Hassan works as a scholar in the House of Wisdom specializing in translating legends. She spends her days alongside her father and twin. Together they are all living a dangerous secret. It is 13th century Bagdad at the height of Islamic civilization and women are forbidden in the House of Wisdom, so Hassan and her sister are posing as men. The daughters are living a protected and peaceful life, yet Hassan dreams of travelling the world. The arrival of a new scholar expands Hassan’s horizons, but will he jeopardize her secret identity as well as her future? When ransacking Mongols descend, the city is thrust into chaos. The scholars are frantic, trying to decide which manuscripts to save. In this confusion and panic, both sisters are discovered to be women. With death, sacrifice, and loss surrounding Hassan on all sides, she must decide the direction of her own story. A storyteller and ensemble provide narration and bring life to the stories Hassan has recently translated. About 45 minutes.
PLAYWRIGHTS JILL HENSON and MELONIE MENEFEE TALK ABOUT "RIVERS OF INK"
Q: WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THIS PLAY?
JILL: I have always loved telling stories, especially things long forgotten. With this story, we were able to re-imagine a true event and celebrate the value of the art simultaneously.
MELONIE: Jill and I are both avid readers, and we had both, individually, dreamed of doing some writing of our own for several years. Additionally, we both love theatre and we both (especially Jill) love history and stories. Writing “Rivers of Ink” was a way for us to combine all of these.
Q: WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE PART OR LINE IN THE PLAY? WHY?
JILL: My favorite part of the story is where Hassan describes to Nasir the interwoven relationship of all humans with the metaphor of the tapestries.
MELONIE: My favorite part of the play is when Abdul sends Hassan and Nasir away to save themselves while he himself stays behind, sacrificing his life. He knew he would not be able to keep up and slow them down, and it was more important to him that they be safe. He spent his life doing whatever he needed to do to keep his daughters close to him, and in the end, he was willing to sacrifice his life to help save his remaining daughter.
Q: WHERE DID THE CHARACTERS COME FROM? ARE THEY BASED ON PEOPLE YOU KNOW?
JILL: The characters come from imagination, and a desire to fit the actors we knew we would be working with. I have always had a special relationship with my own father, who is now deceased, and his encouragement in all my endeavors had a large influence on the relationship between Hassan and Abdul.
MELONIE: Other than Scheherazade, who was taken loosely from literature, the characters came about in a way that allowed us to tell this series of stories.
Q: WHAT DID YOU TRY TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS PLAY?
JILL: Melonie and I really wanted to create a new type of story in a setting we hadn't experienced or seen on stage before. We wanted the characters to be real, with real problems and real relationships, yet we still wanted to give the script ample possibility for theatrical ensemble work.
MELONIE: We wanted to tell stories - to tell many stories - in a way that opened the eyes of those watching as well as of our students performing. We live in a small, rural community, and theatre is one way that we try to open the eyes of our students and our community to other parts of the world, to people who are different than who they encounter in their daily lives, and to ideas that challenge their way of thinking.