Sing is a short play written by playwright Nick Stokes in response to Psalm 22, verses 14-18. This work was premiered by Spark and Echo Arts on July 15, 2011, in New York City as part of evening sponsored by the Center for Faith and Work entitled “Artist and Beauty: Illuminating the Word.”
1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
2 O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying ,
8 He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts.
10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.
11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
This passage tapped into my surreal vein, or what I call surreal, which is more what people mean by surreal than what the art world classifies as Surreal. So, surreal. My first impressions of the passage were paranoia, claustrophobia, persecution, despair, exhibition, voyeurism, display.
On display, surrounded, people staring, casting lots…this performing or feeling like you’re performing…this personal stage fright and existential stage fright…this being crucified led to the quasi-metatheatrical twist.
Who has forsaken she? Is She forsaken? Is He? Where’s the power? What do we demand of that power? What are the audience’s expectations? Who are we performing for, and what for? What does She need to sing? Why sing?
The play plays with notions of freedom, perpetuity, entrapment, progress, and (old school) how to live right – how to sing? And…is the world what you encounter or create or fake? Put on a happy face. Sing.
Nick Stokes is a playwright and author living outside Seattle who sometimes packs mules in the wilderness of Montana.