A One Act Play
By G. L. Horton
copyright © 1985
All the parts can be played by 3 men and 2 women doubling, but
more players are welcome. The community is the protagonist
HARLEQUIN: a young Central American refugee. He was a member
of a political Mime Troupe at his university.
The REVEREND: a Protestant minister.
SISTER CATHERINE:a nun.
ALVIN KRUSKEY: a middle-aged lawyer.
MAY SEAVER:a fiery young activist.
ANN BRADFORD: a retired librarian.
JUAN CRUZ: an informer.
SOLDIERS, PEASANTS, MIMES, CONGREGATION, REFUGEES, etc.
The documentary material in this piece and dramatized incidents
such as that of the Terrorist Cabbie are based on articles published
in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor,
the Village Voice, Time, Newsweek, U S News, and on pamphlets
distributed by CASA and the American Friends Service Committee.
The style of the piece is presentational, but some intimate scenes
are more suited to fourth-wall conventions. The Mime Troupe sections
should be in the cartoon style of street theatre. Rhetorical sections
in sermon or debate form can be deivered from pulpit or podium,
with the assistance of notes or a script, as they would be to
The masks in the first production were colorful and larger than
life paper mache mounted on sticks, but subsequent productions
used a simpler design quite effectively. Refugee costumes should
reproduce the images seen on TV of knit cap pulled down low and
bandanna masking from the nose down so that only the eyes are
visible: the "terrorist" images.
(brash Latin music. Mime Troupe bustles in with masks)
Oh, oh! You recognize this!
It's a (boo hoo! Razz!) political piece !
You're about to be harangued and exhorted.
For your enlightenment, of course.
By a parable, a trope, a skit, a morality play--
I hold up the mirror. I tell you:
the lives you see here are yours!
At least, in outline. In bright colors.
Players wear masks. Simplify, simplify--
until even a Yankee gets the point!
ACTORS IN MASKS PERFORM THE SKITS.(IN SPANISH?)
FAT CAT MASK IS MINISTER OF ED.
Did you hear the one about the minister of education?
He's started a night school. For wise guys.
SOLDIER MASK WITH GAROTTE CROSSES
How many government employees have to be bribed to change a lightbulb?
HARLEQUIN POINTS TO DEAD LIGHTBULB, WHICH IS LOWERED ON ITS CORD
TO JUST ABOVE HIS HEAD.
HE TAKES OUT MONEY, PAYS FAT CAT MASK, WHO GIVES HIM A PAPER.
One to fill out a requision,
one to let you pick up the package,
PAYS FAT CAT AGAIN,WHO GIVES HIM SMALL STEPLADDER
one to unlock the closet and give you the ladder,
CLIMBS UP LADDER, DISCOVERS PACKAGE EMPTY
You open the package-- no lightbulb.
Somebody gets screwed, but not a lightbulb!
We wear masks. Uncle does too. His is called "covert action!"
CIA MASK COMES ON IN TRENCHCOAT
(as flasher opens his coat,machine gun goes off)
(HARLEQUIN dives, dodges, crawls)
My government was not amused. Of the 37 members of our University
theatre troupe, all but three are now dead or disappeared. I hid
in the city with friends, passed from house to house. Sometimes
I was sure they'd hunt us all down. Other times I thought, crazy!
Why would the government bother with me? A college kid who makes
jokes? I changed my name,
Changed your hair.
Grew a mostache.
(HARLEQUIN puts on a big fake moustache)
You! Hey, you! Aren't you Whatshisname?
Who, me? Not me! No, never.
You go to the University. You're a medical student.
Do I look like a medical student?
That's a laugh. I quit school 5th grade, my mother needs me to
go to work.
Her pimp croaked.
If you're not the Whatshisname who makes bad jokes about the government,
why do you run?
You mean right now? Me? (tries to run)
When I saw you?
This is a serious question?! (SOLDIER hurts HARLEQUIN)
Ow! I confess! I'm innocent! I stole a tape recorder! Jose's tape
recorder. I think he's an informer and maybe he told you about
me: his brother-in-law's a cop-- ow! Stop, will ya? I'm not a
rebel, I'm an honest thief!
SCENE IN CHURCH, begin with pulpit manner
Friends, we must come to a decision. Will we shelter one of the
refugees? You've heard why they come: Death Squads have killed
at least 35,000 Salvadorans and 12,000 Guatemalans in the last
three years. Christians around the country are responding to the
cries for help of these people. I know it's a fearfull thing to
oppose our own government. But I feel that our church ought to
I'm sorry, I don't agree. I think it would be wrong for us to
get involved in civil disobedience!
Only some of us would take part in actions. According to our conscience.
Maybe we should do something, I don't know. But whatever we do
should be legal.
It's the government that's illegal! International treaties say
those people have a right to come here..
Pledging support doesn't mean we'll all break the law.
As a lawyer, I'd advise you not even to bend it! If you think
what the Army or the Immigration's doing is illegal, why don't
you sue them!
The last thing in the world I want to do is pour money into lawyers'
pockets! Nothing personal,Al. I think you're honest-
But that's not the way to stand up to Reagan and his cronies.
They'd tie it up in court for ever! They've got lawyers and lobbies
and millions in loot!
The CIA can use our money to burn people out of their homes. But
we aren't allowed to bring them here to ours, to clothe and feed
It sounds so simple, but living together isn't simple. We'd be
taking an awful risk, for an issue we really don't understand-
I know this isn't an easy question-.
I remember the painful years when we stood witness against Vietnam.
Some of us lost good friends then,
New people came. They came because we were against the war. and
they worked like demons-
Where are those people today?
When they got what they wanted, they moved on: to party politics,
aerobic dance: who knows? But they used us. We lost half our big
pledgers, we almost had to sell the building--
It was worth it! Is religion buildings? Or is it being used, for
a higher purpose--
By con men? That's what that Ted Ross was, a con man. You were
ready to follow him to Hanoi: and what is he today? A Moonie!
He's not a Moonie! He's a transcendental meditator.
So who can you believe? If you decide not to trust the people
who run our foreign policy?
Your foreign policy, not mine!
Just remember, please. By the time the war was stopped, we were
all exhausted. Wounded in spirit.
Look at Vietnam today! A police state, invading neighbors-
It was worth it, I think. Because our boys were being forced to
go and kill there. If the war's not just, then they felt it would
Anyway, I don't think we're ready to go through that again. We
haven't the strength. It takes a long time to heal.
That's why I've hesitated, Ann. But I think we have a duty at
least to explore this. Our government is arresting refugees and
sending them back to be killed,
Can't grant them asylum! That would admit that our friends down
there are evil.
You've got pretty strong opinions for somebody who's never been
there. Maybe never even read a White Paper--
Please! Friends! We're brothers and sisters here, we can disagree
without enmity. And we can debate this for as long as it takes.
But I think now we ought to listen to our visitor, Sister Catherine?
She has been there, for years, in Central America. She's come
to tell us about her work and her witness.
SISTER CATHERINE(presentational. pulpit manner)
I drive back and forth across the border. I bring the refugees
in, and then I pass them on to the others. Not very many, of course.
A symbolic few. For Sanctuary.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Law directed the Israelites to set
aside cites of refuge, where the primitive law of blood revenge
would not hold. In the later Roman Empire, in the middle ages,
there was this concept, of a Sacred space. If an outlaw-- and
any lord or bishop could declare a person outlaw, --if the hunted
one could get into the church and touch the altar, he was safe.
No one could drag him out of the hand of God.
In democratic United States' there is no legal concept of sanctuary,
of course. No hallowed ground. But we are trying to appeal to
the hearts of the people. I and other religious are committed
to this action, but the official Church is not
I'm glad to hear that!
I don't suppose any of you would like to see the Church campaign
to get back her Medieval perogatives!
God forbid! The Saudis claim that God has legislated against women
riding bicycles. Do we want the Almighty handing out traffic tickets?
Is that the kind of society we want? There's an important principle
here. Separation of church and state--
That's not the only principle--
The Pilgrims came here to be free to worship. My great-uncle Herman
came here to be free from worship.
They escaped from their rulers, and got to have a say in how they
were ruled. Education, free to all-- isn't that what these poor
The literacy brigades have been one of the prime targets. Teachers,
They come here for economic opportunity.
So? We got that, because our parents took it. Climbed over the
wall into the promised land, and now we've pulled the ladder up
We have immigration laws because there's not enough land to go
around. People keep making babies, but God stopped making land
after the 2nd day! If you don't believe me, try to find a parking
spot for a Red Sox game!
There's no land for them in their own country because all of it's
owned. By the top 3%! 62% of the land, and by international corporations--
That's Marxist garbage! Who fed you that? Besides, how are foreign
country regulates enterprise is hardly our fault!
Calmly, friends, calmly-
We profit. The peasants go hungry.
Are we just going to argue among ourselves? Or are we going to
Gentle people, kind citizens of the United States of North America-
Do you know why I wear this mask?
Cause you're ashamed of yourself!
In my country, the government is afraid of the people, afraid
that they will love one another, and join their strength. But
the tyrants are smart. They catch a rebel, they don't just kill
him. They round up the family, his sweetheart, they torture them
before his eyes. They say, see? You want to be a hero? The ones
you love, will be the ones to suffer. Be quiet, be private, look
out for number one! So, I have escaped. But if back home they
find out that I am here, that I am telling you this, they will
hunt down my family, my friends. But you must be told! You must
realize what your government is doing!
How can you believe this - Lone Stranger? What if he's a spy,
an agent of a foreign power, here to stir up trouble. Think about
it! What's in it for him?
My government is using the arms and the bribes and the interrogation
techniques supplied by you, by your money!
Making up brutality stories to give us a thrill, and collect money
to spread more lies.
There are Americans, rich ones, who have business deals with the
dictators. They will be hurt if my people have democracy! But
you, my friends, how will you be hurt?
Words, words! And you fools listen. What do you think will happen
to your jobs, if his people break up the plantations? If they
stop growing for export and grow food for the themselves instead?
What happens to our savings, when bad debts cause a run on American
How should I know? I don't understand your economy. I don't even
understand why to ride the Green Line costs 15 cents plus a token!
Are you communists?
Always that! You want a label! You want an excuse to stop thinking,
to jump over the boring facts. First let me ask you: What are
our four biggest cities? Principal exports? What percentage of
our population can read? Can Vote? Can spell "communist"?!
(SHIFTS MOOD, FOCUS)
I don't say this, of course. I'm a guest here, a stranger. I smile.
I say "No, not a communist. I'm for democracy, like you."
Most Sanctuaries are in Quaker, Unitarian, or Presbyterian churches.
Supposedly --no one's sure-- after all, this is a conspiracy --
500 to 600 Salvadoran and Guatamalans are sheltered. Out of 500,000
Those of us in this movement compare ourselves to the Underground
Railway before the Civil War, when abolitionists sheltered fugitive
That's how it happens: by parable. We tell the stories, we make
the comparison, we draw the moral.
song: SLAVE MASK
No more moaning--No more moaning--
No more moaning, Lord for me--
Before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave,
and go home to my lord, and be free.
Geat God Almighty, I'm free at last--
That Ohio river, that's the Jordan
I've crossed over!
You're under arrest.
For what? I hain't committed no crime. This is a free country!
I was born here, and now I'm a citizen!
Not on free soil.
That's what Dred Scott thought. But the courts said , nothing
doing. Slavery's the law where you come from, and the federal
Government recognizes the laws of that state, which declare you've
got no right to be up here. So back you go.
The runaways had to be kept hidden. There were people who made
their livings as slave -catchers. Even pretended to be "conductors"
on the freedom train.
(TWO FEMALE FIGURES WRAPPED IN SHAWLS AND WEARING THE BANDANNA
MASKS, ENTER FEARFULLY ONE CARRIES A BABY-BUNDLE. THEY MIME RIGING
IN A CAR)
JUAN CRUZ(driving car)
Hey friend, you had a long journey, no? Un viaje largo, eh?
Don't you worry, you're going to be happy here. Feliz. No?
This is a great country. You can make lots of money. Dinero, dinero.
No more nothing but beans, eh? No mas friholes. Dollars in your
(THE MASKED FIGURES WHISPER TO EACH OTHER)
Kind people. They brought you from Mexico to Tuscon, eh? That
nice old fella, Fred, in his pickup? No? Who then? (THEY WHISPER)
Sweet little girl you've got. There are more? Nieces and nephews,
maybe. You going to get them out, too? Send them some money. What
are their names, eh? Maybe we can fix it to send them a message,
very secret, let them know you'er in good hands. (MIMES STOPPING,
GETS OUT, HERDS THEM to SISTER CATHERINE)
Here we are Sister, delivered all safe and sound. You find them
a good clean place tp stay? With that family over by the dry cleaners?
No? A new place?
(masked figure begins speaking in Spanish)
MASKED WOMAN (TAPE OR LIVE)
Yo no me meti en la politica. Ni nadie en mi familia. Tuvieron
lo suficiente. Cuando los otros hablaron de la politica, se apartaron
SISTER CATHERINE(translating over Sp. voice)
The refugee says: she had nothing to do with politics. None of
her family. They had enough: not too much. When they heard others
talking about injustice, they turned away. But one night she was
coming home from her friend Marta's 's, she heard screaming. She
thought about running away to her own home, but she couldn't,
she went to see, maybe it was a accident. There was a van on the
road, on fire. She recognized it. It belonged to some officials
from agriculture, they'd been questioning the farm workers, asking
about wages, and seed - People were inside the van, many people,
all screaming, and the soldiers standing around to watch. She
screamed too, when she saw the burning, and the soldiers saw her.
She ran back, she hid with her friend. The soldiers came to her
house. She is afraid they will kill her because she is a witness.
(the hooded figure weeps)
Don't feel bad. You're gonna be all right. Your family too. I
know you're worried, but I can help. You tell me the town you
come from, the name of your parish priest. I'll fix it so the
padre here sends food, sends medicine--
There are relief committees. Your congregation can donate food,
and money to buy agricultural implements-
For collective farms! The liberationists are trying to organize
cadres who'll take over private property. What happens to freedom
then? There's no moral superiority involved in being poor, you
"The Lord hath sent me to preach the gospel to the poor:
to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives,
to set at liberty them that are bruised."
You don't even speak the language! How can you tell who're the
good guys? Some things we do know. Marxists crush the opposition
once they're in, and they hate the USA. We can try to be good
neighbors, but good fences make good neighbors-
The lesson today is from the 10th chapter of Luke;
And behold, A certain lawyer stood up and tempted him,, Saying:
AL (tragedy mask)
Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
MIME SHOW: THE GOOD SAMARITAN
REVEREND( Christ mask)
What is written in the law?
Thou shalt love thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.
Thou hast answered. This do, and thou shalt live.
But who is my neighbor?
(dumb show of the parable, with masks)
A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jerico, and fell among
thieves,(SOLDIER MASK) which stripped him of his raiment, and
wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance
there came down a certain priest that way:( BISHOP's MASK) and
when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise
a Levite, (FAT CAT MASK) when he was at the place, came and looked
on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan,
(MARXIST MASK)as he journeyed came where he was: and when he saw
him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his
wounds, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on
the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them
to the host and said,
"Take care of him. And whatsoever thou spendest more, when
I come again, I will repay thee."
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor to him that
fell among the thieves?
He that showed mercy on him.
Go thou and do likewise.
AL (takes off mask)
Eternal life? Meaning pie in the sky?
What else could it mean?
You tell me.
Out of time, apart from history. A value that doesn't depend on
how things work out.
Patch up a hoodlum, and he may turn around and shoot your family.
I don't call that good. You've got to think through, think long
Instead of Eternally.
How many can we feed? Huge families, eleven bambinos, three husbands.
Then they want to come up here where the streets are paved with
gold. Pry up some, buy plane tickets for their aunts and cousins
to come here and live off welfare. How many you want us to let
Please, Al! You're a generous man, I know from your pledge-
I do worry that we won't be able to absorb them. My sister retired
to Miami: she says it's like Havanna there now.
And those Cubans are capitalists! They came to get away from Castro.
What happens when we have millions of Spanish-speaking Marxists
in our cities? How many, before it's as bad here as it is there?
That's what the government's afraid of! When we hear the stories
these refugees tell, we'll make the connections between what's
going on down there, and what's happening to us here.
You don't want to hear that, do you? You want to keep your self-respect
as citizens of a nice democratic middle-class country. But it's
not. Less all the time. More millionaires, more poor. More illiterates,
so stupified by television they have no idea that there's more
to the American Way than greed.
People look at politicians like charcters in a commercial. They
know they're saying those words cause there's money in it! 's
got nothing to do with truth. But people buy it. Our leaders.
You've got to believe they intend to be just. Those men represent
us, and we're good people.
Have you ever been on a jury? There's a wonderful feeling on a
jury! Ordinary citizens put away their private interests and try
to represent the voice of justice.
And that feels good. They can be a little better than they expected
to be. That's what makes a free society possible.
Self respect. respect for law.
What about lawyers, Ann? When you were on the jury, and feeling
proud of democracy: Did you feel good about the lawyers?
What kind of a crack is that?
I'm sure its not meant personally-
Did the lawyers seem to you to be interested in getting at the
truth, the whole truth?
Sometimes they didn't seem fair--
They want to win for the side that hired them, don't they?
That's how an adversary system works. Opinion comes to the marketplace.
But the truth comes out! In this country. At least when we believe
it can, when we try.
You're trying to say that the system's fragile?
Right! It's as if we can only be good and concerned for truth
when we think our neighbors expect it.
Yeah, good people. Or if we're not, at least we're better when
we think we're good than when we feel ashamed of ourselves. Once
you get fanatics stealing papers, staging civil disobedience,
citizens get confused. They get cynical.
Sure! Let's not confuse ourselves with facts!
Then after cynical, they get vicious. Once you start to rake the
muck, it spreads over everything.
The truth will make you free, the Bible says.
The truth doesn't mean pointing out all the flaws of your friends,
and praising your enemies!
I do think we have to decide if we believe the stories we've heard.
If do, then I suppose you could say it's our duty to publish that,
Don't you ever learn? All right! I disagreed with you all over
the war in Vietnam. I didn't walk away then , and I'm not going
to walk away now.
I wouldn't blame you.
This is my church. My community. Hell, you're my family. But think
hard about how you treat your kin. You can't know much about what's
happening south of the border. Even if you have photos, facts,
you can't tell what they mean -- you're You'll get them interpreted
by idealists who tell you capitalist courage is brutal and communist
courage is liberating. Vietnam was a war like other wars. Except
some people stole our heros. The stories were told by the wrong
side; by people who said "them" and "yours"
instead of "us" and Ours".
Sure, Al. You and I are Us. The administration is us, too--isn't
it? Elected by 49 states: can't be much more representative than
that. But some of us have got to tell the rest of "us"
So how are we going to do that? Will we make this church a sanctuary?
Only if you want to rip it apart.
We can sign petitions. You could demonstrate.
You silent ones: what do you say? Can we act as a community?
THEY BEGIN A MARCH
AL(draws apart, to audience)
It's embarrassing. I look out the window of the courthouse, and
there's a sign with my church's name on it, marching and shouting--!
DEMONSTRATION: CIA MASK, SOLDIER MASK, SLAVE-- CARRIED IN PROCESSION,
WITH PICKET SIGNS, ETC- CHANTING AND CLAPPING
"CIA, USA, out of Nicaragua" -- repeated--
THEY MARCH, MAY STEPS OUT, STILL CLAPPING, AND TALKS TO THE AUDIENCE)
At high school basketball rallies, I'd look around at all the
kids in their standard sweaters clapping and cheering in time
and I'd think, what jerks! What a mob!
" Central High's the team on top. We've got pep, we can't
be stopped!" I'd sit there with my hands in my lap, and say
to myself, I'm an individual. not someone who'd march in a parade
right off a cliff, like those sheep. Don't they ever question
authority? Of course not. Afraid that makes you a wierdo. A freak.
A radical. Not one of the crowd.
CROWD and MAY CHANT:
" the people united, will never be defeated"- etc.
The people, united-
Marching in a crowd, clapping in time--
Enemies of the people aren't people.
Who does that leave? Saints and monsters?
THE PARADE FALLS OUT, MAY GOES TO THE REVEREND. INFORMAL MEETING.
The next step is to court arrest. See how many there are who'd
actually put their bodies on the line.
Bob and I can take a refugee into our home, if the church isn't
up to it.
I can do the information table after Sunday School. May, if you
need linens, I've got extra blankets, sheets and towels--
I thought you were against this?
I don't want my church to break the law. But a human being that's
simple charity. I can do that.
And I can try to keep the roof from falling in.
SISTER CATHERINE(pulpit,to audience)
Who should be given Sanctuary?
Not those who most need it. The shell-shocked, the blameless victims
who want only to forget. Those should be hidden in the teeming
ghettos, or smuggled into Canada. No, the refugee who is installed
in a church or in the home of a dedicated activist must be strong
Like me. It also helps to be an actor, no?
And to be educated, like you. To speak good English.
A former member of the privileged classes. That makes it easier
for the North Americans to identify with me, they think I'm a
more reliable witness.
In some ways, perhaps. One used to imagination, to abstract thinking.
I can ignore that I am a young man who should have better things
to do than sit around in one room in a city full of strangers.
You must have faith.
Faith! To believe that even so far away from my family, my friends,
I am fighting for them. That's what it is to be a symbol!
OTHER MASKED FIGURES IN BRIGHT SHAWLS AND SERAPES APPEAR, SITTING
AND STANDING. JUAN CRUZ IS FRIENDLY TO EACH IN TURN, SOME ARE
WARY AND SOME TRUSTING.
I hear they have found a family for you to stay with. Way up North.
It's very cold up north. The people are cold, too. They don't
relax. They don't dance.
Even where they have so much to smile about, they only smile when
they want to sell you something. You'll be lonesome for your own
kind. Even a few words.
You know your address yet?
Give it to me, and I'll write to you.
SEVERAL MASKS(Shaking "NO")
OK, so I'll give you mine, you can write to me.
(female figure wearing shawl and hankercheif) mask comes forward
to talk to JUAN)
Maybe you don't want me to write a letter because you can't read.
Is that it? You're embarrassed you can't read?
I can read. The sisters taught me, and the literacy brigade,
Revolutionaries taught you to read-
They taught me Jesus was killed by the rich and powerful because
he was on the side of the poor. Like me, he worked with his hands.
He was born in a stable, his mother was pregnant when she wasn't
SCENE: in the church.ANN is sitting at desk
Do I know you?
Everybody knows me. I am Juan Cruz, friend of the refugees. You
know sister Isobel? The one who brought your refugee?
Come on, you don't have to hide from me. I'm a friend. Look, I
got Christmas presents for them, for the little girls. So sweet,
such big sad eyes. See, here are their names on them.
If you want to leave the packages, I'll see what can be arranged.
Ok. But I want to call them up, wish them merry Christmas. Felice
Navidad. They don't get to hear much from old friends now, it
will make them happy. Just give me their phone number. (ENTER
I guess I can do that.
Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!
MASK TAPE( female wrapped in shawl)
The refugee says
She learned to read, she read the Bible. The story of the Massacre
of the Innocents. This Herod, this man of power, was told that
a child had been born that would one day be King in his place.
And he was exceeding wroth, and he sent forth and slew all the
children. He was ruling that country. They were his people, and
should have been family to him. Especially the little ones, the
innocents. But all that mattered was his power. The soldiers he
gave the cruel order, they had nothing against babies. They were
not threatened. But they killed them, and after a while of killing
them they began to think that maybe the babies were little criminals,
maybe they had done something to deserve to be killed, like communists.
(SISTER CATHERINE is now speaking for herself, to audience)
That is another evil, that power turns a man against what he knows,
into believing a lie that will block out his pain. But maybe some
of the soldiers went home after the killing and confessed to their
wives what they had done. Maybe some ran away or talked to nuns
and priests to let them know what was happening. Not necessarily
saying I have done wrong, I am a sinner, but letting out the truth.
When the bodies are mutilated, when they are hung from trees with
intestines spilled out and wrapped around their faces. When my
friend Sister Dorothy, whose whole mission was prayer and help
for the innocents, only the innocents, giving them canned milk
and medicine, when she is raped and cut with bayonets and left
lying in a ditch, that is not just a murder: it is a message,
I have faith. So although I am tempted to believe that what the
killers are saying is: "there is no evil and no goodness,
no charity. There is only force, force and submission." I
won't believe that. I will take that awful sight as a plea. They
are saying, Stop us. Help us to stop. No one who is born of a
mother can bear to look at what we are doing, desecrating what
must be sacred, bringing shame into daylight. We not want to be
cruel, they say. Our cruelty gives us nightmares. Look, these
are our nightmares! Take photographs! If you can bear to live
with those photograghs, then look in the mirror.
(SCENE IN THE CHURCH)
Friends, sixteen sanctuary workers were arrested in Texas.
It's very possible that the federal agents will trace down Bob
and May. I believe that we have to move our refugee into the church,
or to Canada: at any time there'll be a knock on Bob's door.
POSSIBLY MIME THE SCENE BEHIND; CIA MASK
Immigration and Naturalization Service Agents came to my apartment
while I was away. They had a warrant, I suppose.
My Salvadoan friend let them in, and then watched while they went
through my letters, my photo album. So happy when they found names
the agents jumped up and hugged one another. When she began to
cry, they told her not to worry. And then they searched her body
and took her off to jail.
They got addresses.
Not from me. But they may have it. When the INS decides to move
like this, it usually means they're ready to close in on everybody
they plan to arrest: otherwise the rest would take warning and
But isn't that what they want? To frighten us?
A uniform, a badge, they're powerful symbols-
If the Feds come, let them come into the church, violate that
A counter-symbol. It'd look great on the 11 o'clock news.
Violate! I don't like the sound of that. Violate.
Sounds like Rape. Which it is. Taking by force-
We talked about this. Arrest, resistence. Of course it's probably
not too late to dissociate ourselves-
the phone rings, ANN answers
Good morning, First Church--
(as she listens, her face changes to fear.
A bomb. He says. (hangs up) I'm afraid, you know. Not of being
arrested: well, yes I am, I'm not the sort who's arrested, I can't
imagine it, really. But I'll see that through. Go limp, they say,
and the police will help me into the paddy wagon. Some of us they
might bang around, but not me, not a lady of my age. In the station
house it'll be like on TV, I suppose. I'll answer questions and
sit down and stand up and Mr. Cabot who is my attourney will get
me out and afterwards I'll take a long hot bath. But the church!
That's my sanctuary. My safe place. Mother took me there, longer
ago than any of you would remember. So still inside it, so certain,
every thing right, and in its right place. I've always trusted
the pastor, whoever he was. Not that he's perfect, or always correct
in his opinions. But I knew that he would never lie to us. We
were the ones he'd be with, year after year, the truth works itself
out in our lives together, so there's no point to debater's tricks
in the pulpit, or putting on a show: there's no advantage to it,
he's got nowhere to get to: he's already here! But now, he's brought
in this stranger. That's scripture, that's Samaritan-- but then
what? The 11 o'clock news? That's politics. That's slogans. That's
apt to be lies. Pretty soon you what's real, or who you really
We've got to know who we are. That's basic. That man we got in
the Whitehouse now, he may be wrong about a lot of things, but
he's right about having to believe.
Maybe that comes from being an actor. Belief is his business.
Seeing the story from the point of view of the character you play
Anyway, belief is a kind of magic. It holds us together. When
we repeat that what we hope is so, it becomes so. Sometimes. With
a little help.
You say a dictator is a democrat and a friend of freedom, and
then you call him up on the phone and tell him you expect him
to act that way. So-- He'd better not let you down.
But it doesn't work for just anybody. It doesn't work when the
leader knows it's a lie: that's why he needs aides to protect
him from too many confusing little facts.
That Nixon was too damn smart, too debating-champ cynical. See,
a debater's not like an actor, he's more like a lawyer, has to
be able to take on the other side. He puts himself in their shoes:
not to sympathize, exactly, but to fiigure out every little rotten
trick they could use to break his case. And then he piles up ticks
of his own, to anticipate. Nixon lied to us, all the time. He
didn't tell us stories and parables and dreams. He told us facts
that he knew damn well weren't so. He told us intentions that
he didn't have.
Have you heard? Any news?
Bob, I want you to give me five dollars.
BOB (reaches in pocket)
Better make that fifty. Write me out a check.
Fifty! What do you think a teacher makes, Al? I can give -
You jerk! Do you have any idea what this is likely to cost you
before its over? Here. (hands BOB cash) Now write me a check,
that's called a retainer. Makes me your lawyer.
You'll defend me? Whew! Thanks. (writes out check) I thought you
didn't approve; but if you'll defend me--
I don't and I won't.
You need advice, right now. I'm going to give it to you. Then
probably you aren't going to take it, and I'm going to have to
cut out and put as much distance between us as possible. This
way I won't be forced to testify against you.
You think it will come to that?
Don't you? I thought you were all fired up to make yourselves
I was! But it's been a year. I'd begun to think we were safe.
That the goverment was willing to concede-
Mrs. Seaver. Your husband has committed a felony. He's going to
be arrested, and have to make bail --arrested along with that
person you had hidden in your attic or basement or wherever, and
with our blessed minister and a couple of nuns and maybe you,
too. The Holies'll come out all right. The Lord won't kick em
off the payroll. But JFK High School? Are they going to let an
indicted felon teach algebra?
I don't see why not.
Maybe they will, maybe they won't! But every day the taxes they
take out of my paycheck are being used to buy instruments of torture!
If I lose my job, the generals'll have less to play with.
Al, Bob teaches algebra.
I know. So?
Why would anybody get upset about the political opinions of a
teacher of algrbra? It's not as if a communist taught civics--
Somerville doesn't have civics-
This is criminal! Moral turpitude.
What about me?
I don't think you'll have to worry. The University may not pay
you much, but they're not going to fire you. The law provides
for a fine of $5,ooo and a prison term of five years for each
No reason to worry?!
You can expect probation. But it's not the fine that hurts. It's
lost time, lost wages, lawyer's fees.--
Suppose we can't accept probation? The terms? You have to promise
to obey the law, that's like saying what you did is wrong.
What kind of freedom's that?
If you're sure it's worth going to jail for-
Some people claim it's worth dying for.
Or killing for. That's the next step. Freedom fighters.
Not for us.
I've heard there are fighter-priests in the hills.
First they smuggle medicine, then guns, and one day they are shooting-
Once you start to fight, not a move you make is on your own. Get
up with the bugle, march in step, somebody else decides what you
wear, when you sleep and who with, what you eat and when--
At least you do eat. In any starving country, the army's fat,
So the fighters never have it themselves, the freedom. By the
time the fighting's over, everyone's out of the habit.
I hate to see this start! Damn Vietnam! Bringing the war back
(IN A CAB, DRIVER IS SEEN FROM BEHIND)
Where to, lady?
First Church, on the park.
Lotta excitement there, huh?
More than I like, at least.
You're not mixed up in that Sanctuary business, are you?
I'm a supporter, if that's what you mean.
TAXI(speeds around corner)
A nice lady like you? You better watch out. These people aren't
fooling. They play for keeps, and they don't like traitors. You're
risking assasination. That's how it is down south of the border,
and it'll follow those leftists up here.
Where are you taking me?
To your apartment. Spring St.
I didn't give you my address! I told you to drive me to the church.
TAXI(throwing her against seat)
OK, lady. But I'm warning you, that church's not safe! Course,
you're not safe at home, either. The assasins can make it look
like an accident. They can get you around the neck, use cloroform,
then start a little fire. No one would ever know. (schreeches
to a halt)
Oh! (ANN lurches out of the cab, gropes for money, pushes at the
Remember what I told you. You better get out of that business
before you get serious hurt.
ANN( hugged by MAY)
I'm so afraid! The bomb man on the telephone! He said it would
go off, but he was just a voice. But this one, he knows me! Knows
where I live!
I'm afraid too.
You think I'm jumping for joy?
We're not alone. The church is behind us. Thousands of people
have pledged support.
That's a comfort. But not when I feel an arm around my neck, a
cloth over my mouth-
I'll feel better once the refugee's out of my house.
Suppose they bomb us!
You can't back down. The only cure for strongarm stuff is open
That's what we'll have by tonight.
MAY( PANTOMIME THIS??)
Our refugee is dressed as a garbage man. We'll pull up near the
dumpster and the sexton will open the door to the ramp, haul out
some trash. The refugee will slip in, go through the firedoor
into the Sunday School and then up the back stairs to the Sanctuary.
Jack Pearson has brought down his video camera. Some one with
be ready to start filming if we're raided.
We'll get a hundred parishioners down here. They can sit or kneel
all around, link arms and interpose--
Great TV! '60's Reruns! Look kids. These aren't extras sent out
from central casting. Not political cartoons. Human lives.
We call lives human because they have meaning. They participate
in the Eternal.
It seems to me this is a time to pray, not to stage manage!
The language of religion is parable. When we want to express values,
we can't write equations. We tell each other stories. On television,
if that's how our neighbors listen-
Sell Sanctuary like soap?
Sad, isn't it? Where are our tribal storytellers? Working for
Mammon. Selling you diet drinks. Selling the idea that love is
The American Dream is Opportunity: to use your God-given imagination
to tell lies.
We'll use it right!
Do your deeds of charity in secret-- that's what Jesus said.
I don't see how it's going to do that refugee any good to--
be dragged off out of a circus!
We're not doing this for one refugee! If we wanted to help one,
we'd forge a green card--
Then what is it for? Our getting arrested won't help those people.
We can't change their country--
It's not for their country! Central America' ought to be none
of my damn business.
That's what I've been trying to tell you! If they've got dictators,
they deserve em. Why expect Joe Citizen of the USA
BOB Because this is my country, dammit! Those kids in my algebra
class, I want them to be able to be proud of it. We've got to
establish the truth, and if the goverment's wrong, admit it. And
But can we?
That's where faith comes in. We try. How it comes out is not in
I wish I didn't know! I wish I'd never heard about Nicaragua,
or El Salvador!
(ANN is hugged by MAY)
REVEREND(takes ANN's hand)
But we have heard. We can't pass by, like the Levite.
BOB(joins hands with them too)
And thank God! Thank God!
ANN(smiles at the group)
That's true, isn't it? I wish we weren't in for trouble, but I'm
glad we're doing this. Grateful that I had a chance to get to
know you. No matter what happens, however it comes out, I'm glad,
and I'm proud.
It'll be something to tell our grandchildren.
If we're out of jail by then.
And the Eart's not burnt to cinders.
All right. I guess you're right. Even if you're wrong. Anyway,
we're in this together.
(They join hands and sing "We shall overcome" A masked
refugee comes and sits in their midst. There is a pounding at
I don't want to be a North American.
I want to be a nationl hero!
I show you my handsome face.
Not my real face, which is, like yours, the face of a coward.
Who wants to be warm and well fed and have a woman to look after
But this other face. Larger than life.
The martyr. The witness.
I tell our story over and over.
To the church committees. To the junior high schools. to the talk
shows and the television.
Until the tortures begin to bore even me.
At one point, I have a chance to begin over.
I could stop my boring stories and be an ordinary illegal and
then maybe a worker and a citizen here--
But I won't.
I say it is because of who I am: but is that so?
Soon all I will remember is what I willed to remember.
I play hide and seek with the person I used to be.
On March 27, in Houston Texas, Jack Elder was sentenced to one
year in jail for five counts of illegally transporting aliens.
Our friends here, Bob and Ann and Al, and the Rev. They're made
up- assembled from clippings of recollections of endless committees.
Like the papier mache masks, they exist only to remind you of
what you know. Asking;
What shall I do to inherit eternal life?
But Jack Elder is real. He turned down probation and went to jail:
that's his story. His life, becoming your parable.
And the refugees are real. From time to time you read about one
in the papers.
The refugee says
You must listen to me.
You must believe me.
They want me dead.
They killed me to silence me.
But I am not all dead.
I am alive in the stories.
See my wounds.
Among the Balinese, there is the rite of the animation of the
masks. The worshipers gather in front of the sacred images, mounted
on poles. Their stories are known. This one is a tyrant, a slave
ACTOR COMES FORWARD WITH SOLDIER MASK
His pleasure in in the terror he inspires in his subjects-- that's
how they become his subjects. They run, they cower.
ACTOR COMES FORWARD WITH BISHOP MASK
This one is loving and creative, giver of shelter and food, dispenser
of kindness. This one suffers.
ACTOR COMES FORWARD WITH BAG MASK
And grieves. It bears the sins of the people, and witnesses and
TRAGEDY MASK AND FAT CAT MASK
Death and loss.
One worshipper will approach the mask. Drawn inexorably, in a
trance. Or hesitantly, as if in negotiation with the imminent
spirit. The mask is lowered over the face. The god-force takes
over the body. The individual becomes larger than life. All the
complexities and ambiguities of dailiness fall away. There before
the community is essence. Is action. The God lives.
Once you have done this, you are changed.
Once you have seen this, you are changed.
The masks are before you.
Or be chosen.