In the Book Of

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“Where you go, I will go…” Ruth 1:16
This contemporary reimagining of The Book of Ruth explores the ongoing debate on Immigration. In the play, two women—Naomi, an Army lieutenant and Anisah, her Afghan translator—lose their husbands in the war. Upon discharge, the young officer sees the danger her translator is in, and brings Anisah with her to her home in Mississippi. When they arrive, this act of kindness is met with open hostility by Naomi’s sister-in-law, Gail, who is running for mayor on an immigration platform (similar to those being enacted in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, and other states) and makes the immigrant’s deportment the focus of her campaign. But things get complicated when Gail's own son stands up for what he thinks is right. By turns funny and moving, this timeless story adapted from the Old Testament challenges notions of what it means to be an American as it contemplates the redemptive power of welcoming the stranger. >Read Press Release.

Anisah (Sarah Corey) and Bo (Matt Dickson) catch fireflies in the Alabama Shakespeare Festival production.
"Give me a broom...and I will clean house." Gail (Blair Sams) from the ASF production.
"Where you go, I will go..." Anisah (Sarah Corey) and Naomi (Rachel Leslie) in the ASF production.
Anisah (Carolyn Marie Monro) and Bo (Kevin Pitman) share a dandelion. Taproot Theatre Co. Seattle, WA. Photo by Erik Stuhaug
Naomi (Alison Strickland) and Anisah (Carolyn Marie Monroe). Taproot Theatre, Seattle, WA. Photo by Erik Stuhaug

Read Sample

2.5: Threshold Me
Note: the excerpt is edited for length and begins mid-scene.
Later. The chants of "Go Home" have died down and NAOMI and ANISAH on her front porch, finish cleaning up the trash someone dumped there. ANISAH tells NAOMI that she has been working with GAIL's son, BO.

NAOMI
I don’t scare easy, so don’t worry about me. You on the other hand, you got be careful out there, people are pretty riled up. Where have you been? I was getting worried.

ANISAH
I was working.

NAOMI
Working? Like a job?

ANISAH
Yes, I am helping Bo with his landscaping.

NAOMI
My nephew, Bo? Gail’s son, Bo?

ANISAH
Yes.

NAOMI
Are you trying to give the woman more reasons to hate you? You went there to make peace!

ANISAH
She was not home, but he was. We were chased off by flying brooms, he was kind, took me to Obed’s Hill, where I pulled weeds, and was feeling complete for the first time since I arrived, and why is this wrong?

NAOMI
You’re not supposed to work. That’s why they’re dumping trash on my porch, that’s what this is all about—you taking our jobs.

ANISAH
He says none of his friends want this job.

NAOMI
Doesn’t matter. You’re not legal. Lay low, till this election blows over—

ANISAH
This is months from now. And he is coming for me in the morning.

NAOMI
Don’t work for him.

ANISAH
But I like him.

NAOMI
Oh dear god.

ANISAH
He is funny, he pays me today in nickels, see?

NAOMI
I don’t even want to know what that means, just stay away. Gail’s protective, doesn’t want him going off the deep end again.

ANISAH
Translate please.

NAOMI
Bo’s damaged. He tried to kill himself.

ANISAH
But he seems, eh so normal.

NAOMI
He’s good at covering. . . . .

. . . ANISAH
But this was some years ago, he is better.

NAOMI
Better, sure, but Gail keeps close tabs on him, worried sick she’s going to lose one more. She’s already got you in her sights, don’t give her more reason to pull the trigger.

ANISAH
How does weeding his gardens hurt anything?

NAOMI
Just lay low, let this all blow over.

(GAIL and BO SR. enter carrying a casserole.)

GAIL
Good evening, ladies, let what blow over?

NAOMI
Gail.

GAIL
Stand down, soldier, didn’t come spoiling for a fight, came to open a civilized dialogue. Brought you a casserole.

BO SR. (handing over casserole)
Evening Naomi, miss. . . . Careful, that’s still hot to the touch.

NAOMI
I got it. So, you all just dropping by?

GAIL
We wanted to be properly introduced to your Afghan friend.

BO SR.
Off camera this time, family like.

GAIL
So…are you going to introduce us, or just stand there with a burning casserole?

NAOMI
Anisah, this is my sister- and brother-in-law. Gail and Bo, this is Anisah.

ANISAH
You do me a kindness to visit, it is my honor to make your acquaintance.

GAIL
Well, that’s sweet of you Anisah, do you have a last name?

BO SR.
Gail, you promised not to probe.

GAIL
Just being polite, what if I want to drop Anisah here a note, thanking her, or inviting her out for an ice-tea, who would I address it to?

ANISAH (to Naomi)
Last name is eh, surname, yes?

GAIL
That’s right, what’s your surname?

NAOMI
Anisah, take this inside.

ANISAH
No, Naomi, I will not hide inside. I have come here to live, and want to do so in the open, without fear or harassment.

GAIL
Harassment, big word for a foreigner.

ANISAH
Regrettably, it is one I am too acquainted with. I do not know why I have found disfavor in your eyes, I am only trying to build a home.

GAIL
That’s all well and good if you’re here legally.

NAOMI
What’s her status have to do with building a home?

GAIL
Cause she’s trying to do it in my back yard. And then, just like our Southern neighbors, soon enough her cousins, her whole village will start coming and building mosques.

ANISAH
I am not from a village, and I assure you my family, they will not come.

GAIL
Cause they’re too busy fighting our boys over there.

ANISAH
This is not entirely untrue.

GAIL
Thank you, Anisah. See? She does have a little jihad blood in her.

NAOMI
Gail—

BO SR.
You promised.

GAIL (to Anisah)
I’m just trying to get to know our new friend, where she’s from, who’s her people, and how they’re fighting our boys.

ANISAH
They are not, eh, hand-to-hand, but yes, I have a brother, he became more, traditional after the American’s came. Where I was enjoying some freedom, he was starting to close down. Not at first. My parents brought us up sensible, and he thought, we all thought, things would get better. But year after year, he got harder in his beliefs as promises were broken, and violence continued. Gail, this is one path you can go when you believe your home is under attack—to close off. My brother is on this path, and it was painful what it did to my family, but there is another path.

GAIL
Are you implying that I’m a terrorist like your brother?

BO SR.
Oh, for mercy’s sake, Gail.

ANISAH
My brother is not a terrorist.

GAIL
And neither am I.

ANISAH
Yet you seek to terrorize me.

GAIL
Why don’t you just tell me who I should address that note too, Anisah?

NAOMI
Anisah—

GAIL
Let the woman speak for herself, Naomi.

ANISAH
Surnames are, eh not so common in my culture, so it is complicated. I think if you send it to Anisah Anisah it will find me.

GAIL
Well. I’ll be sure and do that, Anisah Anisah.

NAOMI (does a pretty bad job of stifling a laugh)
Holy shit.

GAIL
Don’t laugh at me, Naomi, my own sister.

NAOMI
I’m sorry, but you deserved—

GAIL
How dare you make fun of me.

ANISAH
I am not making fun.

GAIL
Mock me in front of my family, under my brother’s roof.

ANISAH
I do not mock, I just do not believe my surname, or my people are the questions you came to ask. Ask me the question you came to ask.

BO SR.
Gail we ought to shove, Home Wreckers is on in a half hour. It was nice meeting you, Miss Anisah Anisah.

GAIL
You go on, Bo. I’m bored with that show—they knock everything down, somehow it all turns out all peachy and puppies 72 hours later, but that’s not life. Sides, we’re just starting to make friends here, isn’t that right, Anisah Anisah?

ANISAH
I will not hide from you, if you do not hide from me. Ask me what you came to ask.

GAIL
Fine. Are you in the United States of America legally?

NAOMI
Anisah.

GAIL
Answer my question.

ANISAH
( . . . ) Regrettably, no. I am not here legally.

GAIL
I knew it. How’d you get in?

ANISAH
This is not a concern.

NAOMI
Anisah—

GAIL
Cause she helped you!

ANISAH
No! Naomi is a good soldier, she had nothing to do with it. I arranged it on my own. But how I came here is not what matters. What matters is that I am now here, and I am not, eh dirt to be swept aside. I am a human being.

GAIL
I never called you dirt. Dirt is what it is, it’s everywhere. I’m not out sweeping the back yard free from dirt. My issue is only when dirt gets in my house, on my kitchen floor. And when it does, you can be darn sure, I will SWEEP IT OUT.

(GAIL exits, BO SR. follows.)

NAOMI
Go with him, tomorrow, and pull weeds on Obed’s Hill.

ANISAH
With Bo?

NAOMI
You need allies.

ANISAH
But you said not to go.

NAOMI
That was before you waged war.

ANISAH
I was trying to wage peace.

NAOMI
You got a funny way of doing that.

ANISAH
Many say the same of this country.

NAOMI
DON’T!— Don’t make me question bringing you here.

ANISAH
Naomi, you know I came seeking life, not destruction, but that does not mean I cannot question, be critical. This is what makes this country strong.

NAOMI
Shh.

ANISAH
Do not shh me.

NAOMI
Shh. There’s someone out there, watching us.

ANISAH
( . . . ) I do not hear.

NAOMI
There. Out there on the road. Listen.

ANISAH
It is the wind.

NAOMI
No ( . . . ) It’s someone sweeping.

ANISAH
Sweeping?

NAOMI
Yeah, look, there. Someone watching us…and sweeping.

(Barely audible, the sound of a single broom sweeping. Lights ghost up on a single broom. The solitary broom stands on end, vigilant, on guard, at the ready. The two women listen, the sound remains barely audible, but now that it has been named, it is painfully clear. Blackout.)

END OF ACT.

Cast Requirements

3 women
3 men

Set Description

Transformative Set:
Multiple locations with lots and lots of brooms.

Press

"Although it has been said that 'In the Book Of...' is about immigra­tion, those who see it will quickly realize that while the play may address immigration, what it is about is great the­ater. This is not some didactic po­lemic on a controversial issue, it is one of those rare produc­tions that manages to be con­sistently funny and incredibly moving -- one that haunts your thoughts long after the play has ended.... There is perhaps no bigger reviewer cliche than 'I laugh­ed. I cried,' but few will not be able to say it after this funny, uplifting play."
Montgomery Advertiser

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Press

"Told with an acknowledgment of humor mixed with the serious...Walch's strongest script elements are the balance he achieves in both developing complex characters and the fairness with which he treats these sensitive issues...there is no clear-cut delineation between good and evil...and the issues regarding illegal immigrants are complex."
theatremontgomery

"Walch’s script manages to feel timeless...The play’s topicality falls away, and we’re left with a family of complicated, likable characters and a play that does them justice."
Seattle Weekly

"In the Book of … Will Sweep You Away...Walch has written a play that is at times witty, touching, sad, and realistic...with exceptionally strong women who fight for their country, home towns, and the right to love and hope again after suffering enormous grief.”
Drama In The Hood

Production and Development History

Productions:
Taproot Theatre, Seattle, WA
Florida Studio Theatre
Alabama Shakespeare Festival

Commission:
• Alabama Shakespeare Festival

Readings/Development:
MidTown Direct Rep
New Harmony Project
Theatre Squared
• Southern Writers Project
Florida Studio Theatre

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