BETTY SHAMIEH isn’t in the house tonight, but she is on stage.
The small Off Broadway theater staging Fit for a Queen, her latest play, is sparely lit. The glitz of the set’s palace—flashing lights, booming music, scantily draped slaves bearing platters of fruit and flowers—has receded. Queen Hatshepsut, till now languid on her throne, jumps up, her cool cracking: “You know I hate it when you make it sound like you don’t love me.”
The figure at whom Hatshepsut lashes out is Senenmut, her favorite slave, who is prostrate on the floor. In the language of the play, “favorite” is code for consort-by-coercion, but with that role comes an expectation that the coercion remain unspoken. Senenmut becomes “sweet Senenmut”; Hatshepsut is “Happy,” and open to affectionate ribbing. But now, Senenmut invokes her servility, cutting Happy to the bone. If she can goad the queen into offing her dying husband, the pharaoh, and claiming the throne, then Senenmut—through the woman who loves her (and who...
INTRODUCTION to Double Exposure: Plays of the Jewish and Palestinian Diaspora
It is so strange how one word can have two hauntingly different meanings. Such is the case with a word like “exposed.” Do we want really our community, ourselves, and our children to be exposed?
If you see exposure as meaning that you possess a deep understanding of the perspectives of other kinds of people, yes. But, if you see it as meaning you are unprotected and physically vulnerable, probably not.
You might assume that most “learned” people would say that they don’t mind that their minds are exposed to other ways of seeing the world. You could argue that it is only our bodies that we are precarious about putting places where others can access.
But, this is a false assumption. Most of us are deeply, even savagely, invested in preserving our own worldview. We are taught to insist that our own version of history is the most important story, usually in the blind and instinctual way that we are sure -...