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Monday, July 16, 2018

Tide of Employment 























A play about Herbert Hoover


Tide of Employment 


The Tide of Employment

REPORTER:
HERBERT HOOVER:
FRANCES PERKINS:
PAUL CALDWELL WILSON:
LOU HENRY HOOVER:
ANNIE:
FRED:
(OTHER CAMPERS)

SCENE ONE: White House

                                    Setting is at the White House. There are fancy chairs and couches around. At first the Reporter stands at front, alone, but then goes to join Hoover, front center.

REPORTER:    The great crash of Wall Street was barely eight months ago, and President Hoover so far has done nothing about the unemployment situation. Groups of people are collecting in places they’ve come to call “Hoovervilles,” such as Anacostia, here in Washington DC. Meanwhile I’ve come to the White House to talk to Mr. Hoover about what exactly he plans.

                                    Reporter sits with Hoover and puts microphone in front of him as appropriate.

REPORTER:    Mr. Hoover, what can you tell us about the employment situation, and what you’re doing about it?
HERBERT:      The tide of employment has changed in the right direction! People will be employed soon, I’m sure! It’s all a matter of confidence. When the employers become more confident about our future, they will hire more people.
REPORTER:    How can you assure us of that?
HERBERT:      I base my analysis on the US Employment Service. Look, I am just the President. I do not employ people, the businesses employ them. The businesses have to have confidence, before they take someone on, but I assure you, they have every reason to be confident. The US Employment Service assures us, the tide of employment is going in the right direction!

SCENE TWO: Perkins’ residence

                                    Similar to Scene One; it’s a private, well-to-do residence. There is a kitchen table. Francis sits at the kitchen table, writing in her diary.

FRANCES: (reading aloud to audience)         
            Dear Diary, These are the worst of times. Our president does not see the pain that people are in. There are no jobs, and nobody is doing anything about it. I fear the jobless will feel there’s something wrong with them personally. A great despair will enter their hearts. Young people will read the stories of our times and say, “Why doesn’t Papa work?”  He says it’s a matter of confidence. If people are not confident, whose fault is that? If nobody wants to be the first to start hiring people, whose fault is that?
(PAUL enters)
PAUL:              What are you doing, darling?
FRANCES:       Writing in my diary.
PAUL:              You look quite agitated.
FRANCES:       I am. Hoover has just made a speech. He said he felt that the (mocking his voice, making it obvious she doesn’t agree) “tide of employment has changed in the right direction!”
PAUL:              It doesn’t look like it has, based on the lines at the employment center!
FRANCES:       That’s exactly my point! He based his information on the US Employment Service. But the US Employment Service is notoriously inaccurate! The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is more current, and more accurate, says that people are being laid off. People are losing their jobs. His Secretary of Labor says we’re “well on the way to recovery.” But I can see that we’re not!
PAUL:              You know, we could be in for a long depression.
FRANCES:       Yes, and you know what? This isn’t a problem that solves itself.
PAUL:              And you know, the problem with that buzzard is, it could be that government involvement is the only way to get the country back on track. You know, printing money, employing people, setting up some kind of safety net. You can’t just sit around and watch people starve!
FRANCES:       Yes, but that’s what he’ll do! You watch! 
                               (they exit.)

SCENE THREE: White House

                                (LOU HENRY and HERBERT enter. LOU HENRY is bringing HERBERT a cup of tea).

LOU HENRY: So, you said the tide of employment has changed in the right direction?
HERBERT:      Yes, dear, I said that. I said it because it has!
LOU HENRY: And what did you base that idea on?
HERBERT:      On statistics from the US Employment Service. Do you have a problem with that?
LOU HENRY: I just don’t quite believe them, is all. I think maybe you’re seeing what you want to see, instead of seeing what’s out there.
HERBERT:      It’s all confidence, dear. These businesses will hire people, if they think things are turning up. We have to keep our heads up, look at the good side! We have to keep looking forward!
LOU HENRY:  But that doesn’t mean looking at the wrong statistics!
HERBERT:      Statistics are statistics; numbers don’t lie! I’ve been using the same statistics all my life, and they never really failed me. I realize, maybe I’m looking at the good statistics, not the bad ones. But if these guys say the tide is turning, I’ll take it! I’ll not question it, and then go out there and tell everyone to starve!
LOU HENRY: I see your point. But in the end, they may starve anyway.
HERBERT:      So what am I supposed to do about it?
LOU HENRY: I don’t know, Herbert. But you are the President. You can think of something, can’t you? People are starving!  They’re making tent camps, like that one in Anacostia. They are cursing you under their breath!
HERBERT:      Listen, Lou Henry. As you know, I was an orphan. I was hungry once.  It’s not that I don’t know what it’s like to be hungry; I do. I just don’t feel like it’s the President’s job to make sure everyone gets fed. These businesses will start hiring, I know they will. They just need the confidence to get going. They need to feel like everyone else is doing it, and like it will turn out ok.
LOU HENRY: By the way, you know that place down near here, called Anacostia? The one people are beginning to call “Hooverville?” Anyway it’s where the poor people are. I was thinking, I could at least take some of our extra food down there. We have so much, we have extra.
HERBERT:      No, I won’t have it. We are the first family; we must show confidence that it will all get better. We can’t go mixing in with people down there.

SCENE FOUR: Campfire
SETTING is HOOVERVILLE, ANACOSTIA. Tired, dirty, poorly dressed people are around a fire. There can be as many as you like, or just two. The first is ANNIE, and the second is FRED, but there can be many singers. The tune is from We’d like to thank you Herbert Hoover: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqvYNoiPDKw. But it can be chanted, or sung without the tune.

[ANNIE]
Today we're living in a shanty
Today we're scrounging for a meal

[FRED]
Today I'm stealing coal for fires
Who knew I could steal?

[ANNIE]
I used to winter in the tropics

[FRED]
I spent my summers at the shore

[ANNIE]
I used to throw away the paper—

[ALL]
we don’t anymore!

[ALL]
We'd like to thank you: Herber Hoover
For really showing us the way
We'd like to thank you, Herbert Hoover
You made us what we are today

Prosperity was 'round the corner
The cozy cottage built for two
In this blue heaven
That you
Gave us
Yes! We're turning blue!

They offered us Al Smith and Hoover
We paid attention and we chose
Not only did we pay attention
We paid through the nose.

In ev'ry pot he said "a chicken"
But Herbert Hoover he forgot
Not only don't we have the chicken
We ain't got the pot!
Hey Herbie

[WOMEN]
You left behind a grateful nation

[ALL]
So, Herb, our hats are off to you
We're up to here with admiration

[ANNIE]
Come down and have a little stew

[ALL]
Come down and share some Christmas dinner
Be sure to bring the missus too
We got no turkey for our stuffing
Why don’t we stuff you

We'd like to thank you, Herbert Hoover (Thank you Herbie)
For really showing us the way
You dirty rat, you Bureaucrat, you
Made us what we are today
Come and get it, Herb!

(they exit)

SCENE FIVE: Perkins’ house

(enter FRANCES and PAUL. FRANCES is serving tea.)

FRANCES:       Well, Hoover is turning out to be one of the most unpopular  presidents, ever!
PAUL:              Yes, the main problem is that so many people are starving, eh?
FRANCES:       The unemployment rate has reached 25%. It’s like nobody is working  except the mailman and the public school teachers.
PAUL:              But he’s raised taxes on everyone. What does he think, that the common people can take much more of this?
FRANCES:       Well, as you know, he believes in balancing the budget. And he passed the Smoot-Hawley tariff, so that dried up international trade!
PAUL:              Yes, you make tariffs, they make tariffs, pretty soon there’s less trade,  no jobs, more of the same. He thought he was protecting jobs, but it didn’t work out that way. And the worst thing is that he’s supporting Prohibition! He called it an “experiment,” like he would take it away if  it didn’t work. Well, it didn’t work. But we’re still stuck with it.
FRANCES:       Yes, does he think people shouldn’t be able to drink away their woes?
PAUL:              Well, it’s really more a practical matter. I can see the damage that alcohol does, but is it really possible to make it illegal, and keep it that way? People like this Al Capone, they’re just smuggling it in, making the big money, and that makes the people even more angry I would think.             
FRANCES:       Not to mention, need a drink once in a while.
PAUL:              That reminds me (producing a wine bottle): Would you like a sip? It’s tough times. We need to get through it. (He pours) Listen, Frances. Cheers! (they raise glasses together and clink them). You are the new Commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor. My point is, you are prominent. You are in the public eye. When you say that Hoover is using bogus statistics to make his point, people listen. It’s important what’s going on here. People are starving. Hoover is ignoring it, and pretending everything is going to be ok. What if it’s not ok? Somebody has to do something!
FRANCES:       I’m doing the best I can, Paul! It is not easy, watching these people starve!
                                    (they leave)

SCENE SIX: White House

                                    (HERBERT and LOU HENRY come and occupy the same table).

LOU HENRY: Your heart looks heavy, Herbert. It looks like it’s weighing on you.
HERBERT:      It is. I am well aware that people are starving, and that they blame me.
LOU HENRY: Let me remind you of something, Herbert. You have led an exemplary life. You helped rebuild Europe after World War One. You fed millions of Europeans with the American Relief Administration. That was no small thing. You have showed the world how one person can make a difference.
HERBERT:      But here, I just don’t see what I can do. I started the Hoover Dam; I made projects that employed people. I know how to get things done, make plans, get the money, get projects rolling. But I can’t just make business start hiring! I can’t just go out and feed people, and put them on the dole! That’s not how it works! These businesses have to take the initiative here! It’s just not government’s job!
LOU HENRY: Perhaps you shouldn’t have raised taxes?
HERBERT:      You have to balance the budget! If the government just starts borrowing, borrowing, borrowing, where does that lead us? I can’t see it. We had to have the money to keep government going. I don’t know any way out!
LOU HENRY:              You know, Herbert, I can’t help but think of our Quaker heritage. We both grew up Quaker, grew up in the same faith. Where are the principles of compassion, and helping the poor? We sit here, with this nice tablecloth, and our fine silver, (she waves her arms at the finery on the table; at this point there are at least a few dishes, and teacups), and out there people are starving. I’d like to help them, maybe take some food down to Anacostia, but you think that’s not becoming of the Presidency. Sometimes it seems to me that the only thing left of our Quakerism is our stubborn refusal to let people drink!
HERBERT:      Actually I wouldn’t mind a little drink, at this point.
LOU HENRY: What, make it illegal for everyone, but indulge ourselves? I’ll not have it! I may have given up on all our other Quaker ideals, but I’ll not give up on doing yourself as you let others do.
HERBERT:      By the way, I’ve received reports that you’ve arranged to take leftover foods from the White House, over to Anacostia at times on weekends.  Is this true?   
LOU HENRY: Yes it is, I arrange for it anyway. You see, I can’t bear to know that people are starving. It is one thing, that they say the President has no thought for the little man, but only trying to save the bloated plutocrat. They can say all the mean and hurtful things they want. But as for myself, if I waste food, while people are starving, I can’t bear that. I will go and help them if I can. It’s my kitchen; it’s my food, and I can have our people take it over there.
HERBERT:      Just be careful, OK? I don’t really want you going over there yourself. Just have the kitchen help do it; they’ll know how to get it over there, and what to do. It’s not safe if you go. I can’t bear to see you in danger.

                                    (they leave)

SCENE SEVEN: Reporter is at tv set

REPORTER:   Good evening. Today the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor, Frances Perkins, criticized President Hoover, for using the wrong statistics when he said that the “tide of employment” had turned and that employers were beginning to hire more workers. She said that the US Employment Service had inaccurate statistics, and should not be trusted, and, in addition, correct statistics would show that things were not in fact getting better. (she exits)

 
SCENE EIGHT: Campfire

                                    (Scene returns to Hooverville, a campfire. Everyone is rubbing their hands to stay warm. They are dressed in rags and old clothing. Annie and Fred are among many, as many as can be mustered. Children are welcome at this point too.)

ANNIE:            I hate Herbert Hoover so much! He sits up there in his elegance, his                            finery, and we, down here in Anacostia, we starve!
FRED:              Yeah, back in Europe, he said, “Whatever their politics, they shall be fed!” But look at him now. He’s up there in that White House, with his silver and his china, and do you think he’d feed us? I don’t think so!
ANNIE:            And you can’t even have a drink, or they’ll arrest you!
FRED:              Oh you can bet those rich people have plenty to drink! They’re hiding behind their walls and gates, just drinking away, they are! It’s us who have to go to the poor house, or go to jail for picking up a sip here and there.
ANNIE:            The hypocrisy of it, that’s what I hate! They have their jobs, their salaries, their houses. They can hide. We’re out here, in the cold. In the park. We make one move, the coppers will see us!
FRED:              You think they’re happy up there? You think they’re drunk? ‘Cause I’ll tell you, I don’t know what they’re doing.
ANNIE:            You know, I think about his wife sometimes. What would it be like to                           be married to a skinflint teetotaler like Hoover? A miserable, stubborn, greedy old fool! I think she must be miserable too!
FRED:              Oh miserable, I don’t think so. He had millions before he was even president. He never hurt for money. Sure, he was an orphan once, but he made so many millions, he forgot all about what it was like to be hungry. He made the Hoover Dam, he did this, he did that. I don’t think they’re suffering. I think they’re made in the shade!
                                    (LOU enters from left, stands in front, does not see campers, speaks directly to audience. She is carrying a box. )
LOU HENRY: When I was a kid, we lived out in the country. We made a fire in the stove to keep us warm. But you know, that’s the time I would feel hungry. I could work all day, and not feel it, if we were a little short of food, or if somebody ate all the biscuits. But at night, when it got cold, that’s when I’d feel it. So now, I have this box of food. Some of it needs to be eaten; it might go bad. But I don’t want to throw it out. And the kitchen help, they’re done for the night. They went home. It’s just me, and I’m going to take it down there.

                                    (She takes a wide turn off to the side of the stage, then comes back, in front of the people in the campfire. She shows the audience the box again, before turning back and presenting it to them.)
LOU HENRY: Excuse me? (setting a box in front of them) These are various kinds of food that we won’t be eating. We thought we’d bring you something, you know, just to help tide you over.
FRED:              (standing, removing his hat) Why thank you ma’am. Much obliged. God bless you!

(CURTAIN CALL)

-->

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Quaker pop art 


Tuesday, June 06, 2017

New Children of the LIght 

by Maurine Pyle
Available on Amazon, $10 + shipping
Available at the CreateSpace Store, $10 + shipping
On Kindle Soon

From the book description:
"Why should we care about the Millennial generation? Managers, the military, and religious leaders are all asking themselves how they can adapt to this generation who represent the largest work force. So far no one has been asking the Millennials how they see things. New Children of the Light can serve as a window into the lives and minds of young people coming of age in the twenty first century. I have simply asked sixteen young Quakers to tell us who they are and who they want to become."

Maurine Pyle is a good friend of mine, so I helped her produce this book. It includes two of my boys, and I recommend it.

Monday, May 29, 2017

update 

I've noticed, over time, that I get some notoriety out of being a Quaker playwright. As a Quaker, I should not like this, but as a Quaker playwright, I do. And there is no shortage of ideas, which, as it happens, I'm going to list in this post.

This morning I celebrated Memorial Day by staying home and mulling over Quakers' problem with Memorial Day; I did this by reading a post in the "Quaker" Facebook page, in which some people, perhaps outsiders, got incensed at Quakers who basically were not comfortable getting drawn into the Memorial Day glorification of war. Now, taking a few minutes to honor the dead is different from glorification of war, and many were quick to point this out, but the appearance of being unwilling to do either rankles those whose relatives have laid down their lives. It's a hard point for Quakers and one they need to work on as they present themselves to the world. So, perhaps one of these next plays will hit that issue.

The idea of this next volume is that there would be fewer props, less action, but more intense dialogue. Perhaps I will call it "Quaker plays for adults" on the theory that sometimes you read stuff just for the mental stimulation, and sometimes four people in a very small meeting can simply read a play aloud and use it as a springboard for discussion. All of my plays have been intended as being able to start discussion.

This is what I've come up with so far.

1. World Congress of Friends - though I might have some names wrong, as I've lost my original information, the International Congress of Friends met in Africa a few years back, and there was a kerfuffle about gay marriage. This play is about Americans in Africa, and a difference in worldviews. I started working on it, have that work somewhere, and now can't find it.

2. Herbert Hoover - Interesting to me, partly because of my time in West Branch. I am actually about to write this one, because the idea is fresh in my head. Hoover was the only person who ever tried to be a Quaker while he was president. He is interesting to me now, partly because insensitivity is one of the faults of the current president, and mass starvation could be the result. It's worth exploring a person who takes as truth, things that may not be true. That's what the play is about. Based on this article. Could include this song as well.

3. Tsarist Russia - Originally I linked this site, which has all kinds of ideas on it. Sometimes one has to read, and see what one finds.

4. Elizabeth Vining and Crown Prince Akihito. People always love a Crown Prince. People especially love a Crown Prince with a human side, and a Quaker connection.

and here are a few more:
5. Rufus Jones, famous Quaker during WWII
6. Cadbury and the Quaker chocolate dynasty
7. Scattergood and the housing of refugees in WWII
8. the Quaker who became bad, spent money, went around the world, etc. (forgot his name)
9. Quakers in Civil War

Sunday, December 25, 2016



I'm up on these folks, so I thought I'd share this awesome poster which I took right off their website (http://www.quakers4re.org). The reason I'm up on them is because they knew about my plays, Quaker Plays for First Days, and when a Bolivian Quaker was up looking for resources, they showed it to her; she asked if she could translate them. I was honored. Of course you can translate my plays! If people use them worldwide, I'm famous in the Quaker world.

Of course, the Quaker world is small, so it doesn't take much to be well-known. I might be the only, or one of the only, Quaker playwrights. But that, too, is an honor. I might do some more of it.

I look forward to the Spanish version of Quaker Plays for First Days. I also look forward to a generally better-organized First-Day resource collection. I'm glad that the internet makes this possible, and that people have moved in to fill the gap.

In general I use this site to talk about developments with Quaker plays and with my own experiences with Quakerism. I've been moving lately. I moved to Lubbock, TX, four years ago, and have just moved to Cloudcroft, NM. The best I can figure, my new meeting is Las Cruces, 90 miles away. But I can live with that. They have a beautiful old adobe house on the old road, which in Las Cruces is Mesquite Street (or Avenue?). I'm learning my way around. Intermountain Yearly Meeting, maybe that's one of my new goals. Out in the boondocks, one has to reach out in order to stay connected to the Quaker world. My next project may be Quaker calendars. More on that later.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

historic event 

The Friends of Southern Illinois Quaker Meeting have now decided to leave the Interfaith Center, and meet at the schoolhouse owned by the Sufis, across town, and I've decided that this is a good thing, or at least a necessary thing, and I'll tell you why. It was not an easy decision; in fact, they were working on it almost ten years ago, and they almost moved back while I lived there, which would have been before 2012. But at that time they were considering meeting at the Wesley Center, in the Methodists' building, and several people, including me, were opposed. I just couldn't see having a silent Quaker meeting right under a large cross. I had enough history with the Methodists, though I had to admit I liked them better than, say, the Baptists. But a core of us, even then, were committed to saving the Interfaith building if at all possible.

The problem is, this is really more a story about that group of Quakers stubbornly sticking to an impossible dream, than about the joyful coming together of Quakers and Sufis, who share a lot in common in terms of their roles in the religions they started in. I don't know much about the Sufis, as I'll explain later, but one thing is for sure - Quakers won't have a silent meeting under a huge cross, as they would at the Wesley Center. The main problem was, the Interfaith itself is crumbling to the ground. People who are more in tune to the physical environment would notice this first: hole in the roof, water leaking through it during meeting, broken water heater, lack of any kind of cooling, persistent flooding, mold, that kind of thing. One mother and child came through the town (Carbondale, IL) and she said she literally couldn't have her young son in the building. Why, I thought, I practically brought my kids up in it. But I think she was right. It was unsafe and it was unhealthy, and there was no way really to fix it up.

Why not? It was right in the center of town, across from the university; it had a lifetime lease of $1/year; all they had to do was raise the money to fix the building itself. Occasionally they would have fundraising campaigns and they would work; they'd get a new water heater, or perhaps a furnace, or something, anything, to keep it going for a while. The mainline churches that had established it had long ago backed out; this was partly because it wasn't effective in bringing students into their congregations, and partly because of internal pressure to not support a building where activities ranged from pagan gatherings to revolutionary provocations. The churches just found that the cost/benefit ratio was too imbalanced; whoever was director of the Interfaith was too unresponsive to their needs. It had some supporters around town, who would invest heavily, occasionally, and even that wasn't enough. You have to pay a director. And then, that director needs insurance.

I was in Carbondale from 1994 to 2012, eighteen years. In that time, the Quakers became the only remaining tenant in the building. We'd have it to ourselves on Sunday mornings, and it was occasionally a nice, warm, welcoming place. The trains came by regularly. It was on a very low patch by a creek and would suffer from floods. Being on the path from the dorms to the bars, it suffered from occasional vandalism. But it was a nice place, and for all intents and purposes, it was ours. At one point "Occupy Carbondale" kind of moved in and some homeless people were more or less camping there. In summer it was interminably hot and we almost lost our meeting, due to just plain inhospitable clime. In winter they'd fire up the furnace an hour before we got there and sometimes even then, the seats, the floors, the walls would all be very cold. We could all see the end coming. That's why I wrote the play (below) about the inanimate objects in the place. Its inclusiveness, its all-religions-welcome aspect was very dear to us. I had dreams of having an international, all-religions-welcome festival there. But these were just dreams. I had a family to support, and had to keep working no matter what. Even when I left, it was, for me, partly so I could breathe, and experience any of my dreams. So I became somewhat detached; I still love the building, as we all do, but I realized there wasn't much we could do. We were a small group of about ten people. At one point I said, we could just snatch this as a Quaker meeting house, keep it, fix it up, invest our own money into it, etc. But it had this board, and this formal structure of ownership. The board didn't seem to do much for the place, though. They were kind of absentee owners - they occasionally begged for someone to join them. I was too busy.

The Sufis came to town sometime in that period, perhaps in the late 90's. They had a strong leader, who had lived in Europe and New York for a while, and who apparently had a place in Colorado as well. People spread rumors about him and them; one was that he had two wives; another was that they were a kind of cult. I have decided that they are not a cult, but I really have no idea about his marital status. I always found them to be nice people, and occasionally some of the local people, my friends, would get involved with them. I say they were not a cult, mostly because they didn't apply pressure, to me or my friends, and also didn't apply pressure, when those people chose to leave them. Those were my criteria. I knew that they studied Arabic, and they tried to practice their religion devoutly. Other Muslims scorned them, much as other Christians scorn the Quakers. They represented a kind of mystic branch, experiential (also like the Quakers), but failing to live up to the standards of the Muslim orthodoxy in town (I knew this from my Saudi students, as I actually had more standard Muslim friends than, say, mainline Protestant ones, or anything else). But I wasn't totally clear about this, and still am not. They were friendly to me; I knew several of them. Together, or one at a time, they bought up little houses on the north side, and the north side became a kind of Sufi neighborhood.

Having left in 2012, I don't know if they've grown or declined; if they have people joining them from around the country or the world, or they stick to their little group in town; if their farm has been successful or not; if their school (where the Meeting will now meet) is doing well in terms of educating young Sufi children; or if their relations with the community are good or strained. I always felt they were good; they tried to be good neighbors. They had a piece of land on the north side that was called "Sufi Park," - it was small, but it was nice. I think it's about the same as it was four years ago, when I left. Their school is probably a good place for us to meet. And they probably need our meager rent money. The location is good - anywhere in town is better than anywhere out of town. As long as parking is not an issue, everyone will get along fine.

The play below is about knowing that the building you are in is doomed, and will be torn down, and has been abandoned, for all intents and purposes, by everyone. That is the case for the Interfaith. They are having their last meeting there today, and reading my play, which is now eight years old. The rubber tree is long gone, but many of the things in the play still are: the piano, the Shinto gate, the statuettes. It's a challenge for the community, to walk away with this stuff and find a good use for it. Hopefully the community can pull together and find good uses for those things. The pain of the inanimate objects of course is nothing compared to that of my fellow Friends in Carbondale, who are letting go of their attachments, as I write.

Second First Day at the Interfaith 


Second First-Day at the Interfaith
Thomas Leverett
@2008, All Rights Reserved

RUBBER TREE:
GUITAR CASE:
PIANO:
HUGGERS STATUETTE:
BUDDHA STATUETTE:
CHURCH OF CHRIST BROCHURE, PRESBYTERIAN BROCHURE, LUTHERAN BROCHURE:
YIN-YANG FLAG, EARTH FLAG, UN FLAG:
KRSNA BOOK, ISLAM BOOK, JUDAISM BOOK:

ACT ONE

BUDDHA STATUETTE:
I am the Buddha. I am the Enlightened one. Om.

HUGGERS STATUETTE:
You're just a statuette. You're just a rock. Somebody carved you out    of a rock!

BUDDHA:
People bring me flowers. I represent the path to enlightenment. The one path. Om!

HUGGERS:
There are many paths to enlightenment.

BUDDHA:
What we think, we become. The mind is everything.

HUGGERS:
You and your quotes! You're beginning to bug me!

(they leave)

GUITAR CASE:
(to audience): OK, here's the deal. You Eaters are in for a special treat today. I'm a guitar case, and I've been elected to show you around a little - give you a tour, and let you in on the secret world of inanimate objects. We call ourselves Noticers, because we notice everything. You (points at audience) are the Eaters. I'm not sure why we call you that, maybe when you start eating, you stop noticing. Anyway we Noticers can talk - you just don't hear it usually. Only today we've made it possible for you to hear us. Today is music day at Quaker meeting. Second First-Day at the Interfaith. That's why I'm on the scene. Here we go! come with me? (walks off stage & around for a minute; meanwhile PIANO & RUBBER TREE set up on stage. GUITAR CASE reenters stage. PIANO is at left, playing the piano to himself with his fingers, imagining a song. RUBBER TREE is at center with arms up.)

PIANO:
Well if it isn't Guitar case. What is it, music day?

RUBBER TREE:
Of course, second Sunday of the month! What's new, guitar case?

GUITAR CASE:
Oh, nothing much. Same old same old. Tom H's kitchen, back of truck, here. At least I get out once in a while, better than some guitar cases. Here I stand in the lobby, and soon I'll go into the library. Then, it'll be back out here, and home.

PIANO:
How's Shinto Gate?

GUITAR CASE:
Same as usual, stands out there in front, Eaters walk under him. They painted him a couple of years ago, did you know that?

PIANO:
Oh yeah, I can see out the window, you know. I just can't talk to him. Every day I watch him out there, but I never say hello to him. Maybe on the day they move me out.

RUBBER TREE:
Any word on the fate of the building?

GUITAR CASE:
No, same as usual. They're going to tear it down, everyone is sure of it. They're going to put some new building up right here where this one used to be. They've got plans, oh yes. But, they're having trouble keeping it going as it is. The Quakers were thinking of moving across the road. The building is in bad repair, bad air conditioning, that kind of stuff.

RUBBER TREE:
Aaaaaahhhh! I can't take it!

PIANO:
Ah, Rubber Tree, buck up. They'll find a home for you.

RUBBER TREE:
Yeah, they'll find a home for me, in some university lobby somewhere. But it won't be the same. They'll probably cut off my upper branches, make me start over!

PIANO:
Hey, at least you have a future. It's Shinto Gate that's in trouble. What are they going to do with Shinto Gate?

RUBBER TREE:
I just can't take it! It seems so unfair, these eaters having so much control over our lives, over everything! And they don't even care about us!

GUITAR CASE:
Be glad you're not a book, like Krsna book or Islam book. You stand around for twenty, thirty years, your cover says "Look at me! Look at me!" Sometimes those eaters look at you, but usually they don't. Then it's off to the landfill for you!

PIANO:
Yeah, or be glad you're not a glass figurine. Some eater kid drops you, it's all over! Or remember the brochures? There were brochures for each of the Christian denominations that funded this place. But they kept getting spilled and going out to the landfill!

(BROCHURES ENTER)

CHURCH OF CHRIST BROCHURE, PRESBYTERIAN BROCHURE, LUTHERAN BROCHURE:
Pick us up! Read us! Pick us up! Read us!

(BROCHURES LEAVE)

GUITAR CASE:
I've heard stories about the landfill. I'll do anything to stay out of        there!

PIANO:
You'll be ok, guitar case. They get a new building, they still need a       guitar!

RUBBER TREE:
Hey, speaking of books, what's going on in the library? Aren't you on your way in there?

GUITAR CASE:
Yes, for music Sunday. Last week there was a huge fight between the Buddha statuette and the Huggers statuette.

PIANO:
Oh yeah? I didn't hear about that.

GUITAR CASE:
Oh yeah. Huggers claims that she's out on the table, because she represents all the religions, she represents the Interfaith itself. There's four of her, so she faces every direction, you know. But Buddha says, as a symbol of the divine, she deserves more respect...

(FLASHBACK INTERLUDE- CHARACTERS BACK UP, HUGGERS & BUDDHA COME TO FRONT - after sheet is brought out)

BUDDHA:
OK, I get it. You're a huggers statuette. You like to pay attention to all religions. Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, you like 'em all. But what you forget is, when you believe in all of them, you dilute each one. You can't know the true path if you're spending time on every different path!

HUGGERS:
You don't get it, do you? When you respect every path, you learn from each one, and you notice that God respects each one; God doesn't care what you call your path. When you get all involved in your one religion, you think that everyone else is wrong, and you've got the only way!

BUDDHA:
You can't be two religions at once! Either you're one, or you're the other! You've got to choose!

HUGGERS:
I choose to respect them all!

PIANO:
It's true, they usually put Huggers down there on the table, where everyone can see her.

GUITAR:
But they only bring out Buddha for the special Buddhist events. Though they do bring her flowers.

RUBBER TREE:
A Noticer is a Noticer. Why should anything an Eater do change anything? They're just statuettes. That's all. Eaters don't care about us. Yeah, they move us around once in a while. You stand here for a few years, maybe they'll come by and water you once in a while. Eaters come and go, and it doesn't change anything.

GUITAR CASE:
Yeah but it's what you represent that counts.

RUBBER TREE:
Why? I don't represent anything but a rubber tree.

(FLAGS ENTER)

YIN-YANG FLAG, EARTH FLAG, UN FLAG:
Notice me! Notice me! Notice me!

(FLAGS LEAVE)

GUITAR CASE:
Well, you know, symbols are big for these eaters. You represent God, you end up in some holy place, you get stuff brought to you. Someone brought Buddha a flower, did you see that?

RUBBER TREE:
Yeah, but when the Eaters go home, you're just a statuette. Same as all the rest. Eaters can come and go, I don't think they change anything.

PIANO:
What about Spike?

GUITAR CASE:
Who's Spike?

PIANO:
Spike was a cat, lived around here for years. We used to argue about whether he was an Eater or a Noticer. Actually, he was kind of both. He was a little rough on the edges. This was back in the Karen era, before Hugh even.

GUITAR CASE:
Yeah?

PIANO:
Didn't really have a family, Quakers were the closest he had. So one day, he caught a mole. Brought it in, and dropped it in Quaker meeting. Gave it to the Quakers.

GUITAR CASE:
Bet they liked that!

PIANO:
Well, they were a little upset. But they heard him. They tried to understand where he was coming from. And, in the end, he left here mellower than when he arrived. Point is, it did make a difference.

RUBBER TREE:
And they made me a skylight- so my life would be better. But here I am, thirty feet high, all my leaves at the top, and now they'll have no place for me - I'm doomed!

PIANO:
Yeah. Remember the Lights Parade? Every year, I watched the parade start outside this window. Floats from every church in town, marching bands from every school.

GUITAR CASE:
What happened to the parade?

PIANO:
They moved it! I guess Mill Street was more convenient, with its underpass and all. Now it starts on Mill Street.

RUBBER TREE:
See, times change! We're obsolete! We're doomed!

PIANO:
Those were the good old days, an interfaith place, a warm place to hang around, have a cup of hot cocoa, people aren't going to forget that.

RUBBER TREE:
OK, so the place changed the people. But it didn't change the rest of us. Did anyone pick up a book? Did anyone organize the library? Was it all for nothing, or what?

PIANO:
You can't say it was all for nothing. Remember the Synergy? Remember the Hillel? Or the Environmentalists, mowing the lawn and hanging around all hours of the night? Look, this place has welcomed so many eaters, you can't imagine. And each one has had an influence. Vegetarian Thanksgivings, Big Muddy Films, you name it.

RUBBER TREE:
All I'm saying is, eaters come and go. But they don't care about us. Money is what it is. They're tearing this place down- but why? They need a place that will pay the bills, that's all. This place is old; it's in bad shape, they can't heat it in the winter, can't keep it cool in the summer.

PIANO:
You're forgetting about history. Eaters shed blood keeping this place going. Pounds and pounds of old clothes, sold in the midnight rummage sales. You talk about the landfill; this place kept that stuff OUT of the landfill! Remember the time that guy broke Picture Window, down on the ground floor? Or the great Flood?

GUITAR CASE:
You know, what you're saying is this: This place did influence people. So, don't you think people influenced the place, too? This building has quite a history, doesn't it?

PIANO:
I'm not even telling half of it. You know, these stories remind me.

RUBBER TREE:
            (crying) Yeah?

PIANO:
Once there was this little boy. Didn't have a piano at home, used to come by, bang on me once in a while.

RUBBER TREE:
Yeah?

PIANO:
Yeah. I used to get mad; I was waiting for someone who knew how to play, of course. Rubinstein or someone. You know how it is.

GUITAR CASE:
Yeah?

PIANO:
Well, it turns out, you make a bigger difference, being there for a boy like that, than you do being there for a musician, you know what I mean? It's like, maybe the boy doesn't know a thing, maybe he's never seen a piano. And maybe I'm the first piano he ever played, you know what I mean?

GUITAR CASE:
I've got to get into the library now - it's time for singing.

RUBBER TREE:
Say hello to the statuettes.

PIANO:
And the books. We never see them.

(GUITAR CASE LEAVES)

ACT TWO

(STATUETTES AT RIGHT, GUITAR CASE ENTERS)

BUDDHA:
Guitar case! How are you?

GUITAR CASE:
I'm ok. Rubber tree is railing against the tyranny of injustice.

HUGGERS:
The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still voice within.

GUITAR CASE:
Excuse me?

HUGGERS:
Oh sorry, Gandhi quote. Got it from the wallhanging.

GUITAR CASE:
I see you statuettes are on the shelf again.

BUDDHA:
Old Roof leaked. Right during Quaker meeting. They even moved Huggers over to the bookshelf! Now, we statuettes are a couple of bookends.

(BOOKS ENTER, WAVING BOOKS AND SINGING)

KRSHNA BOOK, ISLAM BOOK, JUDAISM BOOK:
Look at me! Look at me! I've got pictures!

(BOOKS LEAVE)

HUGGERS:
Hey, what do you hear about the building?

GUITAR CASE:
Same as usual. They're going to take it down. But you two have nothing to worry about. You're small; you're portable, you're beautiful. They'll probably take you with them!

BUDDHA:
You know, the guy that made me, he was really careful. He took hours and hours.

HUGGERS:
Yeah, same with the woman who made me. You think all that work will go to waste?

BUDDHA:
What do you mean?

HUGGERS:
You know, if the building is torn down, and we have to move...or go someplace where they don't appreciate us?

BUDDHA:
Oh, we'll be ok....Even death is not to be feared by one who lives           wisely!

HUGGERS:
You and your quotes again!

BUDDHA:
Om!

GUITAR CASE:
Hey, quiet over there! It's time for the music!

CURTAIN CALL


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