I am writing a cycle of plays for each House of The College at Saint Constantine.
The Houses are named for Saint Anne, Saint Lucy, Saint Helen, and Elizabeth, New Martyr. I began with Elizabeth, princess, Grand Duchess, nun, and martyr. The atheists killed her, because her work with the poor made her intolerable. Every day she showed their agitprop was a lie.
Each play (or each House) begins with a Prelude with elements of the School Song (JAC Redford and Timothy Bartel). As we celebrate All Hallows’ and All Saints I give you a piece of the prelude and the first act. Here we find Elizabeth with members of her family and the Nun Barbara in a mine shaft where the Bolsheviks have thrown them. We know from history that they lived, sang, and prayed.
Prelude to the Cycle:
. . .
Constantine: Before the End, there was the beginning of the end, when restraints were removed and men of sin chased shadows fleeing the light.
Choir: “But when the world grew aged and cruel and rulers mocked their God once more, Elizabeth descended to the martyrs dying in the ore. She wound their wounds and sang them home. Now they that serve as she are hounds who sprint with diligence to show each tempted tyrant juster bounds.”
Elizabeth: Before Paradise there was one single hour, when the hound of Heaven stood between us and the cruelty of a senile world. They threw grenades and we sang.
Constantine: Could you not appeal to Caesar?
Elizabeth: The Orthodox Tsar was dead, martyred by atheists.
Constantine: Could you not raise a host?
Elizabeth: I raised a host of warriors, sisters of prayer, who fought the all-powerful forces of atheism with the power of mercy, service, and love.
Act I The World Grows Aged and Cruel
Barbara: Dark. Mother so dark.
Elizabeth: And cold. Wet, cold.
Ioann: Mother. Ella. Mother?
Elizabeth: Here. What is wrong?
Ioann: I think, I think I am broken, Mother.
Elizabeth: Can you move? Can you come closer?
Ioann: No. Mother? Help. Please. I cannot move.
Elizabeth: Maybe I can. Keep talking.
Ioann: (groans) Talking of the end of all the splendor, the light, the glory. All blown to bits.
Barbara: Not that, Prince Ioann. Do not mention that.
Elizabeth: All is well, Sister Barbara. All is well. Is this you, Ioann?
Ioann: Yes. What’s left of me.
Elizabeth: You will see God soon. (Rips robe) Here. (Binds wounds). Better?
Ioann: Not so much better. The pain doesn’t end with the explosion or my last words, this pain keeps going on and on. God. Mother. I planned my last words, Mother.
Elizabeth: Did you?
Ioann: I did. I thought that when the Reds came to shoot me, I would get a last moment and would talk. I have picked some classic last words:
“Where once amusement, joy, and love
Shined all together with good health,
Now there the blood is freezing in our veins,
Our souls are plagued by grief.
Where once a feast was spread a coffin lies,
The place where festive singing rang
Now hears but graveside keening,
And pale death watches over all.”
I always had time to talk in my thoughts, but as it was, they threw me here and blew me up. Mother?
Elizabeth: (laughs) Your idea was traditional, but a bit long I think. Maybe singing is better when death lingers.
Ioann: (coughs) Perhaps. Mother?
Ioann: Is the blessed hope true. Is the Gospel?
Elizabeth: All of it. Every blessed promise. (She sings.)
Have mercy on Thy servant Ioann. (repeatedly) Thy hands have made me and fashioned me; give me understanding and I will learn Thy commandments. They that fear Thee shall seem and be glad, for on Thy words have I set my hope.
I have known, O Lord, that Thy judgments are righteousness, and with truth hast Thou humbled me.
Ioann: Oh Mother. Oh God. That is for a funeral.
Elizabeth: We are dying my Prince, Sergei, Igor are with God . . . We are going.
Ioann: O God.
Barbara: Is this how all our work ends?
Elizabeth: This is how our work begins . . .
The entire play will premiere at Saint Joseph Orthodox Church on December 7, 2019 at 7:00 PM