Juha the “wise fool” is well-known and beloved throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Tales of Juha have also spread beyond the MENA region, with versions of the character appearing in Turkish, Iranian, Italian, Romanian, and Jewish Sephardi folklore. Also known as Nasrudin, Juha’s stories present morals and teachings in a humorous way!
In this Juha tale, Juha claims to be just as strong as when he was young. His friends challenge him to prove it by standing outside in the freezing cold all night. Juha succeeds, but when his friends decry his success with a ridiculous excuse, Juha uses his wit to set them straight!
About the Author
Joel Adams grew up in India and the Philippines but hales from Texas where he studied Theatre Arts: Acting and Directing at Baylor University. He has acted, directed, written, and taught multiple styles of theatre on three continents over the years and has written many plays and sketches during that time. His plays published in Drama Notebook are his first published plays. Now he lives in Phuket, Thailand, where he is the founder and artistic director of Theatrix Phuket, a theatre company that teaches acting to all ages in person and online and regularly performs plays around the island and nearby provinces. He is also known for his YouTube channel of children’s stories called Just So, Mr. Joel.
Excerpt from the play
Husband in Square
Wife in Square
Extras as needed
(If you have a limited number of actors, you can do the play with only 6 and have two of the ‘Man’ characters become the wife and husband in the square or you can have some of the extras, if you have them, play the husband and wife. The effect will be best if you have a number of extras, so the coffee house is more cacophonic.)
NARRATOR: Long, long ago on a cold winter day in Baghdad, Juha and his friends take refuge in a coffee shop to pass the time. As will happen on such a day, the conversation in the coffee shop turns to the weather.
MAN 1: (playing backgammon and holding the dice) This cold weather is very hard on my bones. See, I can hardly hold the dice properly.
MAN 2: (from the next table, playing checkers) Every winter I get the flu, and I am sure this cold snap is going to put me in bed.
MAN 3: I think we all suffer terribly when it’s this cold. But that is life, isn’t it? Too hot or too cold. And as you get older, like us, it’s harder, because we are weaker.
JUHA: (standing up center stage and addressing MAN 3 but loud enough for all to hear)
Nonsense! I am just as strong today as I was as a young man.
MAN 4: Impossible, Juha! Look at you! You are fat and not nearly as active as you were when you were younger. No doubt you have grown weaker.
ALL: (murmured assents) Yes, of course you have. We are weaker, all of us. I agree. It’s true… etc.
JUHA: No, no, I haven’t, and I can prove it.
(The grayed lines are said simultaneously so there is a cacophony of voices like you will hear any time you go to an Arabic coffee shop. This is vital to this play, so work hard to get all the actors shouting loudly and gesticulating wildly on these interludes.)
MAN 1: No, you can’t prove it.
MAN 2: I’ll bet you can’t.
MAN 3: We all know we are older and weaker!
MAN 4: Tell us your proof.
OTHERS: Ridiculous! That’s absurd! What proof do you have? Juha! You are foolish! Impossible! Etc.
ALL: Tell us now!
JUHA: There is a marble table in my kitchen, and I used to try to lift it when I was young. I couldn’t then…
JUHA: And I still can’t now, so you see, I have exactly the same strength now as then.
MAN 1: That doesn’t prove anything!
MAN 2: That’s so silly!
MAN 3: Foolish!
MAN 4: I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous!
OTHERS: That is ludicrous! Proof? What proof? Juha, you are truly a fool! Etc.
JUHA: And as for the cold, it doesn’t bother me at all. I can stand all day and all night in the cold and not feel it at all.
MAN 1: You couldn’t stay out on a night like this.
MAN 2: Impossible, Juha!
MAN 3: I propose a bet!
MAN 4: Let’s bet!
OTHERS: You would freeze in a few minutes! You’d get frostbite. That would be insane. Don’t even think of it.
MAN 1: Let’s make a bet.
MAN 2: Yes, let’s bet on it!
JUHA: What shall we bet?
MAN 3: You stand out all night tonight in the square.
JUHA: All right, but what’s the bet?
MAN 4: If you win, we make you a sumptuous meal, and if you lose, you must make such a meal for all of us.
ALL: Yes! Yes! Good idea! Etc.
JUHA: Yes, I agree. And then you will see; I will show you.
MAN 1: When will you start?
JUHA: Now, of course. I’ll finish this cup of coffee and go stand all night in the square.