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Summary:  A faithful retelling of the Biblical account of Ruth and Naomi.  It is clearly be set in the period, but there are self-conscious and unashamed anachronisms in the set and in the script.  This will help remind the audience that the ideas and themes of the story are still relevant today (family ties, loyalty, love and loss, displacement, attitudes towards immigrants, faith and hope).
The leitmotiv of music and songs runs through the play.  This comes across clearly in both the prologue and epilogue with passing references in the script itself.  The original production included a song by Malcolm Guite specially written for the play.  Verses were played at key moments between certain scenes, reinforcing the themes, and a couple of them were even sung by Naomi herself.
I haven't included the song here, but I am sure that if anyone else wanted to use the script, Malcolm would be pleased to provide the music and song, too.

Style: Dramatic.  Duration: 60min

Actors: 6+F, 6+M

Characters
Naomi -  elderly, worn down, faithful, clever, cunning?
Orpah -    slightly older than Ruth, but married the second son, loving
Ruth -    young, strong-willed, faithful, hardworking, shunned, dignified, watchful/fearful
Abigail - one of the women at the well, gossip, more reasonable, tries to keep the peace between the two others
Hannah - one of the women at the well, gossip, cynical
Rachel -  one of the women at the well, gossip, “religious”, self-righteous
Boaz -    older man, rich, successful in his work, unmarried? devout, responsible, caring, astute
Jedidiah - Boaz’s foreman, loyal, hardworking
Harvesters - rough and ready, young men, work hard, play hard
Servant Girls -    young women, flirtatious, keep together
Phinehas - elder of the village, self important
Zebadiah - elder of the village, self important
Giddel - elder of the village, self important
Eliphaz - the other kinsman redeemer, younger than Boaz, more eligible, looks out for own interests

Script

Scene 1 (prologue)
(Naomi is lit by a single narrow spot.  She is holding a baby and talking to him.  Gentle incidental music plays while Naomi speaks.)

Naomi:
My mother always used to sing me songs – right from the day I was born, so I am told.  Her songs shaped my childhood, happy songs, full of joy.
And then when I had children – two fine boys – I sang those songs to them.  Life was good in our village – surrounded by friends, family, my husband, a good man, and of course, my boys.  We had to work hard – we all had to work hard farming our land – but there was always laughter and music…
But then one year, the rains didn’t come.  The crops failed and there was no food.  My songs became prayers, but nothing changed.  My husband decided we should move.  He took us across the border – there was food there.  We settled in a new village.  It was never home, but when my boys grew up they met and married local girls – nice girls, good girls who became like daughters to me – and so we stayed.  The boys were happy.  I started dreaming of grandchildren and my songs started to come back to me. But then came more disaster.  First my husband died.  Then both my sons.  The songs stopped.

(The music stops suddenly)

Scene 2
(Lights fade up to reveal a bedroom scene.  Naomi is sitting on the bed.  She looks at the 3 photos beside her bed and then slowly starts to pack her suitcase.  Enter Orpah and Ruth.)

Orpah:
So it is true then.

Ruth:
But why, Naomi?  Why?

Naomi:
There’s nothing here for me now.

Orpah:
What about us?

Naomi:
Orpah, Ruth, it’s true, you have become like daughters to me.  But your place is here.  You are still young.  In time your grieving will cease and you will be able to marry men from your own country.  You no longer need me.

Ruth:
But we could go with you.

Naomi:
No.  Your place is here with your family.

Ruth:
But you are our family.  We are your family.

Naomi:
I must go home.

Orpah:
But Moab is your home.

Naomi:
Not anymore.  We were only ever staying here until times got better…  Time has not been kind to me.  First my husband and then my two sons.  Maybe we should never have come.

Orpah:
You can’t say that.  What about us?  Have we not meant anything to you?

Naomi:
Orpah, I’m sorry.  Don’t get me wrong.  I couldn’t have wished for better daughters.  I will never forget your love to me – in the good times and now in these darker days.  Try to understand me.  I am doing this for you.  My future is in Bethlehem, my homeland.  Your future stretches out before you here in your homeland.

(Naomi takes Orpah and Ruth in her arms)

Naomi:
Go now.  Go with my blessing.

(Orpah hugs Naomi)

Orpah:
I love you.  I will never forget you.

(Orpah exits)

Naomi:
Go on, Ruth.  Follow your sister.

Ruth:
I won’t.  I can’t.  I want to stay with you.

Naomi:
That is very sweet of you, Ruth.  But there is no point.  What are you going to do?  Wait until I have another son for you to marry?  Even if I had a son tomorrow, would you be prepared to wait around until he grew old enough for you to marry him?

Ruth:
Don’t make fun of me, Naomi.

Naomi:
I’m not.  I just don’t want you to waste your life.

Ruth:
I’m not.

Naomi:
Ruth, think of your…

Ruth:
No.  This is not about me getting remarried and having my own family.  It’s more than that.  You’ve shown me something I don’t ever want to leave behind…  The way you live… Your God…  I want to be part of it.

Naomi:
Oh, Ruth…  I’m not sure I’m even part of it anymore.

Ruth:
But you are.  I can still see it in you.  You’re strong, Naomi.  Don’t try and stop me.  I am going to stay with you.  Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.

Naomi:
But the journey will be long and dangerous.

Ruth:
Even more reason for me to join you.  You cannot travel alone.  Come on, I will help you finish packing.

(Lights fade as the 2 women finish packing the suitcase)

Scene 3
(Early evening.  A well just outside Bethlehem.  Abigail, Hannah and Rachel  enter, talking animatedly)

Abigail:
Another fine day, can you believe it?

Hannah:
It’s looking good for the barley harvest this year.

Abigail:
And for the wheat harvest after that, thank God.

Rachel:
Yes, the Lord has been good this year.

Hannah:
And about time, too.

Rachel:
Hannah, don’t talk like that.

Hannah:
Well, why shouldn’t I?  Ten years we’ve been crying out to him, and crop after crop has failed.  It’s about time he showed us some mercy.

Rachel:
But, Hannah…

Abigail:
Oh, just leave her be, Rachel.  She’s suffered more than most.  Maybe she has a right to complain.

Rachel:
We’ve all suffered, Abi.  (Brighter)  But it looks as though better times are back.  The Lord is looking with favour on us again.

Hannah:
If you want to call it that.  Maybe it’s just nature…  Maybe it’s just that we chose the wrong god.

Rachel:
Hannah, how could you?

Abigail:
Don’t rise to her.  She knows what you’re like.  She’s just saying it to wind you up.

Hannah:
Or maybe there’s some truth in what I say.  The neighbouring countries didn’t have it so bad – look at Moab.  Maybe their gods are better at looking after them.  Maybe old Elimelech was right taking his family over there.

Rachel:
I don’t know.  It didn’t seem right to me – leaving your own village, your own country, just like that.

Hannah:
What’s so wrong with that?  Didn’t Jacob and his family do the same thing when they went down to Egypt?

Rachel:
That wasn’t the same thing.  This wasn’t our country back in those days.

Hannah:
And what difference does that make?  Some country this is.  Some Promised Land this has turned out to be.

(Rachel is about to say something when Abigail intervenes)

Abigail:
You two, let’s not fall out over this.  Forget the past.  The harvest is nearly ready.  The crops are looking good.  Put it down to whatever you want; let’s just be happy.  Come on, if we don’t hurry up and get our water, it’ll be dark.

(They draw water.  Enter Naomi and Ruth, heads bowed, tired after their long journey. Ruth is supporting Naomi.  Ruth remains quiet throughout the scene – shy and nervous as she comes into a new culture for the first time.)

Naomi:
Good evening, ladies.  Could I trouble you to draw us some water?

Rachel (suspicious):
You’re not from round here.

Naomi:
I used to be… many years…

Ruth:
Please.  We have come a long way.  My mother-in-law is very tired.

Abigail (incredulously):
Naomi?  Naomi, is that you?

(Naomi looks up)

Hannah:
It is!  I’d recognise that face anywhere!  Quick, Rachel.  Fetch some water.

(Rachel fetches some water.  She gives it to Naomi who drinks it slowly and then passes it to Ruth)

Abigail:
But where’s Elimelech?…  Where is your husband, Naomi?  (Naomi does not answer.  She is crying)  Naomi?

Naomi:
Don’t call me that.  Naomi means “happy”.  My life is far from happy.  Elimelech is dead.

Hannah:
And your sons?  Mahlon?  Kilion?

Naomi:
The same.

Abigail:
Oh, Naomi…

Naomi (angry):
I said, don’t call me that.  The Lord has dealt me a bitter blow.  Call me something more appropriate…  Mara, that means “bitter”.  Call me Mara.

(The 3 other women are silent)

Naomi (more softly):
Thank you for the water.  Come, Ruth.  We must find my house.

(Exit Naomi and Ruth)

Abigail:
Well, would you believe it?  Naomi is back.

Rachel:
I said it wasn’t right – her leaving the village like she did.  The Lord has punished her.

Hannah:
Rachel, how could you?

Abigail:
Maybe she’s right, Hannah.  I mean, her husband and both her sons.  It’s got to mean something, hasn’t it?

Rachel:
And who was that girl with her?

Hannah:
She called her mother-in-law.  She must be the widow of one of her sons.

Rachel:
But her sons weren’t married when they left.

Abigail (contemptuously):
So they married a Moabite woman?

Rachel:
Well, there you go – even more reason.

Hannah:
But what’s she doing coming here?  Naomi I can understand.  This is her home – her roots.  She knows she’ll be looked after here.  But the girl from Moab?  Why didn’t she stay back there?

Rachel:
She’s a foreign widow come to take advantage of our system, that’s why.  And Naomi’s brought her here.  She’s a traitor to her country.

Abigail (to herself):
Poor Naomi.  No good can come of this.

(The women exit)

Scene 4
(Naomi’s house.  Dimly lit.  2 chairs and a table are on stage)

(Enter Naomi and Ruth.  Naomi is bustling around – her over cheerful garrulousness perhaps covering up her concerns.  Ruth is quiet and pensive)

Naomi:
That’s it.  Just put the bags down there for now.   (She looks around) Well, it’s not quite how I remember it, but it will do.  It won’t take long to freshen things up – a bit of a sweep and polish, a vase of flowers – it will soon look like home.  Come on, Ruth.  Let’s sit down for a bit.  We could do with putting our feet up for a bit.  (She sits down, Ruth stays standing) Ooh (she winces).  Now that’s when you start to notice your blisters.  I shan’t be making that journey again in a hurry.  Ruth?  Come on.  Sit down.  What’s the matter?

(Ruth sits down and then breaks into sobs of quiet tears, holding her face in her hands)

Naomi:
Ruth?  What is it?  What’s wrong?  Oh, I’m sorry.  I didn’t think…  I shouldn’t have brought you here.  I should have made you stay back home with your sister.

Ruth (interrupting):
No, Naomi.  You know I always feel at home when I am with you.

Naomi:
Then what is it, love?

(Ruth shakes her head)

Naomi:
You must tell me, my dear.  I want to you to be happy here.  I want to help.

Ruth:
Did you see them?  The way they looked at me?

Naomi:
Who?  What are you talking about?

Ruth:
Those women at the well.

Naomi:
Them?  What do you mean?

Ruth:
They looked at me… as if I don’t belong…

Naomi (a little too quickly):
Nonsense.  You’re tired.  It was a long journey.  You’re just imagining things.

Ruth:
But I saw it in their eyes, Naomi.  I heard it in their tone.  I’m not stupid.  I saw how some people in my village looked at you.  (There is a silence) I don’t belong…

Naomi:
Now that is nonsense.  You are my daughter and I’ll not have it said otherwise.  You’re here with me and if I belong here then so do you.  Come on; let me make you a nice cup of tea.  (She gets up and sorts out a drink)  And anyway, don’t you worry about those women.  They’re all talk.  They’re decent women deep down.  They’ve just had things tough over these past few years.  They’ll soon come round – you’ll see.  Things will work out – they always do, don’t they?  (Sighs) The Lord will provide…  At any rate, things surely can’t get much worse…

(There is another silence)

Ruth:
But what are we going to do?

Naomi:
What do you mean?

Ruth:
What are we going to do to make things work?  How are we going to make ends meet?

Naomi:
There’ll be jobs.  I can clean and mend clothes.

Ruth:
And so can all the other women here.  Besides, that won’t bring in enough money.

Naomi:
Well what do you suggest?

Ruth:
I don’t know…  Don’t you still own some land?

Naomi:
Yes, but it hasn’t been farmed for years.  We won’t get a harvest out of it this year.  Anyway, between the two of us, we’re hardly fit for farming.

Ruth:
I wasn’t thinking about farming it.  I was thinking of selling it.

Naomi:
Selling it?  Don’t even think of such a thing.  It would be like selling one of my own family.  Besides, no one would want to take it on right now – not with harvest about to happen.

Ruth:
Well, what about harvest?  There must be some need for harvesters.

Naomi:
No chance.  All the landowners will have their own workers.

Ruth:
But there must be something…

Naomi:
Well, there is… No.  No.  That wouldn’t be...

Ruth:
What?  What is there?

Naomi:
Oh, it’s an old tradition… something called gleaning… comes from the Law of Moses.

Ruth:
What is it?

Naomi:
During harvest, landowners are instructed not to harvest all of their crops.  They leave some at the edges of the fields – for widows, orphans and foreigners to pick.  A rather quaint way of providing for the poor without them having to beg.

Ruth:
Well, that’s it.  That will keep us going for a few months at least.

Naomi:
What are you suggesting?

Ruth:
Gleaning.

Naomi:
But… but…  I wasn’t seriously…  I mean it’s bac- breaking work, Ruth.

Ruth:
You don’t need to, Naomi.  I’m young and fit enough.  Let me do this for you – for both of us.

Naomi:
But, Ruth, it’s not for the likes of…

Ruth:
Who? Widows and orphans and foreigners?  You yourself said it, Naomi.  I’d say it fits us perfectly.

Naomi:
But…

Ruth:
We’ve got no choice.  As soon as the harvest starts, I’ll go out into the fields.  It’s like you said – “The Lord will provide.”

(Naomi drops her head into her hands and weeps silently.  Black out)

Scene 5
(Early evening.  At the well)

Hannah:
Have you seen anything of Naomi recently?

Rachel:
Don’t you mean Mara?

Abigail:
Don’t mock.  It can’t be easy for her coming back.  I don’t think she’s been out at all in the past few days.

Rachel:
I’ve seen that Moabite girl out, though.  I’ve seen her a couple of times  - once coming out here about midday and then another time coming back from here early in the morning.

Abigail:
Keeps herself to herself, then.

Rachel:
Well, wouldn’t you?

Hannah:
She can’t be all bad, then.

Rachel:
What do you mean?

Hannah:
Well, she’s clearly looking after Naomi.

Rachel:
She’s got no choice.

Hannah:
Of course she has.  She didn’t have to come here did she?

Rachel:
Don’t get me started on that one…

Hannah:
No, I don’t mean it like that.  I’ve been thinking.  She could have stayed back in Moab – I presume she’s still got family over there.  There are plenty of young Moabite men she could have remarried – and God knows, they must be in a better condition than our sorry lot after all the years we’ve been through.  She’s obviously made a choice to come here with Naomi.

Rachel:
Yes, like I said before, to take advantage of our system.

Hannah:
No.  Maybe it’s out of loyalty… or love…

Rachel:
Pah!

Abigail:
Oh Rachel, calm down.  Maybe Hannah’s got a point.

Rachel:
Hark at you!  You’re no lover of foreigners, are you?

Abigail:
No, but maybe we give her a chance.  We owe it to Naomi.

Rachel:
We owe Naomi nothing.  She left the village, remember – ran off when the going got tough.

Abigail:
She had no choice.  She had to go with her husband and her family.  And now they’re gone, she’s got nothing.  She needs us.

Rachel:
She’s got the Moabite.

Abigail:
All the more reason for us to be there for her.  We can’t let a foreigner think we can’t look after our own.

Rachel:
Well you go and do your charity bit.  I am not convinced by any of this.  Think back to your history.  Whenever foreigners have been allowed to settle in our land, they have tainted our ways and God has punished us for it.

Hannah:
Rachel!

Rachel:
We’ve suffered enough recently.  I don’t want to risk any more of it.  I would have thought that you of all people, Hannah, would understand that.

(Rachel exits.  Hannah is about to go after her)

Abigail:
Just leave her, Hannah.  You know what she’s like when she gets into these moods.

Hannah:
So what do we do then?

Abigail:
About what?

Hannah:
About anything.  Rachel, Naomi, the Moabite…

Abigail:
I think we’d best leave everything be and watch what happens.  Besides, there’ll be no time for anything else now.  It’ll be all hands on deck for the next few weeks.  My Jed tells me Boaz is starting the barley harvest tomorrow.

(They exit.  Blackout)

Scene 6
(Approaching midday.  Boaz’s field)

Boaz:
Jed, it’s looking good.

Jed:
It certainly is, sir.  We’ve finally got a harvest worth celebrating.

Boaz:
The Lord is good.

Jed:
This year…  Where has he been for the last 10?

Boaz:
Don’t doubt him.  There will have been a plan.  There always is.

Jed:
How can you be so sure, sir?

Boaz:
You need to learn your history, son.  Do you not remember the story of Joseph and his brothers?  Joseph sold as a slave by his brothers – but then him rising to power in Egypt meant that he could save his family when famine hit, and by extension, ultimately save our people.  You see, Jedidiah, there is always a bigger picture – the Lord has a plan.

Jed (slightly sarcastic):
Thank you for that lesson, Rabbi.  The next time I need a sermon, I’ll know where to come.

Boaz:
It’s a good thing you are so good at your job, Jed.  I’m not sure I could put up with that level of disrespect otherwise.

Jed:
Sorry, sir.  I just…

Boaz:
Ah, leave it.  You’re all right.  You just need a bit more faith!

(There is a moment of silence.  The 2 men look out across the fields)

Boaz:
The harvesters are working well.  You chose your men wisely, Jed.

Jed:
Thank you, sir.  But you know they always work well for you.

Boaz:
Nonsense.  As I said earlier, you do your job well.  You have chosen wisely.

Jed:
It’s nearly midday, sir.  Shall I call them in?

Boaz:
Yes.  It has been particularly hot today.  They could do with an early break.

(Jedidiah is about to leave.  Boaz notices something across the field.  He stops Jedidiah)

Boaz:
Jed.  Wait.  Who is that over there?

Jed:
One of the gleaners, sir.

Boaz:
But she’s on her own.  Is she not aware of the dangers of working alone?

Jed:
She’s not a local, sir.  I believe she is the Moabite girl – Naomi’s daughter-in-law.

Boaz:
Naomi?  Elimelech’s wife?

Jed:
I believe so, sir.

Boaz:
I wasn’t aware they had returned.

Jed:
They haven’t.  At least not all of them.  Apparently Elimelech, Mahlon and Kilion all died out in Moab.  Naomi returned and the Moabite girl accompanied her.

Boaz:
You seem to know a lot about the village gossip.

Jed:
My mother saw them at the well a few weeks back.

Boaz (knowingly):
Ah.  (Pause.  Boaz is still looking out across the field)  She holds herself with great dignity.

Jed:
My mother, sir?

Boaz:
No.  Well…yes… she does.  But I meant the Moabite girl.

Jed:
She’s been working like that all day, sir.  Hardly stopped for a rest.

Boaz:
Interesting.  She came with Naomi, you say?

Jed:
Yes.  It appears she has taken to looking after Naomi – according to my mother.  Naomi hardly ever leaves the house, but she provides for them both.

Boaz:
She won’t provide much if she carries on working so far behind the others.  I shall have a word with her.  Jedidiah, call them all in now.

Jed:
Very good, sir.

(They exit)

Scene 7
(Middle of the day.  Boaz’s barn)

(The harvesters enter with Jed, talking about their morning’s work.  They settle down, open up their rucksacks and start eating their packed lunches.  The servant girls come in next.  The men direct flirtatious comments towards them.  The girls laugh coyly amongst themselves but they ignore the men and chat amongst themselves.  Lastly, Ruth slips in quietly and sits by herself.  There is a general atmosphere of good humour and well being.  Ruth, though, is very obviously isolated from all of this.)

(Enter Boaz.  He approaches the men)

Boaz:
The Lord be with you!  I hear from Jed that you deserve this.  (He pours out drinks for them.)

Harvesters:
The Lord bless you, sir.

(Boaz approaches the servant girls)

Boaz:
The Lord be with you, my daughters.  Have some of this.  You must be thirsty after your morning’s work.  (He pours out drinks for them.)

Servant Girls:
Thank you, sir.  The Lord bless you too.

(Boaz approaches Ruth)

Boaz:
I have heard good things about you, my daughter.  Please have some of this.  (He pours her a drink)

(Ruth makes as if to decline, but Boaz insists.  She accepts the drink)

Ruth:
Thank you, sir.

Boaz:
Listen, it is not safe for you to glean alone as you have been doing.  Stay near my servant girls when you work.  They will look after you.

Ruth:
Thank you, sir.

Boaz:
And make sure you stay working in my fields – right up to the end of the harvest season.  I will ensure you are well looked after.

Ruth:
Thank you, sir.  But you don’t have to.  I’m not looking for any favours.

Boaz:
Then all the more credit to you, my daughter.

Ruth (slightly embarrassed, aware that others may be watching her):
Please, sir.  I am a...  I don’t deserve…

Boaz:
I am sorry.  I don’t want to embarrass you.  (Pause)  I have heard what you have done for your mother-in-law.  May the Lord reward you for your love and faithfulness to her.  (Pause)  Please, take my offer seriously.  It is offered in good faith and with honourable intent.

Ruth:
Thank you, sir.

(Boaz gets up from talking to Ruth and walks over to the harvesters)

Boaz:
Jedidiah, make sure your men leave the Moabite girl alone.

Jedidiah:
Yes, sir.

Boaz:
Even if she starts to gather from the sheaves, leave her be.  You understand?

Jedidiah:
Yes, sir.

Boaz:
And make sure she gathers enough grain for herself and her mother-in-law.  If needs be, pull out a few ears from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up.

Jedidiah:
As you say, sir.

(Boaz exits.  Blackout)


Scene 8
(Evening.  Naomi’s house)

(Naomi is sitting in her armchair.  Ruth enters carrying a big sack)

Naomi:
Ruth?  Is that you?

Ruth:
Yes.

Naomi (she gets up):
Well, how was it?  How did you…?  (She notices Ruth’s sack)  No.  Is that all…?  I mean, did you manage to pick all that?

(Ruth nods, happy but clearly exhausted)

Naomi:
But that is fantastic.  How did you become an expert so soon?  You’ve picked so much!  (Ruth is about to speak)  Oh, my child, forgive me.  You must sit down.  Let me get you a drink and then you can tell me all about it.

(Ruth sits down, the sack in front of her.  Naomi brings her a drink.  She looks again at the sack)

Naomi:
Oh, I can hardly believe it.  Just look at it all!  Where did you get it?  Whose field did you work in?  God bless the man whoever he is.

Ruth (laughing):
Naomi, slow down!  Just pause for breath a minute and I’ll tell you everything.  The field I worked in today belonged to a man called Boaz.

Naomi:
No!

Ruth:
What is it now?

Naomi:
Boaz, you say?  Are you sure?

Ruth:
Yes.

Naomi:
Why, the Lord has not forgotten us after all!  He is showing us kindness even in our deepest misery.  Of all the fields you could have chosen, he led you to Boaz!

Ruth:
What do you mean?

Naomi:
Why, Boaz, my child.  He is our kinsman redeemer!

Ruth:
Our what?

Naomi:
Our kinsm…  Ah, sorry.  I forget.  It’s one of our old traditions – from the law God gave to Moses.  It’s a bit complicated, but it’s a way of making sure a man’s land stays in the family – a relative buys it to protect the widow and children and…  and Boaz is a relative of my husband.  He is the one who can restore our fortune.

(Ruth looks bemused by all this)

Naomi:
Tell me, did he notice you?  How did he act?  Did he say anything to you?

Ruth:
Yes, he did.  At midday he came up to me during our lunch break.

Naomi:
What did he say?  What did he say?

Ruth:
He told me to stay near to his servant girls and to keep working in his field until the end of the harvest.

Naomi:
And how was he?  What was his tone?  His manner?

Ruth:
He seemed very kind.  Very generous.

Naomi:
Praise God!  Praise God!  This is it!  This is our chance!

Ruth:
But I still don’t…

Naomi:
Hush.  Don’t worry about it now.  You just do what the man said – stay working in his fields with his servant girls.  The rest will just work itself out…  It’s like I said before – the Lord will provide!  Now come on, help me take this sack into the kitchen.  We’ve got some bread to bake.

(Ruth and Naomi exit)

Scene 9
(Early evening.  At the well)

Abigail:
You’ll never guess what I heard…

Hannah:
What?

Abigail:
…Coming from Naomi’s house…

Hannah:
What?

Abigail:
Singing.

Hannah:
What?

Abigail:
Singing.

Hannah:
I heard you the first time.

Abigail:
But don’t you get it?

Hannah:
Get what?  Naomi always sings.

Rachel:
Always used to sing.

Abigail:
Exactly.

Rachel:
Here at the well – songs about the old stories – it’s where I learnt my history.

Abigail:
But since she’s been back, she hasn’t sung at all… Until now.

Hannah:
I still don’t understand what you’re trying to get at.

Abigail:
It must mean the good times are back.  Remember when she arrived: (mimicking) “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara – that means bitter.”

Hannah:
You mean she’s found a new…

Rachel:
No.  She can’t have done.  She hasn’t left the house.  And no one goes in or out except that Moabite girl.

Abigail:
It’s Ruth.

Hannah:
What?

Rachel:
Who?

Abigail:
The Moabite’s name is Ruth.  And it must be Ruth that has brought the good times back for Naomi.

Rachel:
But she’s a…

Abigail:
Don’t start that again.  The Lord can use foreigners.  Remember Rahab?  Or did you conveniently forget that from your history lessons?

Hannah:
But…

Abigail:
Listen.  If Ruth has brought some happiness back to our sister, Naomi, then maybe it’s time we welcomed Ruth as a sister too.

(They exit)

Scene 10
(Naomi’s house.  Early evening)

(Ruth and Naomi are sitting down together)

Naomi:
Ruth, I have been thinking.

Ruth:
Yes?

Naomi:
The harvest is all but over.  You have been very good in providing for me.  Now it’s my turn to provide for you.

Ruth:
What do you mean?

Naomi:
There is no more work for you in the fields.  What will you do now?  You need a home – a place where you will be well provided for.

Ruth:
But I live here.  I have you.

Naomi:
I won’t be here forever, my child.  Besides, I cannot provide everything for you.  Look at you. You are still young.  You deserve a family of your own.

Ruth:
But how?

Naomi:
Did I not tell you, the Lord will provide?  I believe he has in more ways than one.

Ruth:
I don’t understand.

Naomi:
Who have you been working for these past few weeks?

Ruth:
Boaz.

Naomi:
And what have I said about him being our kinsman redeemer?  This could be our time.

Ruth:
But, Naomi, I’m just one of his servant girls.  It wouldn’t be…

Naomi:
Oh, Ruth, stop being so coy.  I have heard how you talk about him.  And you yourself have told me how he talks to you.  I may be getting on a bit, but I haven’t forgotten the signs.  Trust me.

Ruth:
But…

Naomi:
No.  Don’t say another word.  This is our time.  We mustn’t waste a moment.  Now where will Boaz be tonight?

Ruth:
I don’t know.  The harvest is all in now.

Naomi:
Then he will be in his barn, on the threshing floor, winnowing barley.  You must go there.

Ruth:
Now?

Naomi:
No, not now.  You must wash yourself first.  Put on some perfume and your best clothes.  Are you listening?  Once you are there, don’t let him see you.  Wait until he has finished eating and drinking.  Watch where he goes to lie down.  Then, in the darkness, go and uncover his feet and lie down yourself.

Ruth:
Is that another…

Naomi:
Yes, it’s another custom.  It’s important you do exactly as I say.

Ruth:
I will…  What happens next, though?

Naomi:
Once you have lain down, he will tell you what to do.

Ruth:
But are you sure Boaz will understand?

Naomi:
Oh, yes, he’ll understand all right.  Now what are you waiting for?  Go and get ready.

(Ruth exits.  Naomi smiles.  Blackout)

Scene 11
(Night.  Boaz’s barn.  A thin shaft of light picks out Boaz asleep on the floor.  His men are asleep around him. Ruth slowly enters and slips under Boaz’s blanket at his feet.)

Boaz (waking with a start):
Who’s there?

Ruth (sits up, nervous):
Your servant, Ruth…  Naomi’s daughter-in-law.

Boaz (confused):
But…  I mean, what…  why…?

Ruth (hesitant):
Sir, you are our kinsman redeemer.  Please, spread the corner of your blanket over me.

Boaz:
Oh, my child.  (He hugs her)  May the Lord bless you for this kindness you are showing me.  You could have run after any of the younger men in the village, and yet you have chosen me.  (Ruth is crying silently on his shoulder)  Why are you shaking?  Don’t be afraid.

Ruth (pulling herself away from him):
I thought…  I thought you wouldn’t…

Boaz:
You have proved yourself to be a good, upstanding and decent woman.  You may lie here at my feet until morning, but you must leave early before anyone sees you.

Ruth (confused):
But what about…

Boaz:
Trust me, I will do what you ask.  I am a kinsman redeemer, but you must be aware that there is another closer relative.  It is only right that I speak to him in the morning.  If he wants to redeem you, then I must let him.  If he does not, then I promise you, I will.

(They embrace.  Blackout)


Scene 12
(Morning.  At the town gate.  The elders are sat around.  Ruth and Naomi enter, but keep their distance)

Naomi:
You have done well, my child.  Boaz is a man of his word.  The matter will be settled today.  See, the elders of the village are already here.

(Boaz enters with Eliphaz.)

Boaz:
Eliphaz, please sit here.  (To the elders) Gentlemen, thank you for coming at such short notice, but this is a pressing matter that I needed you to witness.

Phinehas:
Very well, Boaz.  Do enlighten us further.

Boaz:
Gentleman, Naomi, the widow of our brother Elimelech, has returned from Moab.  She is now looking to sell the land that belonged to him.  Eliphaz, you are the closest kinsman-redeemer, so it is only right and proper that you are offered first refusal on the land.  If you will redeem it, do so in the presence of our esteemed witnesses here.  If you will not, please tell me as I am next in line.

Eliphaz:
Elimelech’s land you say?  (He pauses to consider it, smiles, and then nods)  I will redeem it.

Phinehas:
Of course, with Elimelech’s passing, the land passed onto his sons, Mahlon and Kilion.  So technically the land is theirs.

Zebadiah:
But they are also now dead, God rest their souls.

Giddel:
Did they not also leave widows?  Boaz, is there not something else you need to tell us?

Boaz:
Thank you, sir.  I was coming to that.  (He notices Naomi and Ruth)  Please be aware, Eliphaz, that on the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Mahlon’s widow – Ruth the Moabite.  (He beckons Ruth over.  Naomi encourages her to step forward.  She takes centre stage)  In that way, Mahlon’s name will be maintained along with his property.

Eliphaz (walking towards Ruth):
And this is the widow?  (He looks her up and down.  Ruth looks uncomfortable)  A Moabite, you say?  (He spits)  Why should I want a filthy foreigner polluting my family?

Giddel:
But what about Moses’s law instructing us to protect the widow and foreign…

Eliphaz:
I protect my family first.  Any son she produces for me would go on to inherit the land – and that could endanger my estate.  (He turns to Boaz) I will not redeem the land.  You can take it, and her.

(Ruth retreats back to Naomi.  Boaz shakes Eliphaz’s hand)

Boaz:
Then the deal is done.  (He turns to the Elders)  Honourable gentlemen, you are witnesses today that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Mahlon and Kilion.  I have also acquired Ruth, the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records.

Phinehas:
We are indeed witnesses.  May the Lord bless you and your new wife.

Zebadiah:
May you be fruitful.  May your family grow and prosper.

Giddel:
And may your name be honoured in Bethlehem and in the surrounding region.

Boaz:
Thank you, gentlemen.  Thank you.

(Boaz shakes Eliphaz’s hand again.  Eliphaz exits.  Boaz beckons Ruth and Naomi towards him)

Naomi:
Thank you, Boaz.  May the Lord bless you for what you have done today for my family.

Boaz:
You are welcome, my sister.  Believe me, the Lord has already blessed me.  Come now, isn’t there a wedding for us to prepare?

(They all exit)

Scene 13
(Afternoon.  Boaz’s barn.  There is music and dancing.  The harvesters and servant girls are the ones dancing.  The Elders are to one side of the stage.  The women from the well are to the other.  Jed enters.)

Jed:
Ladies and gentlemen, the bride and groom!

(Enter Ruth and Boaz, arm in arm.  Naomi follows behind.  Everyone claps and cheers.  The wedding guests come up to Boaz and Ruth to offer their congratulations.  Naomi joins the women at the side of the stage)

Hannah:
Congratulations, Nao…Mar…

Naomi:
It’s all right.  The Lord has blessed me once more.  You can call me Naomi again.

Abigail:
They do make a lovely couple.  And to think, through them, your family will live on.

Naomi:
It is all the Lord’s work.  As the old song goes,
“In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling.”

Rachel:
It is good to have you back, Naomi.

(The dance starts once more.  Ruth and Boaz join them.  In the course of the dance, the dancers surround Ruth and Boaz.  The lights change to a single spot at the front of the stage.  Ruth and Boaz then emerge from the dancers into the spot, holding a baby)

Phinehas:
And Ruth gave birth to a son, and they named him Obed.  Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.

Scene 14 (epilogue)
(Boaz and Ruth step back.  Naomi comes to front of stage into the spotlight holding the baby.)

Naomi:
And so the songs of joy and love started again – and to them was added a new song, one of hope and redemption.  And this was a song that was to echo out throughout the history of my family, my country, and from there, out into the world.

(Spot fades.  Naomi hands the baby back to Ruth.  The lights fade up to reveal a “Nativity” tableau.  Ruth and Boaz have “become” Mary and Joseph, the harvesters are shepherds, the servant girls angels and the elders are the wise men.  The tableau is held for a few seconds in order for the audience to recognise the symbolism and make the link.  Then blackout)


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© Copyright Daniel Carlson, all rights reserved. The script may not be reproduced, translated or copied in any medium, including books, CDs and on the Internet, without written permission of the author.
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