Thank you for joining me on the ark! Or off the ark, depending on whether or not you decided to get on. You may have decided to stay on land like the gossips, or god-sibs. That did not work out well for them, but then… did they have a choice?

If you don’t remember the gossips from the biblical story of Noah, then you might not remember how much of a pain Noah’s wife was, either. These additions to the story show up in trade guild-produced plays in medieval England (between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries), which have not been given their due time in the spotlight (in my opinion). In fact, I came to YDS and the Institute of Sacred Music to find out how a theater practitioner and scholar might go about making medieval theater in the spirit of community and experimentation that I believe is at the heart of these plays.

I am about to throw some place names at you that need explanation. Chester and Wakefield are towns in England—hopping, thriving commercial towns in the Late Middle Ages with trade guilds that could afford to produce elaborate, day-long events of 40-50 plays performed in succession on the feast of Corpus Christi. The Play of Noah, or “Noye’s Flud” is but one of the many that would have been seen by a large crowd of medieval English onlookers.

Our “Play of Noah,” performed in April 2019, is an interpretation of the familiar biblical story with layer upon layer of textual additions. I began with the Wakefield version of this story—the husband and wife drama contained therein is fierce, funny, and a little wild. Because of my desire to cast everyone who auditioned for the play and also the time constraints of many of my actors, I chose to draw mostly from the Chester version, which features Noah’s family and the animals more heavily than the husband-wife drama. On top of the Chester and Wakefield layers, translations into Tagalog, Portuguese, and German, as well as a new adaptation of Noah’s lines into modern English by Rachel Calnek-Sugin (BA English ’19) have been added. Finally, an entirely new section not at all a part of the original has been added to fit the conceit of the show. The gossips finally turn and address all those watching them drown to ask: at what point are those lost to natural disasters deprived of their humanity or denied the right to be remembered by those who survive? At its core, this religious drama asks questions about obedience to God and allegiance to family. But the specter of all those lost in the terror and “sin” remains. I find the presence of the drowned gossips to be both an empowering look at female friendship and a haunting look at what happens when we choose to forsake one group for another.

While the Noah story as told in Chester and Wakefield offers a unique opportunity to engage with a variety of contemporary issues, including domestic violence between Noah and Noah’s wife, our production focuses mainly on the intersection of the Christian flood story with our current environmental crisis by calling into question our overwhelming consumption at the expense of creation (not unrelated to domestic violence). With rising sea levels, 600,000 square miles in the Pacific Ocean dubbed “trash island,” rapid deforestation, extinction, and declining biodiversity, both from humans’ overconsumption and their waste of resources on the planet, as Christians we MUST ask: where is God in this eco-crisis? It feels very much like we are heading toward another Flood of our own making.

A huge stumbling block to greater awareness of our crises today, and the change we so desperately need to make healthier, more ecologically responsible communities, are the different languages we use to speak about these issues. Two different communities might both benefit from a solution, but language gets in the way of understanding each other and the similarity of their problems. Here, Middle English plays have something to offer us: medieval England was an intensely multilingual place, with French and English being spoken concurrently alongside Latin, Welsh, Irish, Cornish, Hebrew, and Norse. In “Play of Noah,” different languages confound but ultimately do not necessarily inhibit communication.

Perhaps the biggest undertaking of the whole project was the garbage barge; the recycled ark! Collecting the recycling for this play was an interesting endeavor. We relied on recycling from the community for our set, which made us at once grateful to receive it, and also troubled by the amount we were able to collect. This process has been incredibly helpful for thinking through alternative ways to cook and contain food. I would encourage all those touched by this play to spend time collecting their own recycling and sitting with it for a week or two. I think taking away the ease with which we toss things, and abandon them to trash bags and trash heaps, would help us re-think our relationship to products and waste. Additionally giving folks a reason to clean and collect recycling—to be repurposed in a creative act—was exciting and useful.

I hope that you will be confused by this play. Delighted. Haunted. I hope that this medieval understanding of Noah’s flood will trouble you just as God troubles deep ocean waters in the Noah story. And I wish for you that you will continue to question and seek answers for the devastating consequences of mindless consumption and callous misuse. This happens in all corners of creation, even and especially right under our noses. We can and will do better.

A Note of Thanks:

I owe many, many thanks in making this production a reality. Emily and the whole FERNS team worked tirelessly to make this possible as a part of their larger Creation Week. Anna was a cheerful champion for the project, especially at FES. My cast, including those who have never acted before and those for whom this performance would be the first in a decade or more, were thoughtful, brave, and willing to listen and play. At the ISM, Martin Jean, Kristen Forman, Liz Santamaria, and Sachin Ramabhadran added their knowledge and support to the project. At the Divinity School, Tom Krattenmaker, Jeanne Peloso, and Pam Bloomfield helped facilitate and promote the show. My advisors—Professors Jessica Brantley and Henry Parkes—added their expertise in many things medieval. I owe Jerrick Cavagnaro and Chase Loomer special thanks for their most excellent organ and piano expertise. Thank you to Professor Karin Coonrod for her directorly input. To Timothy O’Leary, our snack man and all-around best team player when it came to building the ark and stepping into unfamiliar technical roles—thank you. To my other Tim, a mentor and friend who passed away too soon and whose encouragement and advice in my directing will last my whole life—thank you. To all of my cherished loved ones who made trips from afar to come support the project in any way they could—I appreciate you. To all those who made it to the show and to those who worked on the show in a capacity I have not mentioned above—thank you for supporting live theater in an increasingly screen-mediated world. The power of the spoken (and sung) word in community never ceases to amaze me.


CAST (in order of appearance):

Noah: Matthew Blake

God: Colin Hoch

Sem (First Son): Michael Libunao-Macalintal

Cam (Second Son): Blair A. R. Nelsen

Jafett (Third Son): Polly Korbel

Noah's Wife: Cecelia Bellomy

Sem's Wife: Mecca Griffith

Cam's Wife: Benjamin Lyth

Jafett's Wife: Catherine Amy Kropp

God-Sib: Annie Nields

God-Sib: Sarah Dirk


Set Designer: Riw Rakkulchon

Costume Designer: JaQuan Beachem

Costume Consultant: Georgia Link

Stage Manager: Sarah Dirk

Choreographer: Sarah Dirk

Running crew: Tim O’Leary and Emily Bruce


The Play of Noah is produced by students in FERNS, the environmental student group at Yale Divinity School. They have worked incredibly hard to bring this medieval drama to life!

This production is also hosted by GROUNDED (the spirituality student interest group) and EMAS (the environmental media & arts student interest group) at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.


The Play of Noah would not be possible without generous sponsorship from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.

We are also grateful to Yale University, specifically the professional schools of Divinity and Forestry, for hosting this production in their beautiful, unique, and historic spaces.


So now you've seen a medieval drama and a ship built out of trash. What now?

Food waste: get educated!

Troubled by so much plastic? Be part of the solution.

The possibilities are endless. Get out there!