planning. Of course, I’ll get Adam to cook . . .

LIL: Shekhina was right about you being the one for the job.

EVE: You know, if I become the Mother of All Life, Adam will have to pay more attention to me.

LIL: Doesn’t he pay attention to you now?

EVE: Sometimes, but mostly he’s off inventing things. And then I start to feel so lonely. And when I tell him, he just gives me whatever new things he’s made and I know I’m supposed to feel grateful and satisfied and everything, but somehow I still feel so . . .

LIL: Disconnected?

EVE: Yeah. LIL: Eve, if you eat the fruit of this tree, you won’t have to feel disconnected anymore.

EVE: Eat the fruit? Adam said I can’t even touch that tree!
LIL: Why not?

EVE: Because he said the Voice told him that if we touched it, we would surely die.

LIL: I’m touching it and I haven’t died, though some day I will. We all will. Whether we touch the tree or not. But Eve, that’s nothing to be afraid of.

EVE: But if I die, who will feed all those children you say I’m going to have?

LIL: If you and Adam take good care of the garden, and teach those children to take good care of the garden, then it will continue to flourish even after you and he and I are all gone. Then future generations will still be nourished. You see it’s all this incredible series of cycles.

EVE: How do I know I can trust you?

LIL: Don’t take my word for it. Eve. Taste the fruit yourself and you’ll know what I say is true. Your loneliness will begin to dissolve as you start to understand your place in this marvelous web of creation. This tree breathes your stale breath and returns to you fresh air. From the soil, the tree produces fruit for you and your family to eat. And you in turn replenish the soil. The fruit contains the seed and the seed contains the tree. What goes around comes around, all around this fruit. Taste it. Eve, Mother of All, it’s Juice is sweet with truth.

(EVE reaches into the Tree and pulls out the Torah. She hugs it to her and kisses it.)