Performing Medieval Narrative Today

A Video Showcase

Tahkemoni: Of seven maidens and their mendacity, 2

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About the scene and clip:
In this clip, a performer tells part of the story of the “Seven Maidens and their Mendacity” with strong emphasis on the rhymes and the humor, and with guitar accompaniment; his side-kick holds the book and also participates.

About the work:
Tahkemoni is a collection of tales written in Hebrew by a Spanish Jewish writer, Judah Al-Harizi (or Alharizi), around 1220. The tales belong to the medieval Arabic “maqama” tradition: witty episodes, full of satire and extravagance, written in strongly rhymed prose with poetic inserts. Tahkemoni tells of many adventures and conversations of Heman the Ezrahite and a highly comic trickster figure, Hever the Kenite. The work contains many references to Hebrew Scripture and Jewish tradition, as well as to Al-Harizi’s own travels in the Middle East.

About the genre:
The tale, like the epic, is an ancient genre and one found everywhere in the world. Many tales are firmly rooted in oral tradition and are recited or told by amateur and professional storytellers and performers. Other tales are the work of literarily sophisticated authors and are often intended to be read aloud or silently from written texts. Some tales circulate separately, while others are part of collections, which may be set in complex frames (as in the case of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Boccaccio’s Decameron and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales). There are many sub-groups of tales with specific characteristics; see for example the “lai” and the “fabliau.”

About the edition/translation:
Judah Al-Harizi, The Book of Tahkemoni: Jewish Tales from Medieval Spain, tr. David Simha Segal, Oxford, The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2003; from Gate 20, pp. 199ff. Original Tahkemoni, Judah Al-Harizi, eds. Y. Toporovski and I. Zmora, Tel Aviv, Mahbarot le-sifrut, 1952.

About the performer/ensemble:
James Mackey is a Drama student in the Stonestreet Studio at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts; Theo Stockman is a Drama student in the Experimental Theatre Wing at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (2006).

About the production:
This performance was created for “Acting Medieval Literature,” taught by Prof. E.B. Vitz at New York University in fall 2006.