Drama brings pro-life message to PW Gathering PDF Print E-mail

Puah’s Midwife Crisis, a new musical about two Hebrew midwives, was performed in two parts during plenary sessions at the recent Churchwide Gathering of Presbyterian Women held July 11-15 in Louisville, Kentucky. The lively and entertaining portrayal was true to the Biblical account and told with humor and imagination. The music covered a wide range of song and dance styles from haunting ballads to raucous dance tunes.

In the story, based on Exodus 1 & 2, Pharoah’s advisors fear that the Hebrews have grown too strong for them and they concoct an evil plan to have the midwives do away with all male Hebrew babies. The character of the Fool brings home what is at stake when he asks in shock, “Kill the baby boys?”

The title of one song sung by the women of Pharoah’s court who do not yet want to be pregnant, Just Say No, could be understood to be promoting abstinence, although that intent is not entirely clear from the lyrics.

Puah is portrayed as a young midwife, still in training, who faints during her first delivery. When she returns to consciousness she proclaims “I saw God in there…that baby was a miracle!” Pharoah commands the midwives to destroy all the male babies born to the Hebrews. This goes against all they know of God and Puah asks Shiphrah, “What will we do? We cannot kill!” Shiphrah answers, “Desperate times call for desperate measures, Puah,” to which Puah replies, “There is only one God and it’s not Pharoah!”

The scene fades and a drum begins playing like a heartbeat in the background as the birthing room appears on stage shrouded in curtains. The mother is having a difficult delivery and urges Shiphrah and Puah to save the life of her child. “This child deserves to live—I’ve had my life,” she cries.” Puah is beside herself, “What if it’s a boy?—Oh, My Lord, it is a boy!” Shiphrah lets out a wail, “for all the oppressed of God’s creation.” For one breathless moment the audience is left to wonder what happened to the baby and then Shiphrah appears from behind the curtain with the living baby boy in her arms. To Puah she says, “Your God is my God too.” The midwives affirm that every child on earth is God’s great promise of birth. “We couldn’t end that child’s life just as he was getting a chance to live. If we have sinned let it be on the side of love rather than on the side of laws.”

But what will the midwives tell Pharoah? They are called into his court and Pharoah demands to know why so many Hebrew boys are still being born. Puah and Shiphrah explain that the Hebrew women are just so “vigorous” that the babies are born before the midwives can arrive.

One of the funniest scenes in the musical follows, providing comic relief in the drama. At the urging of Pharoah’s daughter who desperately wants a child, all the ladies of Pharoah’s court have become pregnant. (This particular scene is an imaginative addition to the Biblical account). How is it these Hebrews give birth so easily they wonder as they walk around awkwardly, moaning in the last months of pregnancy. Someone answers that the hardiness of the Hebrew women is due to their work in the fields and a comical dance follows as the women sing, “Do the Plow Now”.

Pharoah then commands the midwives to “tell the parents they are to drown the children in the Nile.” Pharoah’s daughter, who is portrayed as being barren with no children of her own, protests her father plans to destroy the male babies of the Hebrews. She reminds him that the Hebrew slaves are descendants of Joseph and says, “His children’s children bless us---there is nothing to fear.” Pharoah refuses to listen.

The musical ends with the well known adoption story of Moses. Born to Jochabed he is placed in a basket in the river so that he might survive Pharoah’s edict. There he is watched by his sister until he is found by Pharoah’s daughter who raises him as a Prince of Egypt, while Jochabed is secured to be his nurse.

Read an article about how Puah’s Midwife Crisis got started or visit their website for more information on this pro-life musical. 

Cheryl Goodman-Morris
, is a PC(USA) pastor and author of Puah’s Midwife Crisis. She was drawn to this Biblical passage 24 years ago when she was flat on her back for 6 months when pregnant with her daughter Noelle. She first told the story as a first person drama in a sermon following her daughter’s birth. Then in 2006 following the Presbyterian Women Gathering she talked with a friend in the Louisville airport where the idea to bring the musical to a PW Gathering was born. She partnered with musician Karen Russell and the first production of Puah’s Midwife Crisis came to be.



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