M'deah, late twenties, Black South African, recent PhD and graduate student from Witwatersrand University in biochemistry. Wears some Zulu jewelry of copper and cowry shells.
Jason, mid-thirties, white American anthropology assistant professor, husband to M'deah
Ron, sixtyish, white anthropology department chair, mentor of Jason
Criss, late twenties, white daughter of Ron, psychology assistant professor at same university, president of her local MENSA society.
Eema, 70's, M'deah's grandmother, dresses in Zulu tribal costume with many cowry shells.
Brigitte: fifties, white biochemistry department chair at Sorbonne
Living room of M'deah and Jason in Boston, early 2000's. On a central coffee table sits a large stone cauldron. Jason kneels beside the cauldron. M'deah and Eema sit on the couch. M'deah is holding the baby. Jason brings M'deah a tray of fruit which he places in front of her, beside the cauldron on the coffee table.
Jason: I have something freeing to tell you.
M'deah: More freeing than the embrace of your body?
Jason: Maybe not. (Pause) My department chair and his daughter are coming over. They do not know I'm married. They do not know about the cauldron. They only know that I have been out of communication with them since I left for South Africa more than a year ago, and they want to see what I've found.
M'deah: That sounds like business Ė not freedom.
(She takes bite of fruit.)
Jason: Before this trip, I used to go on digs with my chairman. I ran to show him everything, like a five-year-old at the beach. If we had to be apart for even a few days, I called him, sent him emails, sometimes telegrams.
M'deah: I'm glad you are not a little boy any more. You are a free man.
Jason: In more ways than one. I was engaged to Crissy, my chairman's daughter. She does not know the engagement is over.
M'deah: She hasn't heard from you in over a year.
Jason: Crissy is not a reasonable woman. She may say things that are hard for you to hear.
M'deah: I do not care what she says.
Jason: She came along on some great adventures. She was there when I learned to pass a needle through my arm without losing a drop of blood. I rescued her from an avalanche by throwing her a rope from a helicopter. ...
M'deah: You are a great adventurer and great story teller. Sit beside me and tell me more about the avalanche.
Jason: No adventure I had with her compares to the embrace of your body. Let's not talk about her. We are free of her attachments.
M'deah: Amarava saved you for me.
Jason: Yes, my life found its true meaning when I married you. I thank the goddess for her blessings. But how do you think I should greet my Chair? Should I stand beside the cauldron?
M'deah: Or, holding our son in your arms.
Jason: (pacing nervously) Do you think this is the right place for the cauldron?
Jason: I want it to be the first thing Ron sees, but I don't want to shove it in his face.
M'deah: If he doesn't see it, it will be because he is charmed by our son.
Eema: The first thing he should see is your son, Dan.
Jason: That's not how we do things here, in Boston.
Eema: It's only good manners to introduce your newborn son to your guests before serving them food, or showing them an old artifact.
Jason: Ron is my department chair. He's coming over to see the Cauldron of Tears.
M'deah: Darling, surely this Department Chair of yours has manners. And if he doesn't, then you should teach him some.
Jason: Speaking of manners. Ron's daughter Criss can seem unbelievably rude sometimes. She's got a mouth on her, but she's sweet underneath. And she's smart Ė President of MENSA. So, no matter what she says, try not to react. You'll get used to her.
Eema: We can do that. It's how we work with the stinging nettle plant.
M'deah: Sometimes we squeeze the plant to express its juice.
(Doorbell rings. Eema walks over and answers the door. Ron and Criss enter.)
Eema: Welcome to our home.
Ron: (to Eema) Are you the maid?
Eema: I'm the proud great-grandma.
Criss: (walking past Eema to Jason, stroking his shoulder) You're looking tanned and fit.
Ron: Whose great-grandma?
Jason: My sabbatical was very productive.
Eema: (taking baby from M'deah's lap) Most especially, this beautiful child, Jason's son, Dan.
(Dan is dressed in a colorful outfit with cowry shells.)
Criss: You've been married for nearly a year, and you didn't bother to tell me? You let me think we were still engaged...
Jason: I was in another world Ė in South Africa Ė it was as if this world, this city, this university didn't exist. It was all a hazy memory. How do you call a memory?
Criss: You forgot you were engaged to me? You forgot my phone number? My email address? How to write a letter? You went native? Forgot how to wash?
Jason: I forgot I ever had a life without M'deah, a life outside South Africa Ė I felt newly born in my new life.
Criss: In the Psych department, we call that kind of lying a convenient excuse. But I know you Ė you just don't want to admit in front of her that you really love me. You knew if you wrote me, you'd tell me the truth Ė that you married her for business reasons Ė that you intend to dump her now that you are back in the real world. You knew if you wrote it, she might see it, and the jig would be up. (Pause) How clever of you darling! Not risking discovery. And now you have brought back the treasures that will make you famous throughout the world...
Jason: Crissy, I have too much respect for you to argue with you about love. Here, you must meet my adorable son, Dan.
Criss: (takes hesitant steps toward child) I don't mean this to sound racist Ė but his skin is a funny color.
M'deah: Our son is blessed by our loving Earth Mother, Amarava. He will become a prophet of our tribe.
Ron: (stepping closer to baby) Are you sure he's not just sickly? Have you taken him to a doctor?
Eema: My cousin was colored like this, and he was a great prophet.
Jason: It's a mutation Ė it runs in M'deah's family.
Criss: He doesn't look healthy. I think you should take him to a doctor.
M'deah: Thank you for your concern. I'll mention it to the doctor at his next checkup. Medical care is so different here in Boston from what I'm used to. All those forms. And appointments are so hard to get.
Eema: And where are all the trees and bushes? This city is made of cement.
Criss: I suppose Boston is unsettling, if you're used to the jungle.
M'deah: (laughs lightly) Witwatersrand is a suburb of Johannesburg. It's hardly a jungle...
Ron: (bending down beside cauldron) This is the famous Cauldron of Tears? (Runs hands over it.) I had no idea you'd found it! You should have called, or sent me an email, or a telegram. I'd have had the museum prepare a place for it.
(Jason looks worried, turns to Eema)
Jason: Is it safe for him to touch it?
Eema: It's a little late for you to be asking now.
(Ron pulls back from cauldron.)
Ron: You don't believe in curses do you?
Eema: Facts are not a matter for belief.
Criss: Is my daddy in danger?
Eema: Nothing mortal for him, I assure you.
Jason: Eema likes to be melodramatic. But that's a good thing, or she'd never have cried enough tears to make my girdle.
Ron: What would you want with a girdle, son?
Jason: Only a man wearing a Girdle of Joy can lift the Cauldron of Tears.
Ron: You mean the girdle is like a back brace?
M'deah: Its strength is mystical, not physical. The girdle itself is delicate and finely woven.
Ron: Surely you don't believe that nonsense, son.
Eema: Jason, like M'deah, is a trained scientist. Scientists do not believe in nonsense.
Ron: (taking another step back from the cauldron) How did you manage to obtain this fabled Cauldron? I was under the impression that it was a myth, like the Eye of Odu. But one look Ė and I knew it had to be...
Eema: The Eye of Odu is also not a myth. (Pause) But it is too dangerous for the likes of you.
Ron: There's your next conquest, my boy.
M'deah: No. It really is too dangerous. Dozens of men died trying to obtain this cauldron. Jason saw their fallen bodies in the Cauldron's cave. Those men died pleasant deaths, compared to the fate of men who have tried to take the Eye of Odu from its bronze casket, their flesh dripping from their bones, their tongues rotting in their mouths before they could scream.
Eema: That's enough. You're frightening them, dear.
Criss: You're being way too melodramatic. I know the story of the Cauldron. Zulu women saved their tears in a jar all their lives, and in their old age, they wove them into a girdle for their grand daughter's husband, to give him virility and strength. The tyrant of Witwatersrand wanted all that virility and strength for himself so he had this stone cauldron made. And he ordered all the women to empty their jars into this cauldron. Big deal. We use this tale in the psych department to show how men use women's tears.
Eema: The Cauldron was guarded by deaf eunuchs who knew the trick of walking on hot coals that covered the floor of their cave. Women delivered their jars to the guards who emptied their tears into the tyrant's Cauldron. My grandmother heard this history from her grandmother, whose tears went into the Cauldron.
Ron: Those guards are long gone, so why was the Cauldron unclaimed until now?
Jason: The floor of the cave is still covered with red hot coals so hot they incinerate any man who tries to cross them, even wearing asbestos boots. M'deah knew the trick of making a protective salve for my feet, using her father's blood.
Criss: Tony Robbins crosses red hot coals in his bare feet all the time. It can't be that hard. He's giving a demonstration next month in the Psych department. You're welcome to come as my guest.
Ron: I'm sure if it were that simple, the Cauldron would not have waited all these years for Jason to take it.
Jason: Only a man wearing a Girdle of Joy can lift this mighty Cauldron.
M'deah: It takes a special woman to make such a girdle. The only tears that can go into a girdle of joy are tears of joy in her husband's arms, tears of joy in communion with the gods, tears of joy at the tiny pleasures of her daily life. One tear of sadness or pain and the girdle is ruined.
Criss: And Eema made such a girdle for Jason?
Eema: Not for Jason Ė for M'deah's husband.
Criss: Emma, did you cry only tears of joy your whole life?
Jason: That's Eema.
Eema: Of course not! I've had my share of pain, anger, and frustration. I simply kept two jars.
Ron: That's the first thing you've said that I don't believe. This cauldron doesn't even look heavy enough to require a back brace, let alone a special girdle.
Eema: Then let me see you lift it.
Jason: Is it safe for him to touch it?
Eema: He already has.
Ron: (bending down, grabbing cauldron, struggling mightily to lift it with no success) My goodness! What's in this thing? Did you fill it with lead?
Criss: You're getting old, Daddy. I've been lifting weights at the gym.
(She shows her muscles.)
(She squats down and grabs the cauldron.)
(She struggles and strains, but is unable to budge the cauldron.)
There has to be a trick.
(She reaches into the cauldron.)
(Tears stream down her face.)
The sadness. It's unbearable.
(She backs away from the cauldron, wiping her eyes with her hands.)
Eema: That is only a taste of what my grandmother's grandmother endured under the tyrant of Witwatersrand.
Ron: If it's that heavy, how did you get it home from South Africa? You'd think it might ground the plane.
Jason: I had to carry it in my lap during our flight from Johannesburg. I tried to check it as luggage, but the redcaps couldn't lift it.
Ron: Let's see this girdle.
M'deah: It's not for showing off.
Jason: Ron is my department chair. He has the right to know how I obtained this precious artifact. (He goes to the cabinet, takes out the girdle)
See how delicate it is, how finely woven.
(Medea rises to accompany him and help him with the girdle. He removes his shirt, puts it on.)
M'deah: He's still such a little boy sometimes. (She follows him, and tousles Jason's hair)
(whispers to Jason) You're not acting like a free man.
Jason: It was no small feat, winning M'deah's love. Compared to that, lifting this Cauldron is nothing. (He squats down, and easily lifts the cauldron.)
(Ron and Criss clap for him.) (He replaces the Cauldron on the table.) (He removes the girdle and puts it back in the cabinet.)
Criss: You already had my love. I thought you were coming home to marry me. Surely I am more of a prize than a stone cauldron. I require no tricks Ė or proof.
Eema: Zulu women have a congenital flaw. The most beautiful, most intelligent, most talented, tend to marry stupid oafs. (Pause) But at least the oafs dote on their wives, and that is what beautiful women need.
Jason: M'deah loves me for my mind, as well.
(M'deah strokes his back, lovingly.)
Criss: Please. Have a little decency in front of me.
Ron: So, Jason. Tell us, how did you win M'deah's love? And why?
Jason: I had to go on dates with her under the supervision of her grandmother. I had to tell stories that amused them both. I felt like Sheherazade, with all the story telling, knowing that she could reject me, or her grandmother could reject me, and I'd never get the cauldron.
Criss: That's it? You went on dates and pretended to be in love to get the Cauldron?
Jason: That was just the start. Then M'deah's family had a list of chores for me that rivaled the labors of Hercules, including cleaning the family stables.
Ron: Don't tell me. You diverted a river.
Jason: Of course. What good's an education if you don't use it now and then?
Criss: And it worked? You told stories and played general handyman, and she fell in love with you? That's not my idea of romantic. Now our dates...
M'deah: You have to ask? I'm a greedy woman. I want a man who dotes on me. Jason proved he is that man.
Criss: I thought you doted on me!
Jason: Amarava, the Zulu Earth Mother goddess, came to me in a dream. She told me she would sweeten M'deah's heart towards me. And she told me M'deah was my key to fame and fortune, and the Cauldron of Tears.
Eema: He is favored and protected by the gods.
Ron: I'd believe nonsense like that from Crissy. But you? You're not the mumbo jumbo type.
Jason: It was the most amazing dream of my life. Amarava was wrapped in the arms of a tree, as if the tree were her lover. The tree was studded with gems and common stones. The two them, woman and tree, were dancing as she spoke to me. And I knew as deeply as I know these are my hands and these are my feet Ė I knew she spoke the truth, and that she loved me.
Criss: But why did you want her? Was she the only person who could help you get the Cauldron? And did you have to marry her to get her to help you?
Jason: Eema made the girdle of joy only for M'deah's husband. It's not as if you could just order one off the Internet. They're made from a lifetime of tears.
Criss: So, you're saying you don't love M'deah. You love the Cauldron, and you manipulated M'deah into helping you get it. You didn't just tell stories, and clean her stables. You married her. And it was all manipulation. Yes, you always were goal-oriented and clever...
Jason: It started out that way, but the more time I spent with M'deah the more I wanted to spend time with her. The more I wanted to care for her. To raise a child with her. To stare into her beautiful intelligent eyes...
Ron: You're getting mushy.
Criss: I'll agree that M'deah is pretty, in a tribal sort of way. But intelligent? I thought she went to some backwater university. And she's not a member of MENSA. I'd recognize an odd name like M'deah.
M'deah: My Ph.D. and graduate work were in the biochemistry department at Witwatersrand University.
Criss: As I said Ė some backwater noplace school. Do you have a job yet?
M'deah: I wasn't planning on falling in love with an American. After I made those new gene therapy compounds, I had a tenure-track position lined up at Witwatersrand. And an offer at the Sorbonne. Brigitte, the biochem department chair, offered me a spectacular lab.
Ron: I always say a school should bring in new blood Ė not hire their own. It makes for an inferior education.
M'deah: My doctoral professor earned his doctorate at Witwatersrand, and I think my education was excellent.
Ron: You have nothing to compare it to. Wait until you've seen the real world Ė now that you are here in America.
M'deah: I read the journals.
Eema: You Americans Ė you think the world beyond your borders is just a big Disneyland for you to grab souvenirs and ride amusements.
M'deah: I have my applications out. I'm sure I'll have a position by next semester.
Ron: Very few schools of any repute hire in mid-year. It takes a year to go through a proper selection process. (Pause) And you're unlikely to find a job in this town Ė we only have top notch universities here. Coming from the second tier, you'll be lucky to find a job at a second tier school. Perhaps you should apply for a teaching position at the junior college. Or stay home and nurse your baby.
Jason: That's a good idea Ė at least for this year, and you can keep applying to better schools for next year.
Ron: This find will guarantee you a promotion.
(To M'deah) At a first tier school, we require our faculty to have an international reputation before we consider them for tenure. This Cauldron has secured Jason's reputation.
M'deah: I think that's the least important thing in his life right now. A man usually relaxes about his career when he has a child.
Criss: That may be true in your culture, but not in ours. Once a man has a child, he takes on more responsibilities at work so he can buy more things for his child.
M'deah: What could a man want for his child that is more important than his father's love?
Ron: Jason, do you buy into this lazy philosophy?
Criss: Oh, Daddy! Of course he doesn't.
M'deah: (holding out baby) He needs changing. Jason, it's your turn.
Jason: I'm talking with my department chair.
M'deah: I'm sure he'll excuse you.
Jason: In our culture, it's a mark of respect...
M'deah: We'll talk about respect, later. (She stands.)
Eema: (standing) It's time for me to prepare his herbs.
M'deah: (exiting) Enjoy the fruit.
Ron: We're here to enjoy the Cauldron.
Eema: How can you enjoy tears? (Eema exits.)
Ron: Are you sure this marriage was wise?
Jason: It got me the Cauldron, which guarantees my future. It got me a beautiful wife. And it got me a son who will be a prophet. What more can a man ask in life?
Ron: That cauldron is worthless by itself. It could get you a promotion, if I didn't think you were going to rest on your laurels. It got you a wife from a 2nd rate school who can't get a job. And it got you a sickly son who carries some sort of genetic disease.
Criss: And I thought you were interested in me Ė in fact, I think you still are, or you'd have called to cancel the engagement. (She caresses Jason's knee.)
Jason: When I dreamed of Amarava...
Criss: I hate to side with Daddy, here. But you can't base your life on a dream. How do your parents feel about your Zulu wife? She's not even a member of MENSA.
Ron: Criss is right. You're a humanities person Ė in touch with the emotional side of things. She's a cold-blooded scientist. What could you possibly have in common?
Jason: We have a son.
Ron: That sickly thing.
Jason: Heís going to be a great prophet.
Criss: You keep saying that. But youíre not a religious man. Have
you been hypnotized? Somebody says "your son," and you answer
"great prophet." Itís like a post-hypnotic suggestion
Ron: We donít need another prophet in this country. You must be
disappointed that heís not going to be able to play ball with you or go
on your digs. (Pause) I always wanted a son...
Criss: Daddy! (She kicks him in the shin.)
Ron: This isnít what I dreamed for you. Youíre my brightest
young faculty member. And the Cauldron could assure your fame in the field
if you follow my advice. If your wife wants you to slack off now, sheís
not the right wife for you. Sheís a mediocre scientist with a sickly
child. She wants to pull you down to her level.
Criss: She doesnít talk much. And when she does, itís all ideas
Ė not people. What do you two talk about?
Jason: We talk about my great adventures, my future, and our plans
for the child.
Ron: See Ė you didnít say my son. You said the child. You donít
Criss: And why is his granny fixing him herbs like a witchdoctor?
This is the modern world! Why donít you just take him to a doctor?
Jason: Itís a genetic disease. Thereís no cure. So why not let
Eema try her herbs? She says they helped her cousin.
Criss: But how does it make you feel? Youíve even got Emma, your
wifeís granny living with you, like you were back in Africa with her
tribe. Sheís taking over your life. This doesnít feel like your home
Jason: Eema gives us our privacy, and she cares for the boy while Mídeah
hunts for a job. I wish she wasnít so superstitious, but sheís free
Ron: Do you want your son to grow up superstitious? If his granny
is his primary influence, then thatís what heíll be. I pay you well
enough. Hire a professional nanny if you need one.
Jason: You donít understand. The only way I could obtain the
Cauldron of Tears was by marrying Mídeah.
Criss: Thatís nonsense. You donít have to marry everyone who
helps you find an artifact.
Jason: You tried to lift it. How was I supposed to bring it home
without the girdle?
Criss: You could have called the physics department. Iím sure
they would have built you an effective contraption with levers and wheels.
Ron: Maybe the Cauldronís heaviness is just the power of
suggestion. Theyíre out of the room now. Try it again.
(Criss goes to table and struggles mightily to lift the Cauldron,
again. It still doesnít budge.)
Criss: Itís so rough and crudely made. It canít have belonged
to a very advanced culture. But, ooh, the sadness!
(Again she wipes tears from her eyes with her hands.)
Ron: Oh, Crissy, not that hokum about you being able to feel
emotions in inanimate objects. I know itís the latest thing in the Psych
department Ė but believe me, itís hokum.
Jason: They were advanced enough to create a cauldron that you canít
Ron: I canít believe Iím actually touching it. The fabled
cauldron. This is a dream come true!
Jason: Itís weighed down with the sorrow of all the tears it has
Criss: Thatís silly. Metaphor is for story telling. Not for real
Jason: Why do you think I need to wear the girdle to lift the
cauldron? And why does it make you cry?
Criss: Youíve been hypnotized. We all have. I donít know how
Emma and Mídeah did it Ė itís as if youíve been kidnapped by one
of those cults out in California. Itís just a stone cauldron.
Ron: Even if you had to marry her to get the cauldron. Now itís
yours. Do you have to stay married? What happened to your great love for
Crissy whom you swore to cherish as the hunter loves his bow?
Criss: Do you love her? And is she crying only tears of joy
over this marriage? And your sickly child?
Jason: After what she did for me, Iíd be a total ingrate not to
Ron: Itís not like that, son. We donít love because we owe.
Criss: Youíre being as silly as a student who thinks she deserves
an A in my class because she paid tuition. I donít owe her any such
Ron: May I try on this girdle of joy and see if I can lift the
Jason: Iíll get it.
(Mídeah enters, holding baby.)
Mídeah: Jason, only you may wear that girdle. If it is ever
donned by an unfaithful man, it will tear.
Criss: Daddy would never be unfaithful.
Ron: Sorry to disappoint you, darling, but yes, Iíve had affairs.
Criss: Oh Daddy! How could you?
(Criss breaks into tears)
Mídeah: Feel the power of your tears. If you save them, theyíll
make a fine girdle for your grand daughterís husband. May I get you a
Criss: (now angry at Mídeah) Iím not some superstitious Zulu
girl, like you. And thanks to you I may never have grand children. I was
supposed to marry Jason.
Mídeah: If you were supposed to marry Jason, you would be married
Ron: (putting arm around Criss) Now honey, Iím still your daddy.
I still love you. When I had affairs I didnít do it to hurt you or your
mother. I was liberating myself from the oppressive culture of monogamy.
Criss: Daddy, thatís horrible! Thereís nothing wrong with
Ron: How would you know? You havenít tried it. The same man in
the same bed night after night, year after year, decade after decade...
Even the moves get old. But new lovers taught me new moves and I brought
them back to your mother.
Criss: Right, along with a few diseases, and crushed dreams. Youíre
Mídeah: (tousling Jasonís hair) Thereís more to love than
sex, and more to sex than moves.
Jason: I agree.
Criss: May I touch the girdle?
Mídeah: No woman may touch it, but the one who wove it and her
(Phone rings. Jason picks it up)
Jason: Halloo. (Pause) What did you say? Are you sure? (Pause) Mídeah,
mídear, itís for you. Anna Marie Lindholm from Stockholm. The Nobel
(Jason hands Mídeah the cordless phone.)
Mídeah: My whole research group? For the gene therapy? Thatís
wonderful! Yes! Weíll be there! (Pause) No, I didnít take the job at
the Sorbonne. Brigitte keeps calling me. But Iím settling in America for
a while. Do you think you could find a position in France for my husband?
Heís an archeologist. (Pause) This is such wonderful news! Thank you for
(Mídeah pushes the off button on phone, hands it back to Jason who
puts it back in the cradle.)
Mídeah: Weíre off to Stockholm. My research group at
Witwatersrand University just won the Nobel Prize for our work on
correcting cancer genes!
Ron: Why didnít you tell us youíd been nominated for the Nobel?
Mídeah: The Nobel isnít the Oscars. Only the Nobel committee
knows whoís been nominated. I thought my professor might get it some
time Ė not for this cancer work, but for the structure and function work
he did about fifteen years ago...
Jason: This is great news, darling! Now every school in Boston will
want you, and youíll stop pestering me to move to France.
Criss: Dad, I thought you said Witwatersrand was a backwater place
that nobody respects.
Ron: Maybe that will change now. Mídeah, dear, sit down, tell us
about your work.
Mídeah: (Mídeah sits, regally.) How much biology do you know?
Ron: Iíve forgotten what I ever learned about it. It was so cold
Mídeah: Then Iíll keep it simple for you. Cancer is caused by
mutations. My group developed a way to fix the mutated genes and cure the
person of cancer.
Jason: Then why donít you cure our son?
Mídeah: Thereís nothing wrong with our son. Heís going to
grow up to be a prophet.
Ron: Mídeah, how important was your contribution to this research
that won the Nobel Prize?
Mídeah: I developed the chemistry that made the treatment
Criss: But you just got your PhD. How could you be that important?
Mídeah: Every member of our group was important.
Ron: Mídeah Ė tell me, why did you marry Jason?
Mídeah: Heís exciting. An explorer who visits many lands. And
he is favored by the gods. I prayed to Amarava for a husband who would
enrich my life. Amarava brought him to me.
Ron: The gods again! Pooh! But, tell me, do you love him?
Mídeah: As I love and honor the gods.
Criss: Thatís not a good answer. You know my dad doesnít
believe in gods of any sort.
Mídeah: And he knows that I do. I love them and Jason beyond
Criss: Then if youíre any good at your work, youíll cure your
son. You know Jason has no use for a Zulu prophet. He wants a son he can
rough house with, and take on his world-traveling adventures.
Ron: Maybe messing with the boyís genes is playing God. Maybe
some folks are meant to die of cancer or be a prophet. Who are we to say
Criss: Daddy, are you playing Devilís advocate? You hate
prophets. And if you had cancer, youíd take Mídeahís drug in an
Mídeah: The gods have given us the wisdom and ability to cure
diseases. We would be ungrateful if we refused their gift.
Criss: Gratitude is overrated. Like Jason marrying you just because
you helped him get this priceless artifact. Marriage shouldnít be a
payback for favors.
Mídeah: Get over it! as you Americans say. He married me.
Pray to your God to bring you the right husband, and leave mine alone!
Eema: (from kitchen) The herbs are ready now.
Mídeah: (rising) Iíll help my grandmother give our son his
Ron: Are you sure it isnít the herbs that these mutated children
get all their lives that turn them into prophets Ė and not the mutation
Mídeah: No child with this mutation has ever grown up without
these herbs, and no child without the mutation has ever been fed them. So
I do not know the answer to your question.
Jason: A simple "no" would have sufficed.
Mídeah: I am scientifically trained. I gave the rationale for my
answer to show why it was accurate Ė to help the thinking listener reach
the same conclusion that I have reached with the evidence that I have.
(Mídeah stands gracefully and leaves the room.)
Criss: You allow that? You let your wife and her granny feed your
child herbs that might do something to his mind? They must have done
something to your mind, as well.
(Phone rings again.)
Jason: Halloo. (Pause) No, you may not speak with her right now.
Sheís tending our sick child. No, I wonít take your number. No, sheís
not taking the job at the Sorbonne. Call back later. Maybe youíll get
her at a better time.
(He hangs up and unplugs phone.)
Criss: Was her work really an important part of the research, or is
she just being included because she was part of the group?
Ron: You know, like Watson getting the Nobel along with Crick, when
everybody knew it was Crick who discovered the structure of DNA.
Jason: I donít know anything about her field. I wouldnít know
if sheís any good.
Stage goes dark.
Scene 2: Jason and Mídeahís living room. Jason, Ron and Criss in
Jason: If itís Tuesday, she must be in New York. Itís been
non-stop. First the wire services and internet feed. Then the radios. Now
the talk shows. And of course job offers from all over the world!
Ron: It will blow over. This Nobel hoopla goes on for a few months
and then everybody forgets about it. At least she got a job here, so I donít
have to worry about losing you to France.
Jason: Nope Ė sheíll always be the Nobel Prize Winning
scientist. The star of her department. Sheís making twice my salary! Itís
Criss: Thatís the first silly thing Iíve heard you say. Her
salary is just more money for the two of you to spend. And when you
divorce her, you wonít have to pay alimony or child support.
Jason: I wanted to make more money than she does. I got my degree
from a better school. Iím older than she is, so my career should be
further along. I earned an international reputation by finding the
Cauldron... Sheís just a Zulu girl from nowhere university. Sheís
somebody I can take care of, and who can take care of me.
Criss: Is that why you didnít want me? (Seductively) Because with
my first rate education, Iím a threat to your superiority? (She tousles
his hair.) I thought you loved me for my brains...
Ron: So whatís it like batching it Ė with the three of them on
the road for two nights?
Jason: I love it. The marriage happened so fast. And then the baby.
It was okay in South Africa. Having a native wife helped me get along
better socially. But once they moved into my home, here, Iíve been
feeling like Iíve lost control. Itís not my home anymore. Itís
theirs. Their main focus is the baby Ė not me.
Criss: Isnít that normal with a sickly baby?
Jason: How would I know? Iím the husband. I should be number one.
And the reporters keep calling Ė wanting to know what itís like to be
the husband of a Nobel Prize Winner. I try to steer the conversation
around to the Cauldron of Tears and they hang up on me. My work is at
least as important as hers. Nobody listens to me inside my home or out.
Criss: Do you really believe that finding an old cauldron is just
as important as curing cancer?
Jason: So she cured cancer. Does that mean she doesnít have to
bake my favorite squash dishes any more? Or rub my shoulders at night?
Criss: You could rub her shoulders. She works hard, too, you know.
Ron: Mídeah and Granny are just too foreign to fit into your old
lifestyle. Either you embrace change or you end the marriage.
Jason: Iíd feel guilty if I ended the marriage.
Criss: And miserable if you stay in it. You belong with me!
Jason: I wonder if my marriage was a mistake. Was there another way
to get this cauldron?
Ron: Now youíre talking sense. They must have been keeping you
hypnotized Ė but now that theyíre out of the house...
(Criss rubs his shoulders.)
Criss: Itís not too late. We could still be together. Mídeah
wouldnít be lonely. Sheís got her Granny and your son. And she doesnít
need your money to support her.
Jason: I gave my word. I owe her. And the baby...
Ron: What do you owe her? A loveless marriage?
Jason: She loves me. If I were to betray her or divorce her, who
knows what Zulu vengeance sheíd wreak?
Criss: Thatís just stories. If you donít believe the spells can
hurt you, then they canít. Youíre an educated man, a powerful man. As
Mídeah said, you are favored by the gods. The gods will not let you come
Jason: You couldnít lift the Cauldron. Either of you. She has
Criss: She would never hurt you. The gods wouldnít let her.
Ron: You too, now, Crissy? Whatís with the gods?
Criss: Daddy, our latest research in the Psych department shows
that people who believe in immortal powers, stronger and wiser than
themselves, are happier and healthier than skeptics like you.
Ron: I ranked near the top of the scale on that happiness test you
gave me last month.
Criss: Youíll probably die of a heart attack from all your
Ron: Iím not going to die any time soon. But I will be retiring
in about five years. Jason, Iíd like you to be my successor. If you
divorce Mídeah and marry Crissy, Iíll assure that you are the next
Jason: And as department chair Iíll have influence on the whole
universityís budget. I could help get money for Mídeahís department
as well as my own.
Criss: See, a divorce benefits everybody.
(She kisses him.)
Ron: Iíll leave you two to work things out.
(Lights go dark.)
Jason and Mídeahís living room. Jason is sitting next to Criss on
the couch. Ron is in a chair. Jason is petting Crissís hair.
Ron: So, itís decided?
Jason: Yes, when she gets back from her trip, Iíll tell her I
want a divorce.
Criss: Good. Then we can be together, as we always should have
Jason: Halloo. This is her husband. No, I will not return the
Cauldron to Witwatersrand. I found it. Itís mine.
(Hangs up phone.)
Ron: You donít have to cause an international incident to get
credit for the Cauldron. As your Department Chair, I recommend that you
take it back Ė just tell them you wanted to show it to me and I donít
travel much these days.
Criss: But it is his find.
Ron: There are strict laws about transport of artifacts. If you
keep this Cauldron, you could cause diplomatic problems for archeologists
around the world. An artifact of this importance should be in a museum,
and itís right that it should be in one near where it was found.
Jason: The call was for Mídeah. Sheís the one they blame for
absconding with the Cauldron. She is now banned from South Africa unless
she returns what they are calling "their property." Her
government is holding her responsible Ė not me Ė not
archeologists in general.
Ron: Your fame is assured no matter what museum houses the
Cauldron. I wonít think less of you if you give it back, instead of
putting it in the University museum.
(Door opens. In walk Mídeah, Eema, and baby.)
(Mídeah hugs Jason.)
Mídeah: Itís so good to see you! Your voice on the phone just
isnít the same as touching you.
Jason: Youíre looking well, for a woman whoís been traveling
non-stop for three days and two nights.
Mídeah: But our son is worse. He needs tot be near the cauldron.
Ron: I was just saying that Cauldron should go into a museum back
in South Africa. Heís been getting phone calls about the Artifacts law.
Eema: The Artifacts Law is rarely enforced. Itís a stupid
arbitrary law. They let us take the Cauldron out of the country. One look
at it, and itís obvious you didnít make it in a crafts class.
Jason: Itís my fault. Iíve been talking about the Cauldron to
all the reporters who asked about your Nobel. Now the Artifacts Law
Enforcement Agency thinks Iíve made them look silly.
Eema: I donít care who looks silly. Your sonís health is what
matters. The cauldron must stay with us.
Mídeah: Look, heís smiling already Ė after only a few moments
in the room with it.
Ron: Thatís preposterous. Inanimate objects are just that Ė
Jason: I told you, Eema is superstitious.
Mídeah: Itís not going to a museum.
Eema: Your son needs the cauldron.
Jason: You come home after three days and all you can talk about is
keeping the cauldron?
Mídeah: Iím just so excited Ė heís so much better! He was
so ill on our trip.
(She walks over to Jason and kisses him on the mouth. He doesnít kiss
Ron: If Jason is ever to have an international reputation, the
Cauldron must be in a museum.
Jason: I could put it in the campus museum Ė thatís only a mile
from here, so our son could visit it every day.
Mídeah: Or scholars who want to see the Cauldron could make an
appointment and come to our home.
Jason: This is my home, too. Donít I get a say about what stays
and what goes?
Mídeah: I thought youíd be happy that your son is healthier.
Jason: I am. But I donít think you have convincing evidence that
the cauldron that made him healthier. You said he has a genetic disease.
Mídeah: Not a disease.
Jason: Okay, a mutation, or whatever you want to call it.
Mídeah: I call it a blessing.
Jason: How do I know our son wonít stay healthy (if you can call
that healthy) when I put the cauldron in a museum?
Mídeah: You donít. Itís simply not an experiment Iím
willing to risk.
Ron: Putting the cauldron in the museum is a good idea. When word
gets out that you have the Cauldron, you wonít have a momentís privacy
Criss: Daddy! Since when do you give orders to Jason?
Ron: Iím his department chair. I only give suggestions. Not
Jason: Iíll just put on the girdle and take it out to the car. We
can see if that distance is close enough for Dan. Maybe even the mile to
the campus museum wonít be too far for him to feel its effects.
Criss: Canít it stay here one more night?
Ron: Youíre being silly, Crissy. He needs to make the decision
and move the cauldron.
(Slowly Jason gets up and walks toward the cabinet where he stored the
(Mídeah follows him, tries to block him.)
Mídeah: Freedom comes with responsibility.
(Jason pushes her aside.)
Jason: I have a responsibility to humanity Ė to share the
(Slowly, he opens the door, pulls out the box, opens the lid.)
Criss: Not if it would hurt the child.
(Slowly he removes his shirt and ties on the girdle.)
Ron: Youíre being melodramatic.
(Slowly, Jason walks over to the cauldron, and bends down to lift it.
Medea shadows every step. As he starts to straighten, the girdle rips and
falls to the floor.)
(Mídeah grabs his shoulder and spins him toward her)
Mídeah: Get them back!
Jason: What? Get what back?
Mídeah: Get those sperm back. They all belong to me!
(She pounds his chest. He is obviously not bothered.)
Mídeah: Amarava, let go of him. Heís mine. Iíll destroy him!
He broke the girdle! My grannyís life went into that girdle. I gave my
life, my body to my marriage. And he broke it!
It wasnít yours to break!
(Still hitting him Ė obviously not able to hurt him)
You sneaking, sperm-stealing, sordid, slime-smearing sycophant!
Jason: Iíve been meaning to tell you, I want a divorce.
Mídeah: Divorce! Never! You are mine! You will undo what you did
and get me back those sperm! I canít stand it! Another woman touching
you! I donít want another woman so much as brushing against you on the
sidewalk. Touching your naked...
Jason: I want a divorce.
Mídeah: Impossible! You have my fatherís blood on your feet.
You are bound to me by all the remembered dead, and all those who remember
them. You are bound to me by the snake that withheld its jaws from your
throat at my command. You are bound to me by words from your own lips. Do
you think your vows did not carry across the sea? Do you imagine you can
toss me aside like a used airplane ticket now that you have your precious
cauldron? I am the mother of your child, the wife of your bed. In two
nights, have you forgotten the charms of my body? If you can forget that,
you do not deserve to live. Neither you nor your lover!
Ron: He wants a divorce, not a lecture.
Mídeah: He wants fame and fortune. Only I can bring him those
things. I can get him the Eye of Odu.
Criss: Your usefulness is done. You got him the Cauldron of Tears.
Now I can get him the department chairmanship.
Mídeah: You? I warned you to keep your hands off him!
(She steps toward Criss.)
Eema: No, Sweetie. Thatís not the way. Sit beside me. (Takes jar
from apron pocket.)
(Mídeah sits, but bats jar away.)
Jason: In Africa, I thought I loved you. But perhaps it was a spell
cast on me by your people. Perhaps it is that spell that did not cross the
Mídeah: You lie. You cheat. You steal. You break vows. You
rationalize. And Iím supposed to hand you a divorce as easily as I
handed you the Cauldron? I do not think you are the one to be calling the
tune here. I am the one who has been wronged.
Jason: You hypnotized me into imagining Iím in love with you. You
used sex tricks to ensnare me. Youíve even tricked me into believing
this ordinary stone cauldron is too heavy for me to lift without your
grannyís girdle. It is I who have been wronged!
Ron: This is stupid. Stop arguing about who wronged whom. Get a
divorce and get on with your lives.
Mídeah: Iím not a citizen. I canít stay here if Iím not
married to a citizen. I canít return to South Africa without the
Cauldron. I have no home. And my son needs to be near his father. And
without the Cauldron near his bed, he will die.
Ron: The university can build a device to move the Cauldron. We donít
need the girdle.
Mídeah: (to Jason) Would you feel differently if I reverse our
sonís mutation? You have not yet tapped the beginnings of what I will do
to preserve this marriage!
Stage goes dark.
Scene 4: Jason and Mídeahís living room. Jason sits reading. Mídeah
brings him a beautifully wrapped box. Eema sits on couch, holding an empty
Mídeah: I spoke too quickly, in too much anger. You are beloved
of the gods. If you desire to be department chair, then you shall have it.
If you desire a new wife, you shall have her as well. Only I beg of you,
do not abandon our son. He must grow up with both his parents. Let him
come live with you.
Jason: Crissy doesnít like sickly children. She would never allow
our son in her home.
Mídeah: If I reverse the mutation, he will not be sick. I have
begun designing the therapy to reverse his mutation. It will be ready in a
few months. I will care for him on weekends, so you can have time alone
with your new wife.
Jason: Perhaps if he is healthy, she will consider it.
Mídeah: I have woven her a lovely shawl.
(Opens box to show shawl to Jason)
If you present this to her and tell her our son will be healthy, how
can she refuse?
Jason: Iím so pleased you have come around. Does this mean you
will grant me a divorce?
Mídeah: If your new wife agrees to care for our child, I will
grant this divorce. Here, take her this shawl and tell her that I bear
good wishes for your future success as chairman of the anthropology
Jason: (Jason stands, picks up the box, heads towards door.)
Iím sure sheíll wear this shawl with pride. It is beautiful. And
sheíll be thrilled that you are granting the divorce. She was afraid of
your powers, afraid you would do me harm.
Mídeah: You are beloved of the gods. I cannot harm you.
Jason: But you could harm Crissy. Iíll take this shawl to the dry
cleaners before I give it to her Ė just in case youíve put poisonous
herbs into it.
(Brigitte enters. She kisses Eema on both cheeks.)
Brigitte: Ma cher, it is so good to see you. But, you are looking
Eema: Oh, Brigitte. The gods have brought us trouble. And poor Mídeah
is at the heart of it.
Brigitte: The very reason I dropped by. I have successfully
negotiated for a new DNA synthesizer - now Mídeah simply must come to
the Sorbonne to make full use of it!
Jason: See, Mídeah. Everything is working out perfectly for you.
Mídeah: What of our son? How will he visit me if I am in France?
Brigitte: These things have a way of working themselves out. Now,
please. Say youíll come with me! I have your tickets, already!
Stage goes dark:
Scene 5: Mídeah sitting with Eema in living room. Mídeah has
the baby in her lap and medical kit beside her.
Eema: I have called the airport limo.
Mídeah: I donít want to leave. I love Jason. And the gene
therapy for our son is almost ready. Jason will come to his senses when
his son is well.
Eema: You put your hands in my tears of sorrow and pain, and still
you do not see the truth?
Surely, you pricked yourself at least once.
(Takes her hand and looks at it.)
Mídeah: It may have been true for Amarava and Marimba, but not
for me. Iíll get him the Eye of Odu if need be. But I will not give him
Eema: The Sorbonne has a laboratory ready for you. Your tickets are
bought. Let us be gone before he returns.
Mídeah: Let us work our magic one more time and restore this
Eema: My tears are all used up.
Jason: Murderess! No sooner did she wrap your putrid shawl about
her lovely shoulders than she gave a howl, like one crying for all the
pain in the world. Then she collapsed on the floor. Her father ran to her
faster than I could, and wrapped his arms around her. Then he let
out a blood-curdling yell and dropped her back on the floor, bits of his
flesh sticking to the shawl with third degree burns! She was dead. My
Crissy, dead! My career in ruins!
Mídeah: Well, now we can begin our marriage again, with no
distractions and a healthy child.
Eema: Heís not worth it, darling. Do not sacrifice your sonís
future to a marriage based on power struggles.
Mídeah: We have no use for prophets in this new land. If a
healthy son will restore my marriage...
Jason: Nothing can restore this marriage! You are going to jail for
murder. But first, I would like to see my son healthy.
Mídeah: The gene therapy is nearly ready. I just need to run this
skin test, and a few more tests in the lab.
Jason: (grabbing medical kit) I canít wait another minute. I donít
trust you. Once you get him to France, youíll forget all about curing
(He extracts bottle and syringe from bag.)
Jason: This is it Ė the drug that will make my son normal and
healthy? I never liked your research, but if itís good for this one
thing Ė giving me a healthy son, then Iíll take it.
Eema: Thereís our ride to the airport.
(Eema grabs Mídeahís hand. Mídeah resists. In the midst of this
struggle, Jason injects the baby. (Baby cries loudly and falls silent.)
(Mídeah checks out the baby Ė her head to his chest.)
Mídeah: Heís dead! Our son is dead! You killed him!
(Limo honks again.)
Jason: If heís dead, you killed him! You and your worthless
research! I knew that Nobel Prize was a mistake! First Crissy, now our
son. Murderess! Double Murderess!
Eema: Always with the twisted words. You never loved Mídeah. You
loved the Cauldron. You never loved your son. And you never loved Crissy.
Now they are all lost to you. Your hands injected your son. You take what
is not ready to be given. Your stab killed him.
(Mídeah collapses to floor clutching baby.)
Mídeah: Is there nothing you can do? Canít you restore our son
with your magic?
Eema: Jason is beloved of the gods. It is given him to destroy what
Mídeah: All for nothing! I have betrayed my country, wasted your
tears, and given my love to my husband and child Ė all for nothing! I
thought I knew so much! I can stop cancer, but not what destroys my life.
Jason: Youíre being melodramatic! I brought you to America where
you had every opportunity at a first rate university. I gave you a son. It
is you who have destroyed all. And it is you who will die for your crimes!
Eema: I give you your sonís prophecy. Death to you if you stay
(Eema drags Mídeah, still clutching dead baby to door.)
Jason: Is the prophecy for me?
Eema: You are already dead.