ACT IIScene 1
(Dark stage. Light rises on NORMAN, shrouded. He dances his
"SECOND LAW OF REALITY":)
NORMAN: "Change is the only immutable force endlessly continuous. All things and situations constantly alter and rearrange."
(Slide/backdrop re-emerges as Lafayette Park
(At rear of theater is slide/backdrop of White House.)
In the right corner (stage front) stands the trunk and a large branch of a sycamore tree. Additional and larger signs have appeared at the left of the stage in a V shape, easily read:
"GOD IS THE ABSOLUTE,"
"NUMBER ONE PRIORITY:
BAN ALL NUCLEAR WEAPONS
OR HAVE A NICE DOOMSDAY."
The "FAST" sign is gone. JONAH is reading the Washington POST, sitting cross-legged among his signs. NORMAN turns to look at him.)
NORMAN: "My, my, Jonah. Impressive. You're still here."
(JONAH doesn't hear him. NORMAN turns to the audience.)
"Once in a great while a spirit at rest foils resistible force. This is a particularly stubborn spirit. He's been moved from the President's gate to the President's Park across the street -- and rumor has it that there are plans afoot to move him even further away...."
(NORMAN steps behind the Sycamore tree and disappears.)
(Enter BO, a bearded young man carrying a briefcase which he
plops down next to JONAH.)
JONAH: (Opens briefcase.) "Thanks, Bo."
BO: "You're welcome. I think you'll find all the legal precedents you need for your selective prosecution defense. If you ask me, there's a strong case for conspiracy against these folks if you ever get through the criminal cases still pending."
JONAH: "It might be a little hard to do the research from inside a jail cell."
(JONAH removes some legal papers and a notebook, starts
scribbling in his lap. BO walks over to the REVELATION sign,
pulls out a banjo and sits down on the sidewalk nearby to play.)
(MONK, a "street philosopher," ambles in and sits down next to BO, pulling a harmonica out of his backpack. The two of them softly play '60's, '70's and early 80's protest music (heavy emphasis on John Lennon compositions) as background. From time to time pedestrians unobtrusively pass through shadows, circling the action.)
BO: "Hello, Monk."
(Enter FEY, dressed in turquoise cape, black boots and cossack pants, long dangling earrings, briefcase slung on a strap over her shoulder, camera around her neck. She walks up quietly, photographs the signs and singers, and listens.)
BO: "You know this song?" (He strums, then sings.)
MONK: "No, I can't say I do."
BO: "We got any smokes?"
"`It ain't that I'm unhappy with the way the world seems,
it's just I'm sick of watchin' its suicidal schemes.
I'm wishin' air was cleaner,
and wishin' minds were keener,
and wishin' that my scrawny hide weren't always gettin' leaner
on the peaceful side of the street.'"
(FEY steps forward, rummaging in her bag.)
FEY: "Here's a pack. Keep it. You fellows know Jonah?"
BO: (Slowly, with Mississippi drawl) "Sure do."
FEY: "Could you point me in his direction?"
BO: "Sure can. Right there."
(Points to where JONAH is intent on his work.)
FEY: "Thanks. And thanks for the music. It's good to hear
intelligent lyrics again." (Walks over to JONAH.) "I believe you're a philosopher named Jonah?" (He looks up and nods.) "I'm Fey. Do you mind if I take your picture?"
JONAH: "It's a free sidewalk." (He smiles.)
(FEY photographs him, then sits beside him on the curb above the sidewalk. Lights dim to
spotlight as they speak. Unidentifiable shadows move outside the light, office workers headed home and evening strollers.
FEY: "A homeless couple -- Hester and AC -- told me about you at the soup wagon here in the Park tonight, they said you were a homeless philosopher. I decided I`d better meet you! You see, I'm writing a play about homeless people, and the main character is a philosopher. Frankly, I thought he was just a figment of my imagination; I couldn't wait to meet someone who actually fit the description!"
JONAH: "There may be more of us than you think."
FEY: "Really? It seems most homeless folks are in the streets because somehow they're misfits..."
JONAH: "That's perceptive of you."
FEY: "...and they don't appear to have much purpose."
(She gestures at JONAH's signs.) "But you're what could be called `homeless WITH a purpose,' right?"
JONAH: "You could say that."
FEY: "Hester said you've been out here three years, 24 hours a day. Why?"
JONAH: "I believe I understand why there are nuclear weapons, and I stay here so I can share this understanding."
FEY: "And why are there nuclear weapons?"
JONAH: "Fear. Fear and economics. We have nuclear weapons because we want to keep the communist economic system out of our
country. The Soviets have nuclear weapons because they want to keep capitalism out of their country. We fear what we don't know, and arm ourselves so we can hang onto what we do know. We have the technology to make a heaven on earth, and yet what we're doing is using that technology to annihilate the planet! Won't it be terrible if we destroy the world over who has the least imperfect economic system?"
Jonah has a twinkle in his eye, a gentle and humorous manner. He closely observes Fey's reactions to what he's saying. After three years' practice talking to strangers who became friends in front of the White House, and 37 years of curiosity-born adventures, he's memorably and charmingly original.)
(The sound of tires squeals nearby, someone shouts from offstage "FUCKIN' COMMIES!" The thunk of an object is thrown against a sign. JONAH walks over to pick up a rock, returns bouncing it thoughtfully in his hand. FEY, startled, also stands. They sit back down while they're talking.)
JONAH: "In an attempt to rationalize this evil, the government
claims the good intent of protecting freedom. But the truth is that there IS no REAL freedom."
FEY: "How can you say that? There must be SOME freedom -- or how could you remain here on the sidewalk?"
JONAH: "There comes that question again! 'This proves it,
freedom of speech, right in front of the President's house!' But look beyond the surface to the underlying struggle to keep these signs here ... they've been confiscated and destroyed over and over. I've been beaten up. I've been arrested 2l times for exercising our First Amendment rights to speak with people about important things. Because I've been here, several regulations have been written and rewritten to make harmless, constitutionally-protected activities criminal. I could go to prison for six months each time I get arrested for simply falling asleep!"
FEY: (Amazed.) "Where do you come from?"
JONAH: "Planet Earth."
FEY: (Laughs.) "A fellow Earthling AT LAST! ... But what brought you
JONAH: "Planetary insanity." (JONAH pulls out some papers and hands them to FEY.) "For years I was a nomad seeking others who think as I do. I walked across North Africa and traveled through the Middle East and Europe, and saw the havoc done in the name of 'freedom' ... by BOTH superpowers. One day I realized I must in conscience refuse to be a citizen of any country which exploits people around the world and which threatens the existence of the planet for the
perpetuation of any economic system."
(Lights rise on a LONDON BOBBY (LB) (SPOOFNER Anglicized) watching JONAH with interest. JONAH steps away from FEY, pulls a passport from his pocket, looks at it for a long moment, then throws it offstage. A splash is heard. The bobby steps forward.)
LONDON BOBBY: "Excuse me, sir. What was that you threw in the river?"
JONAH: "My passport."
LONDON BOBBY: "And why would you do such a thing?"
JONAH: "It has nothing to do with me."
LONDON BOBBY: "Are you a citizen of the United States?"
JONAH: "No. I'm a citizen of the world."
LONDON BOBBY: (Bristles.) "I trust you have papers to prove
JONAH: "No. Only logic."
LONDON BOBBY: (Becomes officious.) "I'm afraid logic will not satisfy bureaucratic necessities. Your name, please."
(LONDON BOBBY pulls out notebook.)
LONDON BOBBY: "Surname?"
LONDON BOBBY: (Looks up.) "Jonah Jonah?"
JONAH: "No. Just Jonah."
LONDON BOBBY: (Becomes angry.) "I advise you not to play games with Her Majesty's representatives."
JONAH: "I'm not playing games."
LONDON BOBBY: "Occupation?"
JONAH: "I'm a pilgrim headed for Israel."
LONDON BOBBY: "Without a passport."
JONAH: "It shouldn't be necessary."
LONDON BOBBY: "Well, it is. Where were you born?"
JONAH: "What difference does it make?"
LONDON BOBBY: (Puts his book away.) "I don't like your attitude. I'm taking you in for questioning, Mr. Jonah."
(As he calls on his walkie-talkie for assistance, light fades on him, JONAH sits back down with FEY.)
JONAH: "They kept me in jail seven months."
FEY: "In ENGLAND?"
JONAH: "That's right. Finally they loaded me onto a jet, under
protest, like a sack of Irish potatoes. The U.S. officials admitted they had no legal right to bring me back into the U.S. against my will, but they carried me in anyway. 'You'll love it here,' they said, 'we have DISNEYLAND!'" Theyy both laugh.) "So I came to D.C. and sat down in front of the White House with a sign, `LET MY BODY GO,' asking to be allowed to continue my pilgrimage to Israel."
FEY: "Why Israel?"
JONAH: "There isn't a person living in Israel who hasn't been touched by war. It seems a logical place to work for peace."
FEY: (Shakes her head disbelievingly.) "Pinch me. Are you REAL? ... Did you ever find anyone who thought like you?"
JONAH: "Not completely. One came close, though. A man named Norman Mayer. Norman saved my life. He came to the White House sidewalk the fifty-fifth day of my hunger strike, and convinced me I was more useful alive than dead. After I quit fasting, he tried my method of communicating -- with literature and signs and a continuous presence -- for four months. Finally, though, he couldn't take the boredom and the abuse. I was arrested on December 7th. On December 8th he drove a van to the Washington Monument, said he had 1,000 pounds of dynamite, said he'd blow it up if the world didn't take time off from its frivolous pursuits and address the issue of nuclear holocaust."
(Lights rise on the side of a van, slide of Washington Monument
replacing Lafayette Park as background. (South view of White House as seen from Washington Monument replaces 1600 Pennsylvania north view at rear of theater.) NORMAN steps from behind van, motorcycle helmet on his head, and paces back and forth, peering into the van window where a TV screen casts flickering light.)
NORMAN: (Speaks into walkie talkie.) "Remember, I want those news whores to devote 90% of their time to the number one priority --
nuclear weapons -- or I blow this phallus up."
(Crackle of reply in which Chief of Park Police tells him a friend is on the way to talk to him. JONAH strides across stage.)
JONAH: "Norman, is the van really loaded with a thousand pounds of dynamite?"
NORMAN: "No comment. Go back, Jonah."
JONAH: "Let me stay, Norman."
NORMAN: "No. This is my schtick. You and I don't agree on
this issue. You believe NO violence is conscionable. I believe that in a nuclear-armed world, the THREAT of violence IS violence, violence to the psyche, violence to the soul. So I'm threatening their icon to try to salvage their souls. I may be wrong. There may be another way. But I haven't the patience.
So you be strong, Jonah. Live for your belief. I'm prepared to die for mine. But I don't want your death muddying my karma. Besides, you're indispensible. Whatever happens, as long as an antinuclear vigil exists at the gates of the White House, people can't be lulled into genocide. Keep the vigil going."
(NORMAN moves back around the van, peers inside. JONAH steps forward; NORMAN gestures impatiently, and JONAH turns to walk away. NORMAN climbs into the van, starts the engine, begins to drive offstage, but is halted by the crackle of sharpshooters. JONAH whirls. NORMAN slumps over the wheel. Light fades on NORMAN, leaves JONAH standing alone on the blackened stage. Choreograph JONAH's grief, rage, denial, despair.)
(NORMAN's voice echoes from the darkness.)
NORMAN: "As long as an antinuclear vigil exists at the gates of the White House, people can't ignore the truth."
(JONAH's frenzy winds down, and he slumps, drained. NORMAN steps
out of shadows, enshrouded.)
JONAH: (Exhausted.) "You succeeded, Norman. You showed how self-destructive the threat of violence is. The papers all panned you as a self-glorifying lunatic. But the kids are writing epitaphs. You made it."
NORMAN: "Maybe. But beware. My example was negative, designed to shock people into awareness. It was easy to discredit as an
`act of terrorism.' Let yourself be killed, if need be, but don't seek death. You can't chase sainthood. It must come to you."
JONAH: "Ah, Norman, I miss you, my friend. You understood me so well. It's lonely here."
NORMAN: "I know. But that will soon change."
JONAH: "On whose time? Earth or Cosmic?"
(No reply. Light fades on NORMAN, rises on FEY, seated, watching intently. JONAH turns. Long pause.)
FEY: "Norman Mayer. I remember him. For some reason I turned the TV on. A snowy Winsconsin afternoon. I seldom watch TV -- I
detest most of it -- but I was looking for a nature show to drown my corporate angst in. I was riveted." (FEY pauses, remembering, looks up.) "`YOU FOOL!' I shouted when he was shot. `You glorious FOOL! You KNEW you were going to die!' Even I could see the van rode light on its tires! -- There couldn't have been a thousand pounds of dynamite in it as
he claimed." (JONAH nods.) "I saw a man climbing the hill...."
JONAH: "That was me."
FEY: "You! ... Of course...." (Looks down.) "That incident brought me hope." (Looks up.)
"In fact, it brought me here."
(Enter LUTHER (L), loud and obnoxious, a bottle of mouthwash in his hand.)
LUTHER: "Hey, Jo, spare a cigarette?"
JONAH: (Pats his pockets.) "Afraid I don't have any, Luther."
FEY: (Reaches into her bag.) "Here. I thought you might be able to use these. I don't smoke, myself." (Hands the pack to JONAH.) "I've noticed there's a ritual of cigarettes among street people. I try to come prepared now."
(JONAH hands the pack to LUTHER, who fumbles for a long time, finally opens the pack and extracts a handful of cigarettes, takes a couple of swigs of mouthwash meanwhile.)
JONAH: (To FEY, as he sits down.) "Where do YOU come from?"
FEY: "The corporate world. Via suburbia. Middle class 'success.' My father's an illustrator who sold his talent rather than paint what he loved. I'm a writer who's been selling myself for a long time -- frustrated professionally, but personally very glad to be alive."
JONAH: "That's refreshing!"
FEY: "Yeah. It's a shame more people aren't. I think it's
because we've all become digitized, feel futile, just so many social security numbers."
JONAH: "The mark of the Beast."
JONAH: "The Bible. Revelations. Chapter 13."
(JONAH gently declaims:)
JONAH (seeing FEY is uncomfortable and changing the subject): "What are you doing in D.C.?"
FEY: "I came with a dream that here I could have some impact. There are things I hate -- war, weapons, exploitation, poverty, pollution. I saw Norman Mayer die -- then I saw the movie `GANDHI,' the same week, and 'Sophie's Choice'! -- and I realized I needed to make a choice, was I going to do something, or was I going to self-destruct? I figured nowhere else but at the seat of power could I hope to be heard."
JONAH: "Sounds logical."
FEY: "Yeah." (pause) "As soon as I arrived I investigated various peace organizations."
JONAH: "What did you think of them?"
FEY: "It seemed they were so busy surviving financially they
had little time to do anything else ... maybe hitting the streets for a few hours once or twice a year ... lobbying Senators and Congressman to little avail -- I didn't see how lobbying had done much to stop the Pershing or MX missiles, or Star Wars. Of course, their publications are useful educational tools, but urging a nuclear FREEZE in the face of massive overkill capabilities seems a dangerous diversion of precious energy.... If we don't get rid of ALL nukes, we may as well not get rid of ANY of them. I became discouraged ... of course, I've never had much luck in
'joining,' I don't know why I expected it to be different here. But in the meantime I've been wandering the streets of the city, and became concerned about the hundreds of homeless I saw -- I began writing about them -- and here I am. And here YOU are!"
LUTHER: (Interjects, handing pack back to JONAH, then turning to peer down at FEY.) "You SCREW for money, or just WRITE?"
(FEY's mouth drops open slightly, then shuts firmly.)
JONAH: "Ignore Luther..."
FEY: "It is unwise..."
JONAH: "...he's always rude and crude..."
FEY: "...to make assumptions before you get to know a
JONAH: "...in fact, I make it a habit to ignore Luther..."
FEY: "...I will, however, give you an opportunity to learn."
JONAH: "...because he never learns."
"'And he causeth all, both great and small,
rich and poor, free and bond,
to receive a mark ...
that no man might buy or sell,
save he that had the mark,
or the name of the beast,
or the number of his name.'"
(JONAH and FEY grin at each other.)
LUTHER: (Mouth drops open.) "JONAH, how can you say such a thing? You know I've been out here with you all these years..."
JONAH: "No doubt about it, Luther."
LUTHER: "...fighting side by side for freedom. What would you have done without me?"
JONAH: "Probably found it a lot easier to communicate."
(LUTHER shrugs, weaves offstage, swigging at mouthwash, saluting
at a passing family's looks of disgust, dismay, and fear.)
Meanwhile, enter UJC (UJC), a 35-year-old computer programmer whose pet computer was impounded by the Courts after he lost his job in Idaho (for refusing to program nuclear weapons delivery systems) and failed to pay the rent. UJC is dressed in rumpled (but clean) slacks and button-down shirt, hair growing but neat; he's clean-shaven, and carries two half-full plastic bags tied together and balanced around his neck. He stops to carefully read the signs, while JONAH and FEY speak. He also has observed LUTHER with some interest.)
FEY: (to JONAH) "Does this happen often?"
JONAH: "All the time."
FEY: "How do you stand it?"
JONAH: (Smiles slowly.) "Patience."
FEY: "Not my strongest suit."
JONAH: "Nor mine. But it comes. Living in the whale's belly."
UJC: "Excuse me."
UJC: "Is there room on the sidewalk for a person of dissenting
JONAH: (Moves over.) "It's a free country."
(BO looks up from his banjo.)
BO: "Looks like there's room for a thousand more. Too bad a
thousand haven't figured that out. Maybe somebody'd start listening."
MONK: "Our folks did in the '60's -- they actually stopped a
BO: "Well, they didn't carry their effort far enough -- they
SHOULD have eliminated WEAPONS, too... so our generation wouldn't
have to grow up suicidal!"
MONK: "Yeah ... They could have done something about hunger, too. That reminds me. Let's go to Georgetown and make some people feel good."
BO: "Good idea."
(BO stands up, packs up his banjo. MONK reaches into his backpack, pulls out a cardboard sign that reads "I'M HUNGRY.")
FEY: "How do you do that?"
MONK: "It makes people's day when they give me money. And it makes my day. I figure I'm doing a community service. Sort of like the United Way."
JONAH: "Well, Monk, you know how I feel about that."
FEY: "How's that?"
MONK: "Oh, he tells me I should be patient and wait for God to provide me with what I want. But I don't have his confidence in anyone lookin' after me but myself -- and I figure it takes money to look after myself."
JONAH: "Only if you lack patience, my friend. I reckon you're too young yet to have discovered its value."
MONK: "Or too smart to be sucked into it. I decided when I was in kindergarten I was either going to be a millionaire or a bum. Even then I hated taking orders. Since nobody seems inclined to hand me a million dollars, I figure it's best to be a bum."
JONAH: "Since you're convinced that's your only choice, I guess you made the right one, Monk. Anything else could be considered prostitution."
UJC: "Prostitution! Isn't that a little harsh?"
JONAH: "The truth often seems harsh."
BO: "Yeah, well I prefer to put out my banjo case and play for
MONK: "Not everyone has your talent, pal."
(BO laughs, signals a peace "V" and exits after MONK.)
FEY: (To JONAH) "Begging. Is that how you support yourself?"
JONAH: "I try not to be concerned with supporting myself at all. I seldom find it necessary to ask people for anything, and money would be the last thing I would ask for."
FEY: "Where do you eat?"
JONAH: "Out of dumpsters, when necessary. People drop things by. I haven't gone hungry yet, living on principles."
FEY: "But what about the rest of society? What about people with families, for example? Everything you've said up to this point makes sense. But I have a hard time imagining a world without means of exchange."
JONAH: "Of course -- you don't know anything else! I can tell you from experience, however, that there IS an alternative, and that it WORKS. I've proven to my own satisfaction that God does in fact provide, even in the most alien circumstances."
JONAH: "I walked across 2,500 miles of North Africa, from Casablanca to Cairo, without a penny ... lived a week inside the Great Pyramid, a month on top of it ... to prove to myself I could."
FEY: "Not to sound like a broken record ... I can understand how you can sleep anywhere -- but food's something else. How did you eat?"
JONAH: "Sometimes I'd find edibles growing along the roadside, or food would miraculously appear, dropped by someone who had passed before me. Usually, though, people would stop and offer me food, shelter -- all sorts of people -- but mostly the poor. The poor seem to have a clearer perception of reality."
FEY: "Reality. That word is as subjective as 'love' or 'truth.' Trying to figure it out sometimes makes me schizoid -- in the morning I put my corporate uniform on, try to wipe my mind clean of the clutter of who I really am, so I can shuffle other people's garbage all day and pretend it has meaning. In the evening I limp home reeking of stress, impossible to live with. But what can I do?"
JONAH: "Question the garbage. Think. WHY do you shuffle garbage?"
FEY: "So my daughter can eat. And me."
JONAH: "And what does it take for you to eat?"
FEY: "Money, of course."
JONAH: "Not food?"
FEY: "Of course, food! But food takes money in our world!"
JONAH: "Then the world needs changing! You can't buy or sell God's bounty." (Leans forward intently.) "Look ... money is an illusion. It exists only because people have agreed to pretend it has value -- but all it is, really, is a meaningless piece of paper."
FEY: "It's power."
JONAH: "You THINK it's power. Because you're TAUGHT it's power. And as long as you buy that, then it WILL have power over YOU. As long as you accept its power over you, you'll never be free."
FEY: "So what's the alternative?"
JONAH: "Sharing. I KNOW, from substantial experience, that if I share what comes my way, I soon have more than I need, and money has no more substance than a puff of bad-smelling smoke."
(Enter JAKE, a tall, very dirty man dressed in once-stylish, too-short clothes. As he approaches JONAH he puts out a blackened hand.)
JAKE: "Spare change for the mentally deranged?"
JONAH: (Pats his pockets.) "No change today, Jake. Will a
cigarette do? Here, take the pack."
FEY: "Here." (Digs in bag. JAKE accepts money and cigarettes with dignity, ambles offstage. FEY watches, shakes her head, then turns back to JONAH.) "As long as there are people or nations controlling unequal shares of those resources, though, money will continue to control us all."
JONAH: "No doubt about it."
FEY: "That's why nations exist. To control unequal shares of resources...."
FEY: "...and that's why weapons exist..."
JONAH: "Also true."
FEY: "...and that's why you're here?"
JONAH: "You got it!"
UJC: "Well, I agree that the economic system as it exists needs some serious revision. There's too much inequity -- people starving in the streets of the wealthiest country in the history of the world. Why, there's even a soup wagon -- McKenna's Wagon --" (points offstage) "-- right here outside the president's mansion! My platform includes a technological remedy. I'm UJC, by the way. Figure I'll set up my own demonstration here if it's all right with you. Since I'd like to move into that house across the street, this seems like a logical place to begin my campaign."
JONAH: "Are you running for president?"
UJC: "Yes. I've walked across country from Idaho, campaigning."
FEY: "What's your platform?"
UJC: "Resurrection of the principles of the U.S. Constitution."
JONAH: "Makes sense to me."
JONAH: "Stick around and find out."
FEY: (Laughs uncomfortably.) "I wish I could. Unfortunately, I'm penned up nine to five with a kid to support ... although she did say she wanted to move out in a couple of months ... she's eighteen ..." (pause) "... I must say it's a lot more interesting out here than inside those claustrophobic walls!"
JONAH: "Why don't you leave those claustrophobic walls behind?"
FEY: "Impossible. How would I pay the rent?"
JONAH: "Move out."
FEY: "My daughter'd never forgive me."
JONAH: "Bring her with you."
FEY: (Snorts.) "Do you have any kids?"
JONAH: "Stepchildren I haven't seen for a long time. None of my own."
FEY: "Then you can't understand, not really. There's NOTHING more important to a mother than her kids. Nothing." (Stands up, brushes herself off, laughs.) "It's a thought, though." (Laughs shortly.) "Then they'd all be SURE I was nuts."
JONAH: "Somebody is, or there wouldn't be bombs. How much good are those bombs doing your children?"
FEY: (Looks at him intently.) "I'll be back." (Starts to walk off, turns back around.) "I want you to know how much I admire you. You're the first person I ever met who ... well, you're doing what I should be doing, if I weren't afraid...."
JONAH: "Afraid of what?"
FEY: "I haven't figured that out yet. I'll let you know. Right now I can hardly believe you exist." (Exits.)
UJC: "Well, I think I'll take you up on that offer to stick around."
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