Yeshe, Queen of Tibet

Act I

Scene 1: The Pleasure Realm

act-1-sc-1751Padma enters the pleasure realm in a jolt of light, having traveled through time and space to find Yeshe. The  goddesses stand on stage, a cluster of red. Yeshe hides. Padma lures her with a slow dance. The other goddesses try to distract him with vampy runway poses. Yeshe vows to join Padma in his quest to tame the wild bandit country of Tibet.

Scene 2: Worldly Hungers

act-1-sc-2756Yeshe’s parents stand in a soft spotlight holding an infant, an elegant but strange appearance; the supreme innocent with a full set of teeth and long hair. The parents carry her on a lotus, displaying to all their unique child. A line of girls in ascending sizes enter, representing Yeshe in rapid development. Yeshe, now in full bloom and of betrothal age, enters impressively. She is met by a crowd, aggressive and demanding. Suiters bring gifts, voices of gossip and desire fill the air.  Yeshe refuses to marry. Her father proclaims his daughter to the man who can catch her. Yeshe emphatically rejects the entire situation, rips off her courting robes and flees. Men chase her off stage.

Scene 3: Entrapment

act-1-sc-3749Yeshe enters running, followed by Prince Karchupa and his thug Santipa in heated pursuit. She sets her feet into a boulder and stays, determined to resist her attacker. She remains defiant as the prince berates her. While the prince watches, his thug  rips Yeshe’s clothes off and whips her. Blood covers the stage. Yeshe, still locked into the rock, lies beaten but undefeated.

Scene 4: I Have Seen My Queen

In the palace courtyard, the king and ministers passionately discuss Padma. To the side in shadow, Yeshe stands in bondage, mute, trapped. Two rival princes, both wanting Yeshe, duel with words and swords as the king and ministers watch. Yeshe’s father, at her side, pleads for her liberation, begins to unravel her red bindings. The king, decisively cutting  through the aggressive dissent, walks toward Yeshe, offers her protection and support as his queen. He guides Yeshe tenderly off stage; her bindings leave a long red trail behind her.

Act II

Scene 1: Satisfaction

act-2-sc-1757In the palace library, huge scrolls of Tibetan text unfurl at Yeshe’s feet. She studies the manuscripts on the floor, her long train sweeping the words as she moves. The king enters singing of his unrequited love but she remains absorbed in study, unmoved. Suddenly, Padma appears in a roar of righteous rage.  He is on fire - and formidable. Padma and the king negotiate; servants carry trays with offerings which Padma rejects; the king is finally forced to offer Yeshe to Padma. Yeshe gazes at Padma in delight, discards her royal robes and flies into his arms. In a shower of rose petals,  they embrace and retreat together.

Scene 2: The Queen’s Absence

The voices of a festival crowd fill the air with gossip about Yeshe’s absence from the court. A group of energetic dancers perform a traditional dance. The ministers enter, discussing Padma and plotting more dissent. The king comes forward with a more enlightened message; the ministers  dissent. Yeshe’s voice is heard off-stage.  The ministers dissent. The king, in full power, puts a sudden stop to the dissonance.  Everyone freezes.

Scene 3: Ransoming Love

act-2-sc-3758In the shadow of a stupa, Yeshe is attacked by seven thieves. She stops each one with words of wisdom. They run away in stunned humility. Further on the road, Yeshe meets the slave Sale and his owner. She is attracted to the young handsome Sale and wants him. She playfully bargains with his owner, flirts with the slave and buys him. Padma as a vision, comes to confer with Yeshe privately. He approves of her  purchase. Yeshe cheerfully leads Sale off stage as Padma watches.

Scene 4: Paramitas

Yeshe and Sale are walking.  Dema, Yeshe’s girlfriend, is walking from the opposite direction. Meeting unexpectedly, the women engage in a lively, frank exchange about love and lovers. The women part as casually as they had met.


Scene 1: Retreat

act-3-sc-1754Yeshe sits in meditation; a surrogate Yeshe stands near by, voicing her thoughts. The enchanters, mischievous trolls, try to challenge her endurance and devotion with rude disturbances but she is unmoved. Sale sits near by and is guided towards wisdom by the apparition of Padma. The trolls again try to tempt Yeshe with beautiful young men and  earthly riches but she is unmoved.  They send lightning and bombs but she is unmoved. Padma appears as a vision praising Yeshe’s fortitude.

Scene 2:  Four Joys

Yeshe is under attack by a group of men. She removes herself from the rapists, leaving a trail of red ribbon behind her; the men remain in violent dance as she watches. The rapists, lost in their lust, continue to lunge for the ribbon - till they are all tied up into a ball of darkness and ignorance. Yeshe stands solid and sings of the four joys.

Scene 3: Action

Yeshe and Padma enter ready to archive and disperse the vast teachings they have collected. They sort through layers of CDs  and calligraphic letters which then rise into the sky. They begin to say their good-bys;  Padma’s work on earth is done. As Padma retreats, Yeshe sadly follows and clings. At the portal, Padma dissolves, is replaced by the iconic image of lovers in embrace. Yeshe turns away alone, takes off her teaching robes, walks to a single spotlight, sits on cushion, meditates.

Scene 4: Debate

act-3-sc-4752The king enters grandly, addresses the gathered crowd; the opposing forces of the old and new spiritual traditions are in fierce debate. A dancer and 3 ministers mime a traditional debate with gestures and percussive action. The crowd opens as Yeshe enters, the voices of gossip surround her. With swift efficiency, she configures the chaotic crowd into a single file, into positions of order and calm. With equally swift magic, she wraps the  odious ministers around her finger and flings them away effortlessly. The ministers crumble to the floor.

Finale: The Song of the Old Hag

finale753-2Yeshe enters shimmering, almost transparent; she is 220 years old. The lion lord and his lords of death, dancing white lions, circle around her, bearing weapons and menace. Yeshe sings with the wisdom of age, unafraid. She predicts the future, the good and the bad; says good-by to Sale and the trolls. The lords of death recede. Yeshe’s final glorious song leads her to the solitary light at the end of the runway. She steps into the light, into the symbol A, into the beginning and the end.