ABOUT THE STORY
The story of Esther can be found in the Old Testament of the Bible and throughout the oral traditions of the Jewish culture. Although historical records are vague, to this day the tomb of Esther and Mordecai is a tourist attraction in modern-day Iran and the story of Esther is celebrated every March (the month of Adar) in the Jewish festival of Purim.
In 586 BC Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians, and the people of Judah (ie the Jews) were taken captive and exiled to Babylon. Only 47 years later Babylon fell to the Persian empire and the Jewish people were free to integrate into local Persian society. They worked hard and contributed positively to the Persian economy but most maintained their Jewish culture and religious laws, which set them apart from complete assimilation. It is during this timeframe that the story of Esther comes to life.
An orphaned Jewish girl, Esther(or Hadassah in Hebrew) was raised by her older cousin Mordecai. When King Xerxes, known for his drunken parties and erratic decisions, decided he needed a new queen, Esther was one of 400 young virgins who were forcibly taken from their homes and installed within the king’s harem. One by one the girls were taken to the king's chambers – most were returned to live out their days in the harem, but Esther (who had hidden her Jewish identity)won his favour and was chosen as queen. In effect, she was still a prisoner, but she had her own chambers and her own handmaidens and other certain luxuries. Many years later Haman, who was second-in-charge to the king, is offended by Mordecai’s refusal to bow before him. In their anger, Haman and his sorceress wife Zeresh, concoct a plan to annihilate the Jews by using Haman’s position of power to manipulate Xerxes into issuing an edict to this effect. When the edict goes forth Mordecai pleas with Esther to approach the king and beg for the deliverance of her people. This is a terrifying thought to Esther because if someone approaches the king without being summoned, they can be instantly put to death. In her desperation, she digs into the faith of her childhood to find the wisdom and strength she needs to face her fear and save her people.
It can be said that Phil and I dream big. From building businesses to building houses, we have always taken on too much and worked too hard, being driven by dreams that take on a life of their own.
A decade ago, during one of our evening walks, the dream of taking the story of Esther to the stage was birthed. Over the years the music and the script slowly came to life. At one time I had a 'writer's block' that lasted for over twelve months, but still, the dream refused to die and the first draft was eventually completed.
Three years ago we were offered support through Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre (BMEC) Local Stages, which has been invaluable. Through their support, we have been able to present the script for review before several groups and have received quality feedback which has equipped us in our re-writing and refining process. The technical support provided (design, lighting, staging) has been amazing. Without the support of BMEC Local Stages this project would not have grown legs. Thank you so much to Kylie, Karl and the team.
Bringing The Persian Queen to the stage was a big enough dream, but in 2020 it has proven testing beyond imagination. Phil and I would like to applaud our wonderful cast who never got discouraged and never gave up. Even when we had to FaceTime them in because they had a “sniffle” or had to await the negative result of a COVID test, they kept up the momentum. Singing and dancing at rehearsals in face masks became the new normal, and creative choreography was required to limit physical contact. The constant threat of cancellation hung thick in the air, but the passion to see this project fly was stronger than any sense of impending doom. There was an overwhelming belief amongst the cast that this production was meant to happen and as such they were prepared to stay positive and be adaptable.
So why did we push forward when the odds seemed against us? The answer lies simply in the story of Esther itself. This production could have happened years ago, but it didn’t. It was delayed until now because it is a story for 2020. It’s a story that speaks against fear. It is a story that encourages people to stand up for the persecuted and the oppressed. It is a story that reminds us that even in the darkest of times, the sun is still shining. It is a story that acknowledges that sometimes we find ourselves in situations outside of our control, and in places we would rather not be, but maybe you are in that place for a particular purpose and for a particular reason. The story of her is about faith and hope, and it is a story that needs to be told – 'for such a time as this'.