Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Wedding Play

Friends asked us to post our wedding play from 14-Mar-2015.  Here is a copy, without the cast names.

* * * * *

A Wedding Play

“A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou”  --Omar Khayyam
The Rubaiyat, XII

Ed Happ and Shirley Chen
14 March 2015

The Setting

A single three-quarters circle of thirty-two chairs faces the sanctuary.  The small statue of St. Francis is center, at the open doors to the sanctuary.  A lectern is center front of the circle, just behind St. Francis. The scripts are on each chair and the lectern (as are paper airplanes). 

The bride and groom sit center in the circle, facing St. Francis and the lectern. The Justice of the Peace and two priests sit near the lectern, as do the ring and bulb bearers, and son of the groom.  The photographer floats about the room. Except for the reserved seats, each guest decides where they want to sit. 

First the Welcomer, and then the Narrator stand in front at, or in front of, the lectern.  The cast reads from their seats, standing or sitting, whichever they prefer.

Cast of Characters

Poet 1
Poet 2
He 1
He 2
She 1
She 2
She 3
He wrote
She wrote
Brother 1
Brother 2
JOP (Justice of the Peace)


Welcomer:                 [Words of welcome and introduction from the father of the parish]
                                   You each have a script.  This is a wedding play. And you all have parts to play, some more than others, but such is the prerogative of authors and artists.  None of you are bystanders.  You are each part of this union, part of our family who has made this couple who they are.  So they want you to be a part of their ceremony, because after all, the play is really about all of us.
 Groom reads:      

Almost There

Where does together begin?
the postcard writing has the scenes
there is the floating bar in Paris
the innocent email trail that followed;
the walk in Muir Woods
stories of Remy and Pino
the nuance of tastes
and romancing the risotto;

there is the first poem
and its reply
the photographs sent
from Blackberries and attached;
the first kiss in front of a carousel
Davenport and the whale seals
The meal you first cooked
and the wine I first opened;
the Skype calls,
long flights and business trips
to gather in three days here and there;

moving to Marvin's Beach
for Thanksgiving
finding family at St. Francis
and solitude in Devil's Den;
then to Geneva and Nyon
and the castle on the lake;
the vineyards everywhere we went;
the start of Chez Shirley;
And Scott whispering
"do you always eat like this?"
(…and when I whispered "yes,"
he replied, "marry her!)

The family times
of Taipei and Memphis, 
Introducing Jojo to chocolate
and me to Tu-ma's dumplings
Mahjong and beginners luck;
The rolling WhatsApp comedy
with Diane and Steve.

You catching me in a silly song or voice
recording it for the little ones,
the flowers in the garden and on the tables
the wine rack full
the pots simmering on the stove.

Then the Spanish Steps in Rome
following the path of Angels and Demons
the ristorante with the attitude
and the Florence tears in front
of the Duomo and the David.

So here we are
almost in church
and I will promise you
and you will promise me
what already is.

Where does together begin?
It is here among our friends,
it is in the words
spoken on the Seine
and in the letters and the poems;
it begins with a name
an open door,
a chair at the table.

ACT I - Postcards

Scene I – A Floating Bar in Paris

Narrator:                    The scene opens in a floating wine bar somewhere on the Seine in Paris. There are trays of small glasses with a variety of tastings. He is sitting at the bar sampling the hors d’oeuvres, past his prime, but not feeling it. She walks up to get a glass of red. She is in a drop-dead but simple black dress. He is wearing a classic navy blue blazer, with a pair of old olive khakis.
Narrator:                    They have met before, earlier in the week, on the Fourth of July; judging students competing for a high-tech prize. Imagine that.
He 1:                          Try the asparagus soup; not the usual heat-it up in the microwave.
She 1:                         I don't own a microwave; it’s not really cooking.
He 1:                          Hmm.  Someone once said you can't have a bad meal in Paris.
She 1:                         They're not paying enough attention; the soup is sad. It could be better
Narrator:                    Sass, he thinks; I like that…

Scene II – The Email Trail

Narrator:                    What began next was a series of summer letters (well, emails actually).  She was aching for some intimacy; he was still learning to speak the language.  Food and humor began the dance. And there were an abundance of smilies.
She wrote:                 It was a pleasure meeting you in Paris ...  I had a lot of fun talking to you about food and wine ….what was the website with all the ratings for restaurants? What’s your favorite cookbook? :-)  
He wrote:                   The web site on restaurant ratings is the Zagat Guide ...  My favorite cookbook is "How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food" by Mark Bittman.  Of course, I prefer to open the book and have someone else perform the magic while I select the perfect wine :-) 

Scene III – First Poem

Narrator:                    The couple is sitting at a dinner table not far from Paris, years later. A perfectly done, curved rack of lamb with a light dusting of salt sits between them.
He 1:                          Do you remember the first poem?
She 1:                         Yes
He 1:                          It was “The Curve", the sensual one, yes?
She 1:                         No; it was the poem you wrote while you were walking near your beach house
He 1:                          (not really sure) Was it?
She 1:                         (smiling) Yes, it was
He 1:                          “The Curve” was so much better; I'd rather remember that one
She 1:                         It came later. I like the one about the monk parrots and doves; I was walking with you…
Poet 1: 


The monk parrots are loving me this morning,
heckling from one tree to the next
as I walk new ground
I never catch up to them—
they let me know
horizoning with their call.
I am humbled that I name them,
hold them in eyes and on my tongue.
On the beach, seagulls walk faster
not willing to take flight yet
while a covey of mourning doves
bursts up from behind a seawall
as I jump up.
Two terns fight over a fish,
a pair of crows choruses from the beam
of a rough-hewn swing set—
I, the morning walker pass through
I, the morning writer am in their glassy

7 Aug 08

Scene IV – Remy and Pino

“The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star.” – Anthelme Brillat Savarin

Narrator:                    The food banter soon turned more intimate.
She wrote:                 When I bake or cook, the self-dialogue never stops.  I am always mixing flavors, playing with textures and colors.  I often start with one thing in mind and end up with something totally different.  For those who have watched the movie, Ratatouille, I am like Remy.  When he created something by adding different tastes, he saw fireworks in the sky.  That's me....
Narrator:                    Ten days later…
She wrote:                 I still don't know what made me cry.  I will quit analyzing it.  Maybe my emotion cup is full.  So if crying helps, so be it.  People don't know me anyway. … 
                                   Writing is part of me.  Part of my healing process.  I am writing down whatever I am feeling.  I am overwhelmed by sadness now.  Thanks for being there even when I am not making sense...
He wrote:                   Do write, and take more photos.  Write about what you see in the photos.  Pair poems and images.  Most of all feel.  … and bring tissues with you when your go to Starbucks; the napkins will kill your skin :-).  BTW …I’m sending you a book…
Narrator:                    A few days later…
She wrote:                 I am in love with the book…, A Tuscan in the Kitchen. I was reading it till mid-night and had to convince myself to go to bed. "One more page, maybe." The night went on like that. Thank you so much for a wonderful book!  … I'll cook the lamb stew…, while you open a bottle of wine to go with the dish.  :-)
He wrote:                   My wine cellar is here, so you'll have to bring the viande :-)
She wrote:                 Is that an official invitation? :-)
Poet 2: 


I watch the old movie
and see you tasting and smelling,
looking up to the ceiling
of your imagination
and wondering,
how will this come together?
And I realize you come to life
as a pan upon the stove
to whose cold copper bottom
you add a woman's heat,
smidgeon of oil,
sprinkling of herbs,
splash of coconut milk
spice with some chili or curry
pinched between your fingers
and then shrimp
peeled one at a time
and set to dance
with a flip of the wrist,
a glimmer in your eye,
the curve of your lips
so that even
a small part of the world
into which you arrive
with but a few bags
and fewer friends
becomes a feast,
an "ah,
that is how
it looks on the plate;"
Come taste with me!

11 Aug 10

Scene V – First Kiss

“Happiness is like a kiss…you must share it to enjoy it.” – Bernard Meltzer

Narrator:                    She writes about being upset, so he gets in his American Airlines silver steed and flies from Berlin to NY to SF
He 1:                          Do you remember our first kiss.
She 1:                         Yes. It was in baggage claim.
He 1:                          How auspicious.  ….I knew that was how I would greet you…a kiss and a hug
She 1:                         I had to stand on my toes; you were so tall…  I knew then.
He 1:                          I knew before.  Why else fly 7,000 miles? It wasn't for the points.

Scene VI – The Chairs

Our lives are diminished by the chairs we are asked to take from our table and enlivened by those we are invited to add.

Narrator:                    So began the long-distance relationship, with each looking for an excuse to take more business trips to one coast or the other.  Skype became a best friend. During one of the calls they talked about the metaphor of the chairs.
Chaplain:                   I believe it was a counselor who talked about the parts of oneself that are like chairs at the table that is yourself.[1]  Integration of the self is not only a melding of the parts, but rather a recognizing of each of the different chairs at the one table; each is affirmed and has being.  The same applies in a relationship.  When more chairs of each self are invited, affirmed and shared, the relationship is one that grows.  When chairs are taken from the table (or never approach) there can be a type of starving, and a growing sense that you are not accepted and loved. To share many chairs at the table of “we” is a source of richness, a true oneness, a wedding.
He wrote:                   Ah, now I can ask you: which chair are you dating Friday evening? :-)
She replied:                Good. I will date each one of them.
Poet 1:


It is late in the evening;
it is early in the day.

I am up from the bed
in which you barely breathe in sleep,
in which you pant to the point of thirst

I have you as if you are my skin,
as if I could lose you in an instant

I have loved you since I could tell time,
since yesterday, since tomorrow

I am lost in a place called home;
I am found in an ancient house

I am falling into a vast ocean of green,
rising on clouds red, beneath crowns of white

I know like Moses
I forget like David

I burn with a hunger for you,
and am sated by your hunger

I am myself
I am you

We learn to count to three

12 Oct 08 

ACT II – Moving to Marvin’s Beach and on to Nyon

Scene I – Finding Family at St. Francis

Narrator:                    After months of commuting, the two realized the only way to find out whether their relationship would work was to test it.  She told her boss she needed to see this through despite the risk of failure.  She waved goodbye to her friends and colleagues in California, packed her books and paintings, gave away all her furniture and moved to Connecticut.
Narrator:                    Growing up in the subtropical warmth, New England seemed a bit chilly for her  (to say the least!) The neighbors would still see her in scarf, mittens and a woolly hat later that spring, when it was in the 60’s! 
Narrator:                    She had her first snowshoe experience during the St. Francis silent retreat on the Appalachian Trail, and fell in love with the snow and the people. They biked, kayaked, and hiked in the area.  St. Francis became her adopted family on the east coast.  Foyer dinners became one of the couple’s favorite events.
Poet 2:

Love Poem III

I stand in the midst of a church
washed in the white of late morning sun
and feel the fire well within me,
snapping each sense as if kindling—
and at once I understand the bush burning 
undiminished, with the life of a sun
that warms even in this narrow shaft of light
streaming  from the clear-story ,
puddling on the southern sill
of this house that cannot hold one
who burns with the wind.

21 Sep 08

Scene II – Old World

“Happiness is not a station you arrive at but a manner of traveling” – Unknown

Narrator:                    The couple’s life took another turn in the spring of 2010.  He accepted the Red Cross job in a phone call at the baggage carousel (again) while they were visiting her family the first time in Taipei.  He commuted between Connecticut and Geneva for a few months while she was figuring out how to consolidate their belonging into a 20 foot container.  They took the challenge to start a new life in Switzerland. 
Narrator:                    Their life in the French speaking region was simpler.  They brought no cars with them, and used trains and buses instead.  They took spontaneous trips on weekends, and long walks along the lake and in local forests, especially to the dairy farm (to get fresh yogurt and flowers).  They explored the old world together. 
Poet 1:

Filling in the blanks

I decide to take the bus
to a part of the city
I have not yet seen,
where a restaurant I found
was hidden
at the elbow of a narrow street.
with a full stomach
and the lilt of the Cote du Rhone,
I decide to walk;
each corner I turn
and street I cross
hold a surprise,
and I imagine you
stopping to loom in the windows
of a shop here
and read the menu in a cafe there,
while I turn the see the mountains
in the distance
and the Jet d'Eau
almost frozen as a spear
up over the buildings
on the lake shore
where the Rhone begins,
and all I want to say is
I want to see you take it in
a door at a time
and all at once.
And I realize I'm filling
in the blanks
waiting for you
to complete my sentences
as I imagine you will.

22 Jul 10

Scene III – Mom, Three Kids and WhatsApp

“Life is like a ten-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.” – Charles Schulz

Narrator:                    One thing about living overseas is the constant aching for family and close friends.  The modern life and the work schedule make it much harder to see loved ones face to face.  Since the couple comes from the technology industry, they rely on the convenience of the Internet to stay connected.  She exchanges food photos and recipes with her three sisters in Taipei and has a way to “talk” in Chinese.  He is using WhatsApp to stay in touch with his brother and sister.
Narrator:                    Not too long ago, the three siblings were trying to deal with their Mother going to the hospital for some lung tests.  It’s serious, but their training in dining room comedy bodes them well for coping.  They've set up a WhatsApp group on their phones and have been texting since the fall.  Diane has flown to Florida to be with Mom. Steve is in Memphis, and Ed is in Geneva. 
Sister texts:                Dr. said he will take samples from right & left lung; mostly right
Brother 1 texts:          Upadhyay?
Brother 2 texts:          Up whose ?
Sister texts:                Yes --Dr. U-- Nurse said it's a flexible tube with holes in it & a camera on the end.  They will do a wash of the lung which will collect fluids & cells ...then small brushes & graspers come thru the holes to get tissue for pathology. Internet said there is also a light that lights green for healthy cells & red/brown for unhealthy ones
Brother 2 texts:          Good grief ...sounds like a car wash
Sister texts:                Aaaaaaand she had to take out her teeth & handed me a container with them to hold!  You guys owe me BIG time!!!
Brother 1 texts:          Yuk!  I'm glad it's you and not me!!!
Sister texts:                Yeah!!! One of the high points of the day!!
Brother 2 texts:          Lovely…   Paint a few teeth with a sharpie
Sister texts:                I'm not touching them!!
Brother 1 texts:          Oh. I think the sharpie is genius

The conversation went on about the details of the procedure… a few minutes later….

Brother 1 texts:          When can you see her?
Sister texts:                They will come out & get me when I can go back. Meanwhile I'm guarding the teeth
Brother 2 texts:          Ask the nurse for that sharpie...just one tooth.
Sister texts:                I'll save that for YOUR visit!!
Brother 1 texts:          That is such a visual ... you sitting there guarding the teeth.
Brother 2 texts:          I'm packing the sharpie ...

ACT III – The Wine and Food Just Get Better

“Wine opens the heart / it warms the shy poet hidden in the cage of the ribs. / it melts the wax in the ears that music may be heard, / it takes the terror from the tongue / that truth may be said, / or what rhymes marvelously with the truth.”  --Christopher Morley

Poet 2:


Long after the last swallow
the taste of a good wine lingers--
its richness but a trace on my palette,
its warmth unfolding in my throat and chest;
this is the slow time, the moment
of remembering when I brought the glass
   to my nose and inhaled,
   to my lips to feel the slide of its glycerin,
   to my tongue to taste the passion of the vintner,
   to my ear to listen for the long sounds of savoring,
   to my heart that knows with each sip
I have taken you up in my hands,
tilted my face to the sun,
and drunk you into me.

22 Sep 08

Scene I - The Spanish Steps

Narrator:                    The couple flew to Rome last year as a joint birthday celebration.  They rented an apartment from an Italian architect, and they explored the ancient town.  They saw Michelangelo’s paintings on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, watched a sunset at the Colosseum, and dined like Roman’s. On the 5th day of their vacation without itinerary, he began the morning acting a bit strange.
He 2:                          Let’s find a romantic place to visit today. 
Narrator:                    He pulled up his iPad and began searching while he was having his breakfast coffee.
She 2:                         Okay.  Any place is romantic in Rome.  Just pick one. 
Narrator:                    An hour later, he still hasn't decided what the most romantic place is.  She didn't understand why he was being so fussy (Totally clueless).  Something was up…
Poet 1:


Here on these steps
after all the steps
The Spanish Steps, Rome

we have taken together,
this is the most important,
to ask you to step with me;
so here I ask
in the city of amore
to make a new beginning
beyond all earthly steps,
as my wife;
there's a trail that winds thru the hills
that we've not taken yet,
where there's a feast waiting;
take my hand
let's together step
and make this way our own.

12 May 14
Based on the a cappella version, composed from
the heart on the Spanish Steps 

Scene II – A Wedding

Narrator:                    All that goes before comes together in this room.  It is all here, at this “table” and in these chairs
Groom Reads:


“Life is luck, make it.” – Mother Teresa

How did we find each other? 
Someone else was supposed to go to Paris; 
we were the last minute substitutes 
from different sides of the country.  
We only shared a few words
and left with business cards. 
It was through the writing 
about work, food, curiosity, laughter, 
tears and poetry,
we fell in love.
It took us by surprise. 
So was it luck or fate, 
or about pulling our chairs up to the table 
and finding we were invited all along?

* * * * *
The Wedding

Narrator:                    So here we are, almost in church.  And it is time for vows, a prayer and a blessing.  But first two letters…
She 3:

I looked at this blank sheet of paper and almost felt intimated by the thought that I need to write you a note.  I should present something that needs to be extraordinary and so remarkable on this special day.

Then I realized we will be living together for seven years this November.  Only seven years?  I looked back and pondered for a moment how much we have gone through together.  The roller-coaster of life has brought us surprise turns and up’s & down’s.  The love continues to grow.

This is love for me:  The morning kisses before I wake up in the morning.  Lying in bed and listening to the steam engine of the Nespresso machine.  How I anticipate and integrate the rhythm of your morning ritual.  Love is these hundred tiny things that we do together: Snuggles and watching a show on a Friday night.  Giving you ideas for your next presentation.  Being there while you’re facing a career dilemma.  Enjoying a gourmet feast of food and wine.

Our love breathes life into these years.  I ask myself often: If I die now, will I leave with regrets?  I probably would have said yes, had I not met you.  I probably would have said yes, had we not spent great biking days at Norwalk (with shiny toothy smiles).  I probably would have said yes, had we not moved to Nyon. I probably would have said yes, had we not seen the giant lily at Kew Gardens in London.  I probably would have said yes, had we not gone to the cultural dinner at le Berceau des Sens.[2]

In the Buddhist culture, we were taught to live in the moment, and experience the moment.  I didn't realize that you could actually be ready to die a hundred times because you are simply content and happy.

Every day is a new day.  Every day should be celebrated as if it’s your birthday.  Every day we should love as if it is our last day. 

Much love and more to come...

Reader:                  A reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  …
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  –Romans 8:35, 37-39

Reader:                      The Word of the Lord

All:                             Thanks be to God

Vows and Promises

With the JOP presiding, the couple stands in front, face to face, reciting responsively a poem by Robert Bly[3]… [please hold photographs during the vows]

Bride*:                       *A man and a woman sit near each other, 
Groom:                      and they do not long
                                   at this moment to be older, 
                                   *or younger,
                                   nor born
                                   in any other nation, 
                                   *or time, or place.
                                   They are content to be where they are, 
                                   *talking or not-talking.
                                   Their breaths together feed someone whom we do not know.
                                   *The man sees the way his fingers move;
                                   he sees her hands close around a book she hands to him.
                                   *They obey a third body that they share in common. 
                                   They have made a promise to love that body.
                                   *Age may come, parting may come, 
                                   death will come.
                                   *A man and a woman sit near each other;
                                   as they breathe they feed someone we do not know,
                                   *someone we know of, 
                                   whom we have never seen.

* * * * *

Groom:                      Will you take this chair my love?
Bride:                         I will.
Bride:                         And will you take this chair my love?
Groom:                      I will.

JOP:                           Do you have a token or symbol which you wish to exchange?
Bride & Groom:        We do.

The adopted parents come forward; the aunt brings the bulbs and the uncle brings the rings

Groom:                      Today we plant a new flower.
Bride:                         That will bloom anew each year.

The Bride and Groom exchange bulbs then hand them back to the aunt to plant in the spring, and then take the rings from the uncle.

Groom:                      With this ring I make you my promise to love, honor and cherish
Bride:                         With this ring I make you my promise to love, honor and cherish[4]

The parents are seated.

JOP:                           Shirley and Ed, you have expressed your love to one another through the commitment and promises you have just made. It is with these in mind that I pronounce you husband and wife.

No longer simply partners and best friends, you have become husband and wife and can now seal the agreement with a kiss.[5]

Narrator:                    And now what say all of you?
All (loudly):               We affirm you husband and wife!

[Applause, but hold your paper planes :-)]

Prayers and Blessings

Welcomer:                 Let us say responsively, the prayer of St. Francis[6]
                                   [All read the asterisked* lines loudly]

Welcomer:                 Lord, make us an instrument of your peace.
                                   Where there is hatred,
All*:                     * let us sow love;
                                   where there is injury,
                                   * pardon;
                                   where there is discord,
                                   * union; 
                                   where there is doubt,
                                   * faith;
                                   where there is despair,
                                   * hope;
                                   where there is darkness,
                                   * light;
                                   where there is sadness,
                                   * joy.
                                   Grant that we may not so much seek
                                   to be consoled
                                   * as to console;
                                   to be understood
                                   * as to understand;
                                   to be loved
                                   * as to love.
                                   For it is in giving
                                   that we receive;
                                   it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
                                   and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.   Amen.

Welcomer:                 A Blessing...

Chaplain:                   The Benediction

“Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us. So be quick to love, and make haste to be kind. And may the blessing of God --  Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer -- be upon you, and remain with you and all those you love, now and forever.  Amen.”

[Cheers, applause and hugs –and now the throwing of the paper airplanes]

Two Chairs

Lynn Tait, "Santorini, Two Chairs"

We may look at these two chairs
that face us as empty,
sitting outside this rugged house
with the closed blue shutter
and stucco falling from the field stone,
but I see all the conversations
that have not yet happened,
the laughter that has not yet
rung out across this path,
the glance that comes
before the kiss;
what has been behind this window
tied shut with a bit of straw
has been,
and what is yet to come
cannot be kept within these walls;
come sit with me
and start a story
as if it were tomorrow,
and I will dream with you.

To the Bride, for Christmas, 2013

Unless otherwise noted, all poems © Copyright 2008-2015, E.G. Happ, All Rights Reserved.
All text © Copyright 2015, E.G. Happ and S. Chen, All Rights Reserved.

[2] Le Berceau des Sens is a restaurant at EHL, the Hospitality School of Lausanne,
[3] Robert Bly, “A Man and a Woman Sit Near Each Other”, Loving a Woman in Two Worlds, Doubleday; July, 1985
[4] In the Taiwanese culture, the bride wears the ring on her right hand.
[6] A prayer attributed to St. Francis