Dr. Deborah M. Coulter-Harris has always been intrigued by a good mystery. When she came across the story of the biblical Queen of Sheba, she found herself fascinated by the myth and legend that surrounds her.
“I have relished discovering the many tales of her upbringing, her genetic ancestry, linguistic variations in her name, her cross-dressing, the extent of her empire, and her relations with human men. I believe Sheba could have been Pharaoh Hatshepsut, the first female pharaoh of Egypt,” said Coulter-Harris, senior lecturer in the Department of English Language and Literature.Coulter-Harris’ project on the queen began with a full-length academic study titled “The Queen of Sheba: Legends, Literature and Lore,” published in 2013 by McFarland Publishers. The book went on to receive worldwide distribution, and is now followed by a play, “Sheba Rules.”
“Of course, there are well-known tales of Sheba in the Bible, Qur’an and Kebra Negast, and all of these major tales have different stories about her,” Coulter-Harris said. “In my play, Sheba is a demigod who historically began the tradition of female demigods in classical literature, such as Medea, Niobe and Helen. She is the archetypal Amazonian warrior queen, who even dressed like a man when dealing with politicians and during public appearances.”
If theater-goers are looking for a play with a strong female lead and the ancient struggles of authority, land, gender and sexuality — and how these topics relate to the current political and cultural climate — they need look no further. Sheba’s road to becoming pharaoh and avoiding marriage is described by the Toledo Repertoire Theatre as “a juicy biographical extravaganza.”“I have made her a ruthless, vengeful, ambitious, brave, skillful and brilliant queen who was single-minded in her duty to her empire and her citizens,” Coulter-Harris said of her protagonist. “I have written a violent play, but the reported murders in the play are symbolic of the feminine overthrowing and eliminating the threat of destructive masculine actions: female abuse, greed, and obsession with power.”
The Toledo Repertoire Theatre will host a staged reading of “Sheba Rules” as part of its “Toledo Voices” series, showcasing unproduced works by local playwrights.
The reading will take place Saturday, March 11, at 8 p.m. at the 10th Street Stage, 16 Tenth St., Toledo. After the play, the audience is invited to stay to talk with Coulter-Harris, the cast and director.
Tickets are $5 and may be purchased by calling 419.243.9277 or at toledorep.org.