Ploughman from Bohemia by Johannes von Saaz
Adapted and Directed by Monica Payne
Scenic Concept – Monica Payne and Pablo Santiago-Brandwein
Costume Design – Christina Lim
Lighting Design – Pablo Santiago-Brandwein
Original Score – Edan Freiberger
Produced by Theatre Lumina in the Powell Library at UCLA (2014)
Ploughman from Bohemia was written in 1401 by German author Johannes von Saaz, and has been given a new life on the stage in recent years. The piece is a prose poem, rather than an actual play, but it contains an inherently theatrical conflict. The ploughman’s wife has died in childbirth and he cries out for answers to his many questions. Why her? Why now? Why hasn’t God protected him? He is heartbroken and wants Death (or God, or both) to be held accountable. Johannes von Saaz wrote the play in the days after the death of his own wife, Margaret, and even centuries later, his grief is still palpable in the language.
In a structure that is often more like a meditation than a narrative, the poem asks us to consider that our very existence is based on foundations of sand and that transformation is the norm, rather than an unexpected tragedy. As Death phrases it, “the beginning is sister to the end.” We have tried to explore these ideas emotionally, visually, aurally, and through the language itself.