Honey Cakes is a modern telling of a story from ‘The Arabian Nights,’ a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age. The stories ranged from historical tales to tragic romances to comedies and were collected by varies scholars and authors.
In this story, young Bana wishes he had known his father. Stories of his father’s kindness are told to him nightly by his mother. Will a delicious encounter in a neighboring town give the family hope?
Debra A. Cole is a celebrated humanities teacher, youth theatre director, and children’s playwright with degrees in journalism, art history, and elementary education. She understands the needs of young performers and their directors and creates pieces that encourage engaging discussion, creative thought, and quirky playfulness. Her goal is that young performers discover the power and delight that theatre brings to actors and audiences alike.
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Excerpt from the play:
BANA — (M) son of Yara and the missing Bajan
YARA — (F) daughter of the Vizier
VIZIER — (M) father of Yara – once counselor to the Sultan
MAADAR— (F) grandmother to Bana – mother of Bajan
SWEETS vendor— (M) father of Bana – thought to have been killed by the Sultan who was jealous of Yara’s beauty
HAMID — (M/F) loyal servant to the Vizier
VENDOR — (M/F) sells jewels in the marketplace and is quite aggressive
(The action takes place in ancient times in an ornate living room and marketplace in Damascus.)
(Lights come up in an ancient Persian home with a beautiful mother, Yara, and a handsome young son, Bana. Yara is sitting drinking tea as she calls Bana to her side to hear more of his father.)
(lovingly – motioning to Bana) Come, Bana. Let me share more stories of your handsome and giving father before you settle down for the night.
Tell me the story of the morning after your wedding, mother.
(sadly) You are not ready for that story, Bana. It is full of sadness and worry.
But, mother, I am old enough to hear. I want to understand.
Shall I tell you about the day your father saved the villagers from danger? That is a story of which you never tire. You love the part where he stands up to the Sultan and his guards.
It is time, mother. Please share with me what happened the morning after your wedding.
(Grandmother Maadar enters the room and notices that Yara looks sad.)
(to Bana) What are you doing to your mother, Bana? Yara, my dear daughter-in-law, you look so sad.
Grandmother Maadar, I didn’t mean to make my mother sad. I want to know about the morning after the wedding. I am ready to hear what happened to my father.
Your father was a beautiful, talented, and kind son. I remember the days he would help me bake in the kitchen. While other boys wanted to fight in the courtyard, your father wanted to create. He stayed by my side for hours. Those are the memories that you should hear about – not those of that the fated morning.
(The Vizier enters the room and heads toward the tea.)
(to Yara) My dear daughter Yara, what a lovely evening you have created with tea and good company.
(Vizier notices that everyone looks a bit stressed.)
Did I interrupt something?
No, father. We were just remembering Bajan and all of his kindness and goodness. Young Bana reminds me so much of his father.
What a son-in-law Bajan would have been had he lived. My thoughts to you, dear Maadar. This conversation must be difficult for you.
(to Bana) Have you started this discussion, grandson?
It’s not his fault, father. He says he is ready to hear the story of the morning after the wedding. And I believe it may be time.
Would you like me to tell the story, dear daughter?
(after quiet thought)
It may be best. This story is hard for me. I fear I must head to rest while you explain.
(to Bana) Bana, listen to your grandfather, and know that I love you.
(to Maadar) Mother Maadar, may I walk you to your room? I fear this story may be too much for you as well.
I must agree. Maybe tonight I will dream of kitchen conversations that will never happen again. That would be a nice dream to have.
(Yara puts her arm out for Maadar, and they exit the stage.)
I believe you are old enough to know the whole story, Bana. Your mother had always been the most beautiful woman in all the land. And your father Bajan had noticed. But he was not the only one. The Sultan had taken a liking to your mother too. So, after a beautiful night of joy at your mother and father’s wedding, the Sultan ordered your father to be killed. Your mother awoke to his absence. The Sultan sent an envoy to tell her that her husband would never be seen again. As Vizier, I was sworn to obey the Sultan. I was his counselor, but his actions made that impossible. I gathered your mother, your father’s mother, and all of our belongings, and we fled in the dark of night. It was the only way I could ensure that your mother would not be wed to the Sultan. Before long, you arrived, and our new house was full of joy and love once again.
Was the Sultan punished?
A Sultan is never punished. Our best revenge is to live a life of love and joy. Your mother has made a home for us where love abounds despite her sadness. It is time for bed, my grandson. Put these thoughts out of your mind and concentrate on showing your mother love in the years to come. How would you like to visit the city tomorrow? I will send you out with my trusted servant, Hamid. He will make sure you are safe and enjoy the day. Perhaps you can bring a gift for your mother. That would please her very much.
(Bana hugs his grandfather The Vizier and leaves the room.)