Multidisciplinary artist Lauren Ferebee responds to Psalm 137 through her theatrical film.
Artist Curated by
1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
2 We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
3 For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying , Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
4 How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land?
5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning .
6 If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
7 Remember, O LORD , the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it , rase it, even to the foundation thereof.
8 O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be , that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.
9 Happy shall he be , that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
In thinking about Psalm 137, I was struck by the phrase “daughter Babylon” – the female personification of land, which is a theme that recurs in history and in literature – the female body as a space to be mapped, conquered, and known. I thought about this in relationship to the psalm's overall discussion of self-silencing – the act of not wanting to sing for those that keep you captive, and yet knowing that if you don’t sing for long enough, if you are silent for long enough, you will forget your song.
“while in a foreign land” explores what silence does to memory: how the real violence in the act of conquering and destruction is an act of forgetting. I deconstructed this narrative to look at small pieces of it from different points in time, overlaid with video highlighting different aspects of the female body in space and how we respond to it.
In particular, I examined the narrative of sex slavery in our culture, and how we distance ourselves from its brutal reality. I struggled with that even in researching it. Learning about young – very young, impossibly young – girls being tortured, drugged, and kidnapped all over the world (even in our country) was a wake-up call for me. Women distanced from their bodies even as they are defined by their bodies.
This piece is only the beginning of a long examination of everything I found when I started digging – the beginning of my artistic confrontation with the subjugation of women’s bodies, and the way that global patriarchy systematically condones the separation of women from their deepest selves, through violence, through language, through culture, ultimately resulting in their decision to silence themselves, as the speakers of Psalm 137 choose to silence themselves, even as they fear forgetting the roots of their songs.
Lauren Ferebee is a Texan native and a multidisciplinary artist whose primary mediums are playwriting and installation/video art.
Most recently, her play The Reckless Season was selected for Stage West’s Southwest Playwriting Competition Festival of New Works, and her alternative screwball comedy Sexual Geography was a finalist for the Reva Shiner Comedy Award at the Bloomington Playwrights’ Project. In 2014, she was a juried fellow at Saltonstall Arts Colony, a semifinalist for the Shakespeare’s Sister fellowship and the first theatre-artist-in-residence at HUB-BUB in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where in addition to writing, she did community-based theatre work.
Her most recent work includes Sexual Geography (developed at HUB-BUB), The Reckless Season (The Spartanburg Little Theatre/HUB-BUB), Somewhere Safer (FringeNYC 2013, Inkwell finalist), and Blood Quantum (At Hand Theatre & WET Productions). Three of her short plays, jericho, jericho, Bob Baker’s End of the World and The Pirate King are published online at indietheaternow.com, where Somewhere Safer is also published as part of the 2013 Fringe Collection.
She is a member of playwriting collective Lather, Rinse, Repeat, and studied playwriting, screenwriting and television writing at Primary Stages/ESPA. Lauren also has regional and NYC credits as an actress on stage and in film, and from 2007-2010 was co-artistic director of a site-specific classical theatre company, Rebellious Subjects Theatre. She especially enjoys acting in and teaching Shakespeare and working on new plays. She holds a BFA in drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.