Song of Songs
adapted by Sarah Carleton with musical selections chosen by Lara Lynn Cottrill
Song of Songs is a fifty minute adaptation of the poetry of Song of Songs by Sarah Carleton interspersed with musical selections chosen by Lara Lynn Cottrill. Intermixing acting and music to bring to life the beautiful poetry found in Song of Songs, this new work looks at the power and mystery of love as it unfolds in the midst of community. The piece combines the acting of Sarah Carleton and the singing of Lara Lynn Cottrill in a unique look at these beautiful old texts as they come to life in a modern setting.
Performance Selections and Photo Gallery
Longer Introduction and Explanation of some of the Themes and Symbolism found in the Piece
In much the same way that Greek Theater uses a chorus to help support the play and story, the friends in the poetry of Song of Songs are a kind of chorus. For our piece we have kept the role of a chorus through the music that will be sung by Lara.
The poetry itself doesn’t fit the typical linear plot line that many western plays exhibit, but it fits a more circular pattern, that is connected by strong themes. Starting with the blossoming of love and ending with the recommitment and deepening of that love, bringing the poetry full circle.
There are three main sections and a conclusion that we have broken the piece into: Part 1 – Courtship, Part 2 – Wedding, Part 3 – Growth, and Part 4 - Conclusion.
As the chorus, portrayed by Lara, helps guide the play, Sarah will portray the character of the woman and her journey as she begins to step into her new love.
Another important part of the poetry is the audience, the community of people who are listening to these poems of love. They are called to protect, support, and encouraged to be a part of the love story. There is a give and take in the poetry. A reminder that this is not just a story of these two lovers, but a reminder to the audience that love pours outward into the community.
As modern readers approaching the text in English we can find some of the ways love is described or the ways the lovers describe one another to be silly. Yet describing those we love can be difficult. How do we describe the beauty of what we experience? Words are often not enough. And when we do search for words we look to the culture around us to find the most beautiful aspects to help us describe the one we love. Song of Songs is rich with agricultural imagery and images taken from the natural surroundings that would have been familiar to those hearing the poetry. Song of Songs comes from a specific culture and time period and we want to honor the specifics of the piece while helping connect it to our own time.
One of the major repeated themes is that of wine and grapes. As we think of the process that a grape goes through to become a rich and nuanced cup of wine, it in many respects, parallels the story of the lovers. The first stages of tender love and delicate fruit, followed by the bruising that comes to the grapes and moments when we realize that opening ourselves to love means we also open ourselves to pain. As things are added to grapes and through the process of time, they turn into something of greater value and worth that the original grape. So too the lovers relationship deepens. It goes through pain and hardship and the struggles of love. But the pain is turned into something of value and worth, taking them deeper into their love and the understanding and strength of their love becomes as rich as the wine.
The poetry is a bold and passionate look at love and how it pulls us into the power that love can hold. It also encourages us that there is hope and healing even in the hardships that can happen when we open ourselves to love.
Resources and Research
We are indebted to the following biblical scholars who helped give their insight into the text.
Dr. Theresa Newell
The staff and students of Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge for their readings of the text in the original language.
Estes, Daniel J. Handbook on the Wisdom Books and Psalms. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005. Print.
Longman III, Tremper. Song of Songs. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001. Print.
Comfort, Philip W., ed. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006. Print.
Henry, Bill. A Twelve Week Teaching Out-Line for Song of Songs. Feb. 8, 2013.