The EDSS gym will be converted into an Arabian marketplace where the audience can interact with the players as the drama department stages a production of 1001 Arabian Nights beginning next Thursday.
The theatrical offering is based on medieval Middle East literary epic “The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night,” from whence comes such classic characters as Aladdin, Sinbad and Ali Baba.
A Persian sultan, King Shahryar, whose first wife was unfaithful, mistrusts all women. After executing the first wife, each day he marries another woman, killing her each night before she can betray him. Eventually, he is wed to Scheherazade, who comes up with a plan to avoid the fate of so many before her: to delay her execution, she tells the king a story on their first night together and begins a second one, careful to stop before the end. The sultan eagerly awaits the conclusion of the story the following night. After 1,001 nights of stories of honor, revenge, humor and fantasy, he makes her his queen.
Being bright, Scheherazade tells stories that gradually alter the king’s outlook on life, ultimately leading him to spare her life and to become a better, more compassionate ruler.
“Scheherazade stalls the beheading by telling a story every night until the king learns a lesson about treating people nicely,” explained DJ Carroll, who heads the drama department at Elmira District Secondary School.
Staging 1001 Arabian Nights is a major undertaking, one he chose to mark his tenth year at the school. Some 60 students get in on the act, which mixes some of the stories with live music and dancing.
“We won’t be doing all 1,001 stories,” he laughed.
Among the tales presented will be the well-known Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
Others include the story of the greedy merchants, the ox and the donkey, and the emperor and the demon.
Centuries old, the stories still deliver a message that resonates with audiences, he said.
“It’s a great family show, because the stories appeal to everyone. And the lessons are as timely now as they were then.”
Scheherazade’s stories tell of a just ruler who pardons his subjects, about women of virtue and wisdom and self-sacrificing love, about men caught up in foolish pride who mistake these women for monsters or dismiss them without cause. The play ends with the sultan, in a spirit of repentance and humility, professing his love and devotion to Scheherazade.
Call it self-improvement, the kind many of us could benefit from.
Along with learning a moral or two, the audience will get a chance to participate in the goings-on.
“There’s plenty of opportunity for people to get involved – it’s a very interactive story,” said Carroll.
Because of the staging, the audience will be immersed in the world of those Arabian nights.
“The costumes are amazing. We have live music that really sets the mood.
“My favourite part is where we have a dance routine that has every actor out on stage – it’s amazing to see 60 people out dancing to the same choreography.”
Think of a Bollywood scene moved to points west, namely to Persia.
Actually, the original stories draw on Indian influences, as well as ancient and medieval Arabic, Persian, Egyptian and Mesopotamian folklore and literature.
In the stage production, the mix is all about fun and entertainment.
The EDSS drama department’s production of 1001 Arabian Nights will be transporting audiences back in time Dec. 9-11. Evening shows at 7:30 p.m., with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. (which features a family pass for $15).
For more information, contact the drama department at 519-669-5414, ext. 415.