A Passover Pageant
A short play designed for reading aloud, around a seder table. Genesis + Exodus + social justice stuff, in ten minutes flat.
Jeremy: I’ll go write the pageant.
Dan: The pageant?
Jeremy: Well, there are sections of the haggadah that, quite frankly, could use a polish.
Dan: You’re gonna do a rewrite on the haggadah?
Jeremy: It’s not written in stone, Dan.
Dan: Actually, some of it is.
— Sports Night
NARRATOR: Previously, in Genesis:
GOD: It sure is dark in here… <claps twice> Hey, that worked!
ABRAHAM: Man, I can’t keep track of all these gods, can’t I consolidate all my worship into one easy deity?
GOD: Sure! But go cut off your foreskin first, it’s gross.
ABRAHAM: Ugh okay, I’ll get my knife.
GOD: Oh and while you’ve got your knife out, also go kill your son Isaac.
ABRAHAM and ISAAC: What??
GOD: J/k, j/k! Just trying to demonstrate how I am so much less bloodthirsty than all the other neighborhood gods. Jeez, can’t you take a joke? You didn’t think I was actually going to make you go through with it, did you? You’ll never find another god as good as me!
HAGAR: Yikes, I’m not waiting around til your manipulative god tries to get you to kill our son. Come on, Ishmael, we’re out of here.
ISAAC: Bye Ishmael! Man, having a brother is complicated… Hey Jacob, Esau, what are you boys doing?
JACOB: Just stealing Esau’s birthright, Dad!
ESAU: I hate you.
RANDOM ANGEL: Me too! Let’s wrestle. On a ladder. Because symbolism?
JACOB: You’re going down, Angel! I am Israel, I can do whatever I want, and I have to uphold patriarchal standards of masculinity now that I’ve tricked my hairy meat-eating brother with my feminine-ish wiles, so I’m going to beat up an angel and use a rock for a pillow and have ALL of the babies. C’mon, wives, let’s get cracking on this “descendants as plentiful as the stars” business, if you know what I mean.
JOSEPH: Hey guys! I had this dream that you were all bundles of grain and you were bowing down to me! Isn’t that funny guys? Why are you throwing me in this hole? Did someone take my technicolor dreamcoat? Hey guys? Guys?
POTIPHAR’S WIFE: You there! Slave boy! How you doin’? I command you to come lie with me.
POTIPHAR: Joseph! Did you bang my wife or did you disobey her orders?
JOSEPH: …there’s no good answer here is there? Sigh. I’ll be in my cell.
JOSEPH’S PHAROAH: Man, these weird dreams suck. I wonder if there’s anyone locked in my dungeon who can interpret them for me.
JOSEPH: Me! Me me me! So either there’s going to be 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine, or you never passed trigonometry after all. 5 cents, please.
JOSEPH’S PHAROAH: Such low rates!
JOSEPH: For you, I make a deal. Now let’s talk royalties.
NARRATOR: And so Joseph became the Pharoah’s chief of staff, and invited Jacob, Joseph’s asshole brothers, and 70 other free-loading relatives to shlep down to Egypt and settle in the land of Goshen. Several hundred years pass, and the Hebrews, as we are now calling them for some reason, have been fruitful and multiplied. Then there came a pharoah who knew not Joseph…
PHAROAH: I know not Joseph, but I do know that these Hebrews are really ruining the neighborhood.
ROYAL BUTLER: You can’t kick them out, sir; they’ve got rent control.
PHAROAH: Bah! Might as well make them useful, then. What are they good at?
BUTLER: Nothing very useful, sir. Comedy writing, standardized tests, and kvetching.
PHAROAH: Well, let’s give them something to kvetch about. This view of the Nile would look a lot nicer with some big pointy brick things, don’t you think?
NARRATOR: So the Hebrews were enslaved by the Egyptians. But the Hebrews kept having more and more children, so they’d have someone to complain to.
BUTLER: Sir, the Hebrews still won’t go away. They’re just packing more children into their huts.
PHAROAH: They’ll never give up a nice deal like Goshen as long as they have kids who can inherit it. Tell the midwives Shifrah and Puah to kill every baby boy born to a Hebrew woman.
PUAH: They didn’t teach us infanticide in midwife school!
SHIFRAH: This job stinks.
PUAH: Let’s resist. I won’t kill any babies no matter what the boss says. Will you?
SHIFRAH: I don’t know, Puah. I can’t afford to lose my job. I don’t like working for a cruel and bigoted government any more than you do, but he’s our Pharoah and we have to give his policies a chance.
PUAH: Or…. We could tell Pharoah that the Hebrew women are unnaturally vigorous and give birth before we can get there, and give the Hebrew women time to hide their babies themselves. The ruling class always likes to hear that the disenfranchised are hardy and animalistic.
SHIFRAH: Oh alright. Let’s do it.
NARRATOR: With the help of Shifrah and Puah, the first recorded practitioners of civil disobedience in ancient history, a Hebrew woman named Yochevet gave birth to a baby boy and was able to hide him from the authorities. But after a few months he was too big to hide, so with great sadness, she put the baby in a basket and floated it down the Nile. The baby’s sister Miriam hid among the bulrushes to see what would happen to her little brother.
PHAROAH’S DAUGHTER: Hey look, a basket! With a baby in it! Aww, can I keep it?
MIRIAM: But you’d have to nurse it and take care of it and stuff.
P’s DAUGHTER: Oh. Well, am I a princess or am I a princess? I’ll hire someone.
MIRIAM: I know just the woman for the job.
NARRATOR: So Yochevet was hired to nurse her own son, which is a pretty great scam. Although Moses grew up in the court of the pharoah, he never forgot his birth mother’s teachings. One day, Moses was slumming it in Goshen, and he saw a slavedriver cruelly whipping a Hebrew.
MOSES: Dude, relax.
SLAVEDRIVER: Relax? I’ve got production deadlines to meet, and these lazy Hebrews aren’t meeting their brick-baking quota, and you’re telling me to relax?
MOSES: Maybe if you were a little nicer to them…
SLAVEDRIVER: “Nice” don’t get you bargain rate pyramids, mister. Or did you never think about where all your fancy papyrus comes from?
NARRATOR: He hadn’t, actually, and so Moses did what any privileged young man would do when confronted with the problematic source of his privilege — he got angry and blamed someone else. Moses picked up a rock and killed the slavedriver.
MOSES: Uh oh.
NARRATOR: Moses skedaddled the hell out of Egypt and had a nice long wander in the desert, before coming across a lovely shiksa named Zipporah.
ZIPPORAH: Hey, stranger. New to this strange land?
MOSES: Sure am.
NARRATOR: And Moses spent a couple decades chilling with the Bedouins. Meanwhile, things kinda sucked for the Hebrews.
ALL: Grumble grumble grumble grumble
NARRATOR: But God heard their grumbling. One day, Moses was chilling with his sheep at the foot of Mount Sinai, when the mountain went all lightning-y. When Moses reached the summit, he found a bush that burned with flame, yet was not consumed.
MOSES: Wow, this could totally disrupt the fire-breathing industry!
GOD: Moses, Moses.
MOSES: Here I am!
GOD: Take off your shoes. I just vacuumed the holy ground.
MOSES: Who are you?
GOD: I want you to go into Egypt and tell Pharoah to let my people go.
MOSES: Okay great, but who are you?
GOD: I Am Who I Am.
MOSES: But who should I tell Pharoah has sent me?
GOD: I Am Who I Am.
MOSES: That’s… not very grammatical.
GOD: No, it’s tetragrammatical! Zing!
MOSES: Listen, can’t you get someone else to do this? I’m busy. I have to… shampoo my sheep.
MOSES: No seriously. I am slow of tongue. I mean, sloooww offff toooongggguuuueeee…
GOD: Get your older brother Aaron to talk for you. He was always the cute one.
NARRATOR: Moses went back to Egypt and found Aaron, who was in fact the cute one, and they marched in to Pharoah’s palace and said:
AARON: Let my people go!
AARON: Oh. Please?
P’s DAUGHTER: Okay!
AARON: What if we finish all our sentences with a pithy summary of our cause preceded by an obsolete typographical symbol? #letmypeoplego
PHAROAH: Why would that help?
AARON: Bound to work eventually…
MOSES: Psst, Aaron! Try the staff thing.
NARRATOR: Aaron raised his staff over the Nile, and the water turned to blood. Or red like blood. Depending who you ask. Either way, for seven days and nights it was pretty nasty stuff. But the Pharoah’s magicians were also able to turn water into red stuff, so Pharoah was unimpressed.
PHAROAH: Moses, Moses, Moses. What else have you got?
NARRATOR: Next, Aaron summoned up a plague of frogs. Hundreds, thousands of frogs, hopping all over Egypt on their little frog legs. But the magicians could pull frogs out of their hat too, and Pharoah was unamused. Next came gnats, which are really gross.
PHAROAH: Ew ew ew! Make them go away! Make them go away and you can leave!
NARRATOR: But God hardened Pharoah’s heart, which is awkwardly counter-productive if you think about it so I’m just gonna skip right over it, and everyone went back to the drawing board. There were flies, and cattle disease, and boils. Then shit got real. It hailed great big hailstones that burst into flame. Locusts came and devoured the crops. And Moses stretched out his hand and —
MOSES: <claps twice>
NARRATOR: — drew a darkness over Egypt for three days.
BUTLER: Okay, sir? I’m covered in boils, there’s nothing to eat, and I keep walking into frog carcasses because I can’t see where I’m going. Let those people go.
PHAROAH: Sorry, my heart’s been hardened. Out of my hands.
AARON: Alright, but listen. This last plague’s not going to be pretty.
NARRATOR: God spoke to Moses and Aaron, and gave them a shopping list which has changed little in five thousand years, with the same old bitter herbs and unleavened bread, along with a nice dab of lamb’s blood for the doorway so that the angel of death would pass over their house. And at midnight, the angel of death swept through the land of Egypt, and slew the first-born children of all the Egyptians. Uncomfortably, neither Moses nor any other Hebrew questioned the justice of killing hundreds of Egyptian children as a bargaining tactic.
PHAROAH: Get out! Out out out! Scram! Beat it! I never wanted you here in the first place! Expelling the Hebrews was my plan all along!
AARON: K bye!
MOSES: Everyone, grab everything you can carry and let’s beat it before Pharoah changes his mind!
ISRAELITE #1: But I was about to do some baking!
MOSES: Well, I dunno, strap the dough to your back and let it bake into crackers in the sun. Now move!
BUTLER: Thank goodness they’re gone! You’re not going to harden your heart again, right sir?
PHAROAH: Well… I do have all these annoying unfinished pyramids… And that Sphinx could sure use a nose.
BUTLER: Which you’ll want the Israelites for, obviously! …It’s funny because they have big noses.
PHAROAH: To the chariots!
NARRATOR: Meanwhile, the Israelites had reached the Red Sea.
MIRIAM: This doesn’t look good. Do we ford the river?
PHAROAH: I’m coming for you, Hebrews!
MOSES: I guess we’re not waiting to see if conditions improve. Onwards!
NARRATOR: And Moses raised his staff and parted the sea, and the children of Israel walked across on dry land. But when Pharoah’s chariots tried to follow, their wheels got stuck in the mud, and when the last Israelite reached the bank the waters came crashing back down, drowning the Egyptians.
MIRIAM: Hurray! Now what?
MOSES: We’re going to the promised land! It flows with milk and honey and definitely isn’t a desert.
MIRIAM: If it’s so great, why does no one live there now?
MOSES: Okay well technically it’s the country of…. [checks notes] “the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.” But don’t worry, God says we will, err, “blot them out.”
MIRIAM: Well… I guess that’s okay, since… since we were so persecuted! And it’s not like the Canaanites and the Hittites and whoever are taking good care of the land!
AARON: And there are tons of other polytheistic peoples they can go live with! And God promised!
MOSES: Great, story checks out! Now I have to go climb this mountain, wait here a sec.
NARRATOR: The Israelites, however, were not very patient.
ISRAELITE 1: Where’s Moses?
ISRAELITE 3: I’m bored!
ISRAELITE 2: Can we eat yet?
AARON: Hey guys! You know what would pass the time? Why don’t you give me all your gold and jewelry, and I’ll build a giant shiny cow!
MIRIAM: Why do slaves have gold?
AARON: We looted the Egyptians on our way out.
MIRIAM: Seriously? First we kill their first-born kids, and then we steal their gold? This is really hurting our victimhood credibility, team.
AARON: Listen, do you want to hear one of the lesser-known stories where our guys forcibly circumcise our enemies? Or do you want to make a shiny cow?
MOSES: I am back! I am back and I have brought you these two stone tablets, which contain the — oooh, shiny! <drops the tablets> Uh oh. Hope I saved the receipt…
NARRATOR: God gave the children of Israel another chance and gave the law to Moses again. But the debacle with the golden cow proved that the Israelites were not yet ready for all the awesomeness that God had planned; instead, the corrupted former slaves had to die off before they could enter the Promised Land. Forty years of wandering later, they finally reached their new homeland…. At which point they set about colonizing an already populated land and it becomes harder and harder to write jokes about all this, and these four glasses of wine aren’t going to drink themselves, so let’s just pretend the Israelites made friends with their new neighbors and didn’t massacre them at all, and nothing terrible happened in the land of Israel ever again. The end!