Speak the Lands of My Heart is the entertaining one-woman show about a journey to India and into the heart and mind of a woman on an adventurous cross-cultural spiritual quest. Originally inspired by Elizabeth’s journey and journal entries when she went to India, this show delights and enlightens. Elizabeth performs a dramatic read of excerpts, the abbreviated version, or the show in full length – which can be followed by a Q&A on India, traveling alone, and following your dreams.
(A table and chair sit center stage. On the table are placed a water glass and two tambourine-like Indian instruments. On the floor is a pair of hiking boots with a book tucked in one of the boots. Tossed off to the side is a knapsack filled with stuff. Indian music plays softly in the background. Lights fade up, as music fades out.)
India: mystical, magical, beautiful, disease-stricken, poverty-ridden, ancient land. When you think of India, you think of Gandhi and now nuclear arms. The land of paradox. You go up to go down, you hurry up to slow down, you wait to move. Something that might take fifteen minutes in the states will take two days in the East, and with a waiting list of 135 people to get on a plane, the hundred and thirty-fifth may be the first to get on and the first on the waiting list may never get on. That’s India. If you can live with the rule, that there are no rules, or as one Indian man recently said to me-
There are rules in India. They are written down in the books, just nobody follows them!
… And thus begins Speak the Lands of My Heart, a one-person odyssey through India, and into the heart and mind of a young woman on a spirited cross-cultural adventure.
While Elizabeth stumbles through the problems that arise traveling in a country entirely different from her own, she is bombarded with her own inner demons of worry and doubt, and the past associations she had with the teacher, Swami X. Navigating the constant tension between the personal and universal, between the past and the present, Elizabeth recognizes the spirited sameness of emotion that belongs to humans everywhere, and opens the doors to her own wisdom and peace. With hilarity and poignancy, the audience journeys into India and, through Elizabeth’s eyes, into our common humanity, which, at heart, transcends all culture.
The initial inspirations for Speak the Lands of My Heart were monologues culled from journals. When the monologues received wide appreciation, I went back to the journals, and transcribed more. Listeners drew parallels between the style of Spalding Gray’s monologues and Speak the Lands of My Heart. My director, Susan Cameron, and I thought a reading in that style would be appropriate. However as rehearsals commenced, a strong and captivating physical life emerged, allowing the words on the page to have a larger life in a fully staged production with a minimal set: hiking boots, nap sack, a table and chair. A 45-minute version of the play was performed at the HERE Theatre in NYC for their American Living Room Series Festival in August 1998.
After September 11, 2001, I thought this play was no longer relevant. Seeing men with guns at the airport in India, and being searched on buses because temples were threatened by terrorism in 1991, had now become commonplace in America. Who would want to hear about this in India? To the contrary, I received emails from people urging me to remount Speak the Lands of My Heart, finding in it more poignant parallels than ever before. They also reminded me that works set in different countries were now especially needed as fear mounts about international travel. And that, in fact, it is necessary to build bridges with our art and not tear those same bridges down.
Speak the Lands of My Heart humorously and self deprecatingly lays it on the line, inviting out into the open the fears, the joys, and the exploration of traveling to a world that on the surface seems entirely different from one’s own, but in our hearts is all the same.
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What Others Are Saying…
In the revelatory Odyssey – ‘Speak the Lands of My Heart’ – Elizabeth Welles cuts through the illusions of the spiritual journey with delightful wit and intelligence that is both honestly reverent and hilariously irreverent.
With riveting clarity and humor she soars across the landscape of India debating the relative merits (in the case of enlightenment) of a kaleidoscope of yogis and swamis, spiritual retreats, crumbling nirvanas and five-star Indian hotels.
Through Welles’ exquisite characterizations and vast repertoire of voice, we feel the heat, pollution and poverty of smog-swirled New Delhi and the high enchantment of Rishikesh on the Sacrad Ganga, bringing vivid life to the chaos, contradiction, and beauty that is India and its People.
Ultimately, Welles carries us into a buzzing zone of the profane and the profound, and then spins us out, bringing our hearts and minds to a vision of the common humanity that transcends all boundaries of time and space.
‘Speak the Lands of My Heart’ is immensely pleasurable visual prose!
Nancy Decker, Author
To steal from Hemingway’s most famous words, “If you’re lucky enough to have seen Elizabeth Welles perform on a stage, then wherever you go, it stays with you, for Elizabeth is a moveable feast.” In her one-woman initiatory journey through India, Speak the Lands of My Heart, Welles is hilarious, wacky, fanciful, zany, kooky, wacky and loopy, yet she always remains touching, poignant, gripping and spiritually connected. She travels through India like Dorothy through the Land of Oz and makes her alliances with her own Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion. Through it all, she finds her own voice-and what a voice it is! In the Lands of Elizabeth’s heart, there are swarms of swamis, lowlifes and saints, beggars and sinners, but every one of them is so full of humanity that you will shed tears of joy and sorrow for them and with them. Join Elizabeth Welles in Speak the Lands of My Heart. It’s a journey of initiation and discovery that will stay with you forever.
Elio Zarmati, Writer & Publisher
In Speak the Lands of My Heart, Elizabeth Welles has written an extraordinarily personal, highly-energized and moving account of the experiences which led her to traveling in India. Extremely well dramatized (often a problem with one-person shows which tend to be narrative), witty, passionate and reflective in ways which extend beyond narcissism, it is story-telling of the highest order: funny and serious, a journey of the mind and the spirit as well as of the body. Ms. Welles performing skills are extremely strong. She possesses a radiant good-nature and a quirky comic talent rooted in her inner life without contrivance. She has a great stage presence, a vibrant psychic and physical energy, which coupled with her great sensitivity and passion give her acting great depth and variety. She LIVES on stage. I have watched Ms. Welles develop Speak the Lands of My Heart and have seen her perform it on several occasions. She is an extremely appealing figure on the stage, at one with herself and with her material. I think there is an extraordinary opportunity here; an engaging and vividly talented actor in a fresh and resonant play. I’ve known Ms. Welles for a long time as a writer and as an actor. I have encouraged her in both areas; I would encourage you to take notice. To identify the perspective from which I write, please check my listing as it appears in the directory of The Directors Guild of America. I will be pleased to respond to any further requests for information.
Gene Lasko, Director & Producer