Sarah Ruhl was born on January 24th, 1974 in a Chicago residential area by the name Wilmette. She, however, spent some considerable amounts of time visiting Iowa which was her familys home state. Sarah raised as a Catholic abandoned the faith when as a young teen, she saw it not feasible as only priests were allowed to have direct communication with God but nuns were not. From that point onwards, she began telling stories and A Conversation was among her first tales told to her mother by her (Al-Shamma, 9). Throughout her schooling years, Ruhls love for language, the theater, and drama gradually unfolded in tandem with her unique talent.
Ruhl graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (English) from Rhode Islands Brown University in 1997. Her undergraduate course entailed a year utilized in studying English-Literature in Oxfords Pembroke College. After having taught arts education in public schools for two years, Ruhl returned back to Brown University and undertook a Master of Fine Arts in playwriting which culminated in the year 2001 (Al-Shamma, 10).
About the Play
Sarahs style of writing showcases a postmodern proclivity which encourages the mix of high and low art in a repetitive pattern. This is seen in each act which is also illustrating the staging of the play as emanating from differing historical time periods as follows. The Elizabethan as was staged in England in 1575, Germany 1934 showcasing the Oberammergau and 1969 South Dakotas Spearfish which runs up to date. These were precarious historical times in which Passion play highlights as a good example is found in scene two where a traveling friar turns out to be a priest in disguise (Ruhl, 16). His identity is revealed to the audience when he gets rid of his disguise before John who played the role of Christ (Ruhl, 20). Ruhl, in this case, is attempting to paint the warring picture of Queen Elizabeth and the Papal back in the olden times. The Queen had issued a decree that the faith and all its partakers be cast out of England and the Catholic faithful were indeed living in brutal times. Ruhl has managed to explicate a time in history when the Church and the State did not see eye to eye. A rather fine premonition of future or would be events according to a Biblical perception.
Ruhls play is thus divided into three cycles as mentioned above. It is, however, a tale of different types of passions as the author breaks down the three parts as follows. Part one speaks of both secular and religious passions as we see Mary 1 the character who plays Mary the Virgin seeking and lusting after John the fisherman as she is seen exclaiming Oh! Oh! His loincloth is slipping! (Ruhl, 23). This is a secularized form of passion and not the type Christ elicits from his followers. The argument which would arise in this case is that wasnt Mary supposed to be a Virgin? And if so her character should have been chaste and with some tit bits of demure shyness. This was not to be as Mary 1is seen longing for the comfort of a man in her bed. At one point, she even encounters Pontius who plays Pilate as she was seeking out John who played the character of Christ (Ruhl, 30).
This secularized type of passion is also seen in Mary 2 the character who plays Mary Magdalene of the Bible. In her confession to the priest, she admits to being attracted to fellow females,I have dreams of women kissing and embracing me (Ruhl, 27). Hence these passions are not what a reader would expect in a play that is purported to talk about Christ and His immense love for humanity. Christs passion was different in that He laid down His life for humanity in order to save them (humans) from sin and bring them closer to Himselof in a biblical sense.
The second part highlights homosexuality and Jewish aspects as Hitlers targets during his reign of terror while the third act showcases a competition of sorts between brothers for a womans love (Ruhl, 115).
In conclusion, Sarah has taken a controversial scene from a Biblical point of view and created her own reality of sorts. In so doing, the author has addressed the different passions harbored by humanity and has attempted to explain why mankind indulges and acts the way he does. A good example is why Hitler became the worlds most feared man and as Ruhl puts it, his drive arose from his passion of homosexualism and in seeing the Jewish people punished. Hence in a brilliant yet quaint manner, Ruhl has managed to address the modern and the ancient in her play churning out a beautiful historical narration of the same.
Al-Shamma, James. Sarah Ruhl: A Critical Study of the Plays. McFarland, 2011.Ruhl, Sarah. Passion Play (TCG Edition). Theatre Communications Group, 2010.
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