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  • The Prostitute and the President
  • Ratna Sarumpaet (bio)
    Translated by Kathy Foley (bio)

Cast of Characters

Jamila 1

Jamila 2

Mrs. Wardiman

Zaelani, servant to Mrs. Wardiman

Ria, prison warden

Mrs. Darno, prostitutes’ manager

The President

Prison Guards



Government Official’s Wife 1

Government Official’s Wife 2


Police Officers

Little Children

Opening Scene

The stage is empty and dark. As if dawn approaches, rays of light appear on the backdrop. The voice of a young woman singing a sawalat—a song of praise to the Prophet Mohammad—can be heard. After a few seconds, a group of pre-adolescent girls pass by in silhouette. Mrs. Darno and several thugs herd the children forward, sometimes slapping their butts, sometimes pulling their hair.

After the adults and children exit, spotlights explode from various directions. The sound of a siren is heard blaring in the distance, followed by the siren of a police car. There follows the voices of television newscasters reading reports about the death of a government minister. Their voices overlap with one another. While they read, a funeral cortège crosses the stage with lights shining on it from the side.

newscaster 1

Nurdin Hidayat, cabinet minister, was found dead this morning in the room of a five-star hotel. Having sustained a number of stab wounds to the chest and stomach, his body was covered in blood. [End Page 175]

newscaster 2

A young woman by the name of Jamila reported the death of Minister Nurdin to the police. She confessed to having killed him with premeditation.

newscaster 3

Today’s cabinet meeting was conducted under the cloud of this news. Both the manner and the location of Nurdin’s death were cited by various parties as signs of failure on the part of the President to select cabinet members of high moral caliber.

newscaster 4

Numerous political observers have called on the nation’s political parties and the nation’s politicians, in particular, to take a lesson from Nurdin’s death. His murder has given the President an opportunity to cleanse the minister’s office from political interests.

[The voices of the newscasters fade as the funeral cortège exits the stage and the spotlights dim. The sound of the siren grows more distant.

A light fades in on Jamila 2, who is seated on a cot in her prison cell. Her eyes, burning with anger and hate, are fixed on a single point. Meanwhile, on the backdrop, the blurred silhouette of Jamila 1 can be seen as she recites sections of the Quran.]

jamila 1

Bismillahhirohmah nir rohim. Allahumagh firli maqaddamtu mawa akhartu wama asrartuwama a’lantu wama asraftu wama anta a’alamu bihi minni antalmuqaddimu wa antal muakhkhiru laaillaaha illa anta. Allahuma inni a’udzubika min adzabilqabri wamin ‘adzabin nari wamin fitnatilmahya walmamati wamin fitnatil masihid dajjal. Allahuma inni dhalamtu nafsi dhulman katsira wala yaghfirudz dzunuba illa anta faghfirli maghfiratan katsiratan min ‘indika warhamni innaka antal ghafururrahim.

[The light fades out on Jamila 2 and fades in on Mrs. Wardiman, who is paralyzed and in a wheelchair. She comes to the front of the stage. Her harsh and angry voice shatters the pensive atmosphere. She calls out for Zaelani, a male servant with markedly effeminate mannerisms.]

mrs. wardiman

[Screaming.] Zaelani! Zaelani!


[Offstage.] Yes, Madam. [Runs from the back of the stage to Mrs. Wardiman.]

Here I am, Madam.

mrs. wardiman

Order that woman to stop! Her praying makes my ears burn. [End Page 176]


I don’t understand, Madam.

mrs. wardiman

[Repeating her order with a yell.] Order her to stop praying!

[Jamila 1 stops praying.]


I’m confused, Madam.

mrs. wardiman

Don’t play games with me, Zaelani.


I wouldn’t do that, Madam.

mrs. wardiman

Don’t pretend you don’t know what happened in this house.


I’m sorry, ma’am, but I really don’t understand.

mrs. wardiman

Fool! Call Jamila for me.


Yes, ma’am. [Stands and runs to the back, exiting. At that moment, Jamila 1 enters. She moves with precise steps toward Mrs. Wardiman, stopping directly in front of her.]

jamila 1

Excuse me. You called me, ma’am...