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



I am the Buddha. I am the Enlightened one. Om.

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

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

There are many paths to enlightenment.

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

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

(they leave)

(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.)

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

Of course, second Sunday of the month! What's new, 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.

How's Shinto Gate?

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

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.

Any word on the fate of the building?

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.

Aaaaaahhhh! I can't take it!

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

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!

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

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!

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!

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!


Pick us up! Read us! Pick us up! Read us!


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

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

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

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

Oh yeah? I didn't hear about that.

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...


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!

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!

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

I choose to respect them all!

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

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

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.

Yeah but it's what you represent that counts.

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


Notice me! Notice me! Notice me!


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?

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.

What about Spike?

Who's Spike?

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.


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.

Bet they liked that!

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.

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!

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.

What happened to the parade?

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

See, times change! We're obsolete! We're doomed!

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.

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?

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.

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.

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?

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?

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

            (crying) Yeah?

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


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.


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?

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

Say hello to the statuettes.

And the books. We never see them.




Guitar case! How are you?

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

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

Excuse me?

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

I see you statuettes are on the shelf again.

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


Look at me! Look at me! I've got pictures!


Hey, what do you hear about the building?

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!

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

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

What do you mean?

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

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

You and your quotes again!


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


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Quaker Plays for First Days 

$7.28 + shipping at Amazon
All profits go to Quaker organizations

Includes the following plays:
Down in Our Hearts (2016)
Silly Poor Gospel (2016)
Mor I Xon (2013)
Bartram's Flower (2009)
Second First Day at the Interfaith (2008)
The Monster of Kanifloria (2007)
Good Tidings of Yule (2006)
Thou Heardest My Voice (2005)
The Turning Point (2004)
Quakers Rock the 17th Century (2004)
The Life and Times of Lucretia Mott (2001)
The Life and Times of John Woolman (1999)
The Story of Benjamin West, Quaker Artist(1998)
The White Feather (1997)

I'd like to collect background material on each of these plays, and I've decided to do that here, for a number of reasons. Most of the plays appear at this very site - at least the top ten (check the sidebar) - with the last four available at another site run by the meeting, at least as I write this. I'm a firm believer in personalizing each play that you use - that means printing it out, reading it carefully, eliminating parts for which you have no people, adding parts for extra people who want them, etc. For this purpose I'm going to try to format each play in printable form, though that may take a while. I have always made it clear that I'm happy that other people are using them, and I assume that includes the idea of altering them.

Here is the backstory of each play.

Down in Our Hearts (2016)- This one deals with the life of conscientious objectors in WWII, and is based on a very good book called "Down in My Heart" by William Stafford, who was not a Quaker, but could certainly sympathize with Quaker ideals. It took me many years to finish this one; I'm not sure why. I think that if you could be a conscientious objector in WWII, this would test your ability to not go kill people who, clearly, were up to no good. It's why I was attracted to the story. It was never performed; it was just written, and I don't, at the moment, have a meeting full of kids to do it. I would like to, though - please contact me if you think that would be possible.
Silly Poor Gospel (2016)- The life and times of Margaret Fell, wife of George Fox, who, by the way, would have turned 400 this year. A conference in Indiana wanted to honor her, and they actually asked me to write this one. I don't know, though, if they had the young people available to actually pull it off. So, I'm not sure whether it has ever been performed. Again, if it is, tell me!
Mor I Xon (2013)- This one is the true story of the survivors of Norman Morrison, the Quaker who immolated himself in front of the Pentagon, thus rattling Robert MacNamara, and having an influence on America's will to continue fighting an unpopular war. Because of the horrific true base of the story (suicide), I hesitate to push it on any group of teenagers, unless they are already dealing with the horrific after-effects of a suicide. Why put thoughts in people's heads? But, it's part of life, and if you're brave, and you really want to explore what suicide does to people, especially the ones left behind, this will help.
Bartram's Flower (2009)- John Bartram actually lived during the Revolution, and was way ahead of his time in terms of cataloguing the plants of the new world. He taught himself Latin so that he could master Linneus' system - but at the same time, he lived the life of a Quaker farmer in what is today Philadelphia. Interesting! We performed this one and really enjoyed it.
Second First Day at the Interfaith (2008)- This one explores the possibility that inanimate objects can have feelings, and in particular fear death and change. The building that our meeting occupied was endangered and, in fact, still is, even eight years after we performed this. How our meeting loved that building! I put the building on the cover of the book (along with Shinto Gate, a major character) partly as a tribute - I loved the building too. But it had problems. One day, during meeting, a rainstorm came and dripped actively through the roof and into the center of the meeting. This is a building that is due for some change, I think.
The Monster of Kanifloria (2007)- This one is based on a book, a simple tale, that was a favorite of one of our young performers. It was not explicitly Quaker, but was Quakerly enough in terms of its themes, etc. that it did just fine as a Quaker play. We performed it with very few children, and it went well.
Good Tidings of Yule (2006)- By 2006 I had a reputation in this small town, perhaps, and was asked by the Unitarians to write a Christmas play; this is what I produced. The Unitarians were much bigger in terms of number of children than the Quakers. Perhaps they didn't want to take on the theme of darkest, most remote Africa; in any case, they turned it down. I was disappointed. It has never been performed. Perhaps it's inappropriate, or not politically correct. To me, though, with plenty of knowledge of Africa and no fear, it's just a play: anyone can, indeed, live through a Christmas drama, and not even know it.
Thou Heardest My Voice (2005)- This one is a combination of the Iraqi war and the story of Jonah and the Whale. It is based partly on a true story of a soldier who disappeared - but it's also partly based on the fact that both the war and the story of Jonah shared the same geography. We performed it successfully.
The Turning Point (2004)- True story of the bombing of Sterling Hall, University of Wisconsin, in 1970. The kids had a blast with this one, because they could dress up like hippies and talk like them too. I just kept getting more fascinated by the story, even after we performed it, and started gathering books about it and reading them, really more after we'd performed it. Of the four boys who were responsible, two were Armstrongs (I'd actually met their father), one was a Quaker (I didn't know it when I wrote it), and the last one disappeared forever - he is probably living under an assumed name, somewhere in Canada, and has been for forty-five years. I read so much about it that I almost wrote a non-fiction book, but the last book I read was essentially the one I would have written, so I gave that up. My dilemma, when compiling these plays, was whether to alter this one to reflect my new knowledge. I chose not to, and included the play everyone will remember performing.
Quakers Rock the 17th Century (2004)- When we decided we needed to learn more about George Fox, this is what we did. It's all about George Fox, and Penn, and the King, and all those characters in that rich and lively time. We had a blast with this one too. It was perhaps the best of our theatrical performances, because people actually memorized a fair amount of 17th-century speech, and this crowd of performers did a pretty good job of it; they were just graduating from high school. Looking back, I consider it good luck to have that convergence of dramatic talent, good lines, interesting topic, and yet, you are immersed in problems that are three hundred years gone! Made me happy.
The Life and Times of Lucretia Mott (2001)- What I remember about this one was that, having performed it in southern Illinois to an audience of mostly the kids' parents, friends, and neighbors, we actually took the play up to St. Louis and performed it in the city! The old-timers in that meeting were really stirred up. Lucretia Mott was a very strong character, and we got that down in the play; we had good performers, and we brought her era alive. They came up to us afterwards and discussed the particulars of the play - the depth of awareness of Quaker history is really quite good, in a meeting like theirs. It was impressive.
The Life and Times of John Woolman (1999)- In these early days, you have Native Americans saying things such as "ugh" - which might not be politically correct today. But hey, you had this guy walking the Americas, refusing to wear indigo, getting Quakers to reject slavery, and walking right into Native American tepees. This is what happened! As I said, feel free to revise it; times change, and you might not be able to pull it off today.
The Story of Benjamin West, Quaker Artist(1998)- He also lived in colonial times, and was asked to meet the King, and did as Quakers do - he treated the King with the same respect he treated everyone. Scandalous! But he also was a talented realist artist - we had a picture of his, in our First-Day room, and that's why we learned about him.
The White Feather (1997)- The first one we did - genius, and inspired, yet simple, as our children were young then. This is such a classic story, that children should know it, and the theory behind Drama as Education is that if you give them parts, by which they can feel that fear, and relief, then they will know it better. I wish I could test whether those young children internalized any of this.

Before I did this, I worried about how we Quakers (our meeting had perhaps five) were to educate our children. I knew that there were many methods of religious education. I knew that drama was effective in other areas of education. I wrote the plays and we all performed them; if you were one of the performers, I'll gladly give you one of these books, so that you can remember. Beyond that, I'm curious about how the plays did teach you, or if they did at all. So perhaps you can tell me - would you recommend this as a method? If so, there are dozens more I could write.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

play suggestions 

Quakers in the World: Interaction with Tsarist Russia

Elizabeth Vining & the Crown Prince Akihito

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Coming - Quaker Plays for First Days 

I'll use this site to keep you informed about the progress of a volume of Quaker plays - fourteen of them, at last count, that have been compiled into a book that will soon be available on Amazon. Proceeds from the books will go to Quaker organizations, perhaps starting with southern Illinois Friends meeting, where we performed eight of them, or QVS.

This volume is now in Proof form and will be changed a little before being published, probably in late July. Some of the plays require proofreading and/or careful rereading (I need help with this, if you are interested), and there is a question of whether I can finish #15 by then or want to include it.

Many if not most of the plays already appear on this site. You can link to several on the template, and more just by following directions which you will find by reading. It is my intention to make document copies to anyone who wants them, anytime, so that people with the intention of using them can simply have a document that they can change; for example, by writing who will play whom on the script. I always found it good and even necessary to change some scripts before actually using them. Feel free to simply copy off of this blog, where you have to, or wait until publication of the book, which will make it easy to copy from and alter. Having the doc file is easiest though; I'd like to find a site that will hold these doc files and make it so people can copy, alter, use.

The cover art is literally Shinto Gate, who plays a role in "Second First Day at the Interfaith," a play here about inanimate objects, and one which is remembered fondly by those who performed them. Ironically the future of the Interfaith itself is as precarious as ever; poor Shinto Gate is on the edge of being bulldozed, but has been on that edge for years, literally. I am now in New Mexico, somewhat removed from the controversy, no longer willing to put in my two cents. These plays speak for me. I look forward to publishing them, and I promise: they're on their way.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Down in our Hearts 

(based on the book, Down in My Heart: Peace witness in war time, by William Stafford, Oregon State University Press.



(A small podium is at front right where speaker can address the audience. A large radio is on a small table, back left; occasionally RADIO ANNOUNCER enters and delivers the news, which is always bad. On the main stage, there are cots, or if these are not available, simple chairs, where people sit and talk together. Tools like shovels, work gloves, old boots, etc. lay around.

KIM STAFFORD: (enters and goes to podium)
This, (shows book, if possible, a small red one) Down in My Heart, is my father’s story. My father, William, grew up in Kansas. When he was drafted, he told the draft board that he objected to all war. The head of his draft board was a retired military officer who demanded to know where he’d come up with his objection. My father, an eighteen-year-old, said, “You were my Sunday School teacher, sir, when I was a child. You taught me not to kill. I never forgot.” When he got CO status, he was sent to a camp near Magnolia, Arkansas, where CO’s from various places were held and given two dollars and fifty cents per month, provided by the peace churches (Quakers, Mennonite, Brethren, Amish, Seventh-day Adventist), through the US Forest Service, to do physical work in the national lands. They were despised by their neighbors, and even feared for their life, but they had a common purpose. This is my father’s story.

The Japanese are closing in on the city of Singapore today. They’ve been bombing it heavily and troops are steadily advancing into it. British troops appear to have retreated into Singapore for the final advance. In the US, fears of invasion increase and the government is now considering internment of the Japanese….In Europe, Hitler spoke at the Berlin Sportspalast and threatened the Jews of the world with total annihilation; he blamed the failure of the German offensive in the Soviet Union on the weather. Rommel’s Afrika Korps has recaptured Benghazi, Libya in his drive east.

That’s a terrible war; that Hitler just won’t stop.

All wars are terrible. The first one was terrible; that’s the one that put Germany where it is today.

WILLIAM: Maybe, here, we can show the world how people can live together peacefully.

GEORGE: I would hope so, but we’ll see.

Folks are a little mad at us for not taking up arms, have you noticed?

Have I noticed? You can tell by the way they look at us. Hard as this work is, dirty, backbreaking digging, I’d rather stay out in this camp than go down into that town.

(LARRY enters, brings bags and puts them on floor).

WILLIAM: Welcome! Name’s William. (shakes Larry’s hand)

GEORGE: George. (shakes his hand also).

LARRY: Larry. I’m from Chicago.

WILLIAM: We were just talking about our remote location.

LARRY: They’re all remote, when you are in our position. Seems like the locals are a little hostile, wouldn’t you say?

WILLIAM: That’s an understatement.

(DON enters)


DON: Hello, my name’s Don. I’m from Iowa. (they all shake hands)

WILLIAM: (to audience) The first lesson to learn was that we were all very different. The Peace Churches – Quakers, Brethren, Adventist, Mennonite, and Amish, had arranged for truly conscientious objectors to be placed in camps like this one, near Magnolia, Arkansas, to not only be out of sight of the war effort, but also to make CO’s do actual work on lands that the US needed help developing. Ken was a Quaker. Larry was a socialist – not really from the peace churches, but he refused to fight as well, for his own reasons, so he was put with us.

(RANGER bursts in, making noise by dragging shovels and work tools on stage)

RANGER: Hey, help me out here, will you? (they scramble to pick up shovels and put them in a pile). You men will be woken up at 5 30 am every morning from now on! We’ll be working on the trail about three miles from here; it’s rugged country. Wear good boots! Wear long sleeve shirts too! The bugs are terrible!

GEORGE: This is a hiking trail?

RANGER: None of your business what kind of trail it is, piker! You got an attitude, or what?

GEORGE: No attitude, sir! I’ll be ready at 5:30!

RANGER: That’s what I wanted to hear!

DON, WILLIAM, LARRY: We’ll be ready, sir!

RANGER: (pointing at KEN). Now this here’s your cook. His name is Ken. He’ll show you around.

KEN: Your grub will be done in about an hour. Let me show you the grounds. (KEN leaves, WILLIAM, GEORGE and DON follow)

(RANGER comes to lectern)

RANGER: I’ll be the first to tell you, I didn’t like these guys. I was in the army myself, in the First World War, and here these guys refuse to take up arms. Refuse to fight! I was steaming! But after a while, I got to see their point of view.

WILLIAM: (to audience, again) Our first problem was that the work was backbreaking: shoveling, clearing brush, making a trail out in the deep woods, where it was hot, humid and buggy. Our second problem was winning over the Ranger: He was a veteran, and didn’t take kindly to people refusing to serve. But the biggest problem by far was the locals. (he leaves)

(Now we are downtown, and the set is remade to look like it. A single sign that says “McNeil” will do. ARLEN & ROSCOE enter from opposite sides)

RADIO ANNOUNCER: The battle for Bataan rages in the Asian Pacific, specifically the Philippines. President Roosevelt has ordered Douglas MacArthur to evacuate the Philippines as the defense of the nation has collapsed. In Singapore, the surrender to the Japanese forces has been called the worst defeat in British history.

ARLEN: Hey Roscoe, did you see them conchies arrive yesterday?

ROSCOE: Yeah I did. The truck that held ‘em went right up the logging road.

ARLEN: You think they want those conchies to be down here the whole wartime?

ROSCOE: Yeah I reckon they do. They figure we won’t know what they’re doing up there.

ARLEN: Well what ARE they doin’ up there?

ROSCOE: Well heck if I know. They sure ain’t helpin’ the war effort, I can tell you that.

ARLEN: (getting madder) Who do they think they are, coming down here and sittin’ up in the woods while the rest of us toil away, contributing to the war effort?

ROSCOE: Burns me up! There’s nothing good about this at all, I figure!

(VILLAGERS enter – they are children, shouting random slogans)

VILLAGERS: Conchies! Conchies!

(all leave)

(Back to the bunkhouse dorm. KEN appears to be cooking at left, using a pan or making cooking actions. DON, LARRY, GEORGE, WILLIAM, and RANGER enter. All look dirty and tired, hair uncombed, and immediately take off large boots - if possible - and make sighs of tiredness, except for RANGER, who pulls out envelopes and distributes them).

RADIO ANNOUNCER: In Russia, the siege of Leningrad continues, and the Red Army prepares for a Crimean offensive. Jews in Berlin must now clearly identify their houses. The Royal Air Force has invaded Lubeck, Germany, destroying over 80% of its medieval center. Hitler is reportedly outraged…

RANGER: Well boys, I’ll hand it to you, you made good progress on that trail. I can’t fault you for laziness, you worked hard out there. The Chink here will have your grub soon. This is your mail. (Each greedily opens their envelope, dying to hear from home) (KEN is visibly affronted by the racial slur, but the moment passes)(RANGER exits).

WILLIAM: My letter is from my family in Kansas. They miss me dearly. So what do you have? Tell me what your letters say!

DON: Well, I’m from a Quaker community in Iowa, and we have a school, Scattergood School. It seems that we’ve opened up that school to European refugees, fleeing Hitler. This letter tells of one refugee, Marta, and her family, who are trying to come to Iowa, but she’s stuck in a small town in Europe, waiting to be smuggled to a port. This war is hell, I’ll tell you!

GEORGE: Well, I’m a follower of eastern religions, and in particular, I’ve befriended this Japanese fellow, in hopes of finding out more about Buddhism as it’s practiced in Asia. This fellow has lived all his life in San Francisco, but with the outbreak of the war, they’ve rounded up all the Japanese and interred them in camps like this one, only more like prisons.

WILLIAM: So where are these prisons? Where is this fellow?

GEORGE: Well, as it happens, he’s in Arkansas, but not anywhere near here.

LARRY: My letter is from my fiancé in Chicago. Her sink is clogged up, she’s miserable, and she’s figuring on moving here as soon as we get married.

WILLIAM: You can’t get married! How are you going to support her on two dollars and fifty cents a month?

DON: Yeah, that’s crazy. You aren’t in a position to start a family.

LARRY: Well, here’s the problem. She can’t make it by herself in Chicago. She needs to be near me where I can help her on Sundays with setting up a house and raising children.

WILLIAM: Raising children? How do you figure on doing that when you’re out in the woods, digging a path, 48 hours a week?

LARRY: What else can I do? I love her. She can’t make it in Chicago. Down here, at least she’ll have someone to fix the kitchen sink. Maybe she can get work somewhere, or have a garden…

SONG (optional – see below)

(they exit. Set is changed to downtown again as RADIO ANNOUNCER talks)

RADIO ANNOUNCER: Over 24,000 sick and starving troops, Americans and Filipino, are now trapped on the Bataan Peninsula as Japanese troops are starting an all-out assault. The Japanese also appear to be attacking Ceylon and Burma. In Europe, the Germans have started the so-called “Baedecker Raids” on touristy British towns, in retaliation for the Lubeck bombing that destroyed that ancient German city. 

(ARLEN sits whittling)(ROSCOE enters)

ROSCOE: Hey Arlen, those conchies are still here. I can’t abide it.

ARLEN: Me neither. I’m madder than a hog in a bucket.

ROSCOE: I figure we ought to take matters into our own hands.

ARLEN: Yeah, I agree. The go’ment sure ain’t gonna do nothing.


VILLAGERS: Conchies! Conchies! Yellow! Yellow! (this can be pronounced “yeller” or “yellah” if you want)

(RANGER enters)

ROSCOE: Hey Ranger! What are those conchies doing up there?

RANGER: They’re doing hard work all day, clearing out a path through the woods.

ARLEN: Is that path going to be for the enemy to invade our town? If they aren’t fighting on our side, then they’re working for the enemy, wouldn’t you say?

RANGER: No, it’s a path we were directed to make by authorities of the US Forest Service. It cuts through the woods over by McNeil.

ROSCOE: US Forest Service my foot! You and them conchies are planning something, and we know it!

RANGER: We’re doing what we were told to do! Now you boys mind your own business and leave us alone. Good day! (he leaves) (everyone leaves)

(set changes back to bunkhouse)(KEN, LARRY, GEORGE, and WILLIAM enter, followed by RANGER. Again, all four are tired, put down shovels, take off shoes, etc.)

RANGER: Well boys, I gotta tell you, I took you for slackers at first, but now I admire your hard work and diligence. You’ve done a good job on that trail.

GEORGE: Well, sir, just because we don’t believe in killing people, doesn’t mean we don’t believe in work.

RANGER: I can see that. By the way, I ought to warn you, the townspeople are getting a little unfriendly. Just stay away from them, if you can. (he leaves)

DON: Say, what do you think we should do if they come at us?

GEORGE: When the mob comes, I think we should try surprising them with a friendly reaction – taking coffee and cookies out to them.

WILLIAM: I intend to run right out that back door and hide in the bushes, ‘cause I don’t want my death on anyone’s conscience.

LARRY: As for me, I’ll take a stout piece of stove wood, and deal out many a lumpy head – that’s what they need!

DON: Larry! I thought we were a non-violent bunch! Do you mean that?

LARRY: Of course! I object to the war – to the capitalist empire taking up arms in a situation it created – but I don’t object to giving a wake-up call to a crowd of idiots!

DON: Reason I asked, is, I’ve never been in this situation before. Growing up Quaker in Iowa, we were against wars, and against taking up arms to kill someone for any reason. But not all the Quakers ended up in camps like this. Some decided to go and fight. The main thing I learned was not to do violence just for the sake of violence. If those guys come up here, nothing good will come of it.

(all leave. WILLIAM comes to front)

WILLIAM: The camp was really a place where very different and strong-minded people had to work out our difference over a wide variety of things. The work was backbreaking, but just working out how to split up camp chores or establish minimal respect was a challenge.

(DON, GEORGE, and LARRY enter, followed by RANGER. Ken is at left, cooking with a pan.)

RANGER: You boys are done for the day. You can ask the Chink if the grub is ready.
(KEN is visibly affronted again, by the racial slur).

GEORGE: Excuse me, sir. You repeatedly refer to Ken as the Chink.

RANGER: That’s right.

GEORGE: Well, he’s offended by it. Our food will taste better, if you will kindly refer to him as Ken.

RANGER: Listen here, I fought years in the US Army. We put our lives on the line for American freedom. Now every day I hear about American troops dying out there, Bataan, you name it, and I’ll call him whatever I want.

GEORGE: I wasn’t questioning whether you had the right to say it. I’m merely pointing out, that when you live on beans alone, they taste better when they’re made with a smile, than when they’re made with anger.

RANGER: I’ll take it under advisement. (he leaves)(GEORGE gets a very sad face. LARRY enters)

LARRY: Why the long face, George?

GEORGE: I can’t take it anymore. It’s just too much.

LARRY: Don’t take kindly to imprisonment, is it?

GEORGE: Well, on the one hand, I feel like the war is wrong. Everything that led up to it was wrong. So I did this to resist the war. But then, they put us out here in the woods, and make us do hard labor, for two dollars and fifty cents a week, and that feels wrong too.

LARRY: So what can you do about it?

GEORGE: Leave. I feel like, if they threw me in jail, it couldn’t be much worse.

LARRY: (thinks about it for a minute) Guess not. (they leave)(ANNAMARIE enters, goes to podium).

ANNAMARIE (she can be holding a baby or a babydoll): I am Larry’s wife. I came down to be here with Larry. I feel like our story is untold, so I am here to tell it. Our men were unable to fight, for conscience and other reasons. They were put here to be put out of sight and to do hard physical labor instead of serve on the battlefields. I’m not complaining here. But we’ve been unable to live on two dollars and fifty cents a month. I tried hiring out to the townspeople, as I am capable of sewing and doing other jobs, but they’d have nothing to do with me. I grew a garden and became good at it, but it wasn’t enough. My baby is hungry all the time. I just want out!

(set changes back to McNeil)

RADIO ANNOUNCER: Hitler continues his drive to capture the oil fields in the Caucasus and is reportedly planning an offensive on Stalingrad in the Soviet Union. Hitler is speaking with Mussolini about getting more troops committed to the war effort.

(In McNeil, GEORGE is set up painting with a large easel, and DON is sitting at a chair with a notebook, writing poetry. WILLIAM is reading Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Suddenly, ROSCOE and ARLEN enter.)

ROSCOE (grabbing DON’s poem): What’s the idea of writing things like this? If you don’t like the town, you don’t have the right to come around here!

DON: Here (he reaches for the poem, but ROSCOE keeps it out of his reach), I’ll throw away the poem. I don’t need it.

ROSCOE: Not so fast! You call this a poem, but it doesn’t even rhyme!

ARLEN: Save that for evidence! (to GEORGE) And what’s this a picture of?

GEORGE: The train station.

ROSCOE: (reading the poem slowly). Looky here. “And loaded freighters grumble through at night”

ARLEN: That’s information! You are collecting information! It must be for a foreign power.

GEORGE: I don’t think a foreign power could use a picture of this train station.

ARLEN: That’s where you’re wrong, Bub. It’s the little towns like McNeil that are the backbone of the country, and Hitler knows it!

(VILLAGERS have entered, and are now shouting)

VILLAGERS: Conchies! Conchies! Yellow! Yellow!


POLICEMAN: All right, everyone step aside. Now what is the problem here?

ROSCOE: We were minding our own business, and these men came and took notes about the activities of downtown McNeil.

ARLEN: We figure they are being paid by a foreign power to collect information about the activities of our town!

POLICEMAN: (to GEORGE): Is that your work?

GEORGE: Yes, sir.

POLICEMAN: Impressive art. OK this is what’s going to happen. We are taking these as evidence to be inspected, to see if it is in fact of any use to a foreign power. (grabs Ken’s poetry, and the picture from the easel). You will be able to see for yourselves, because they will be on display at the police station. If we believe that these men are in fact serving a foreign power, we will prosecute them immediately. And you boys, Roscoe and Arlen, you leave them alone. We appreciate your vigilance. Now get going! (all leave, WILLIAM comes to front)

WILLIAM: It takes such an intricate succession of misfortunes and blunders to be mobbed by your own countrymen – and such a close balancing of good fortune to survive – that I consider myself a rarity. I felt like we were quite close to being lynched that day, but we had no other violent encounters, and within a month most of us were transferred to the west to fight fires along the dry coast. We did learn, in this and other encounters, that the tormentors are often at a loss unless they can provoke a belligerent reaction as an excuse for further pressure or violence.

(SONG – optional) ALL: I’ve got an opposition to conscription, down in my heart! Down in my heart! Down in my heart! Down in my heart to stay! (this can be sung to the popular tune of joy, joy, joy; there are several versions online and several more easily available)

KIM: My father remained at McNeil until late 1943, when all the men were transferred out west to fight fires. He remained close friends with the men he’d met in the camp, and occasionally they’d visit each other when they had the chance. When the war ended, in 1945, the men felt a little alienated from the effort, and alienated from the victory celebration. They were forced to remain in the camps for several years after the war ended, much to their consternation, as they, like everyone, were eager to get on with their lives.

Going through his papers, I learned that George did, in fact, leave camp early; he was then thrown in jail and forced to serve a sentence. Don, however, lived out his term, went back to Iowa, and married Marta, who had resettled in Iowa as a refugee from the war. My father himself went back to school, became the Poet Emeritus of Oregon, and lived a long life of successful teaching and writing, publishing many other bookssk besides this one, which in fact was drawn from his dissertation. 

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