Dramatic Texts >> William Saroyan >> THE CAVE DWELLERS
THE CAVE DWELLERS By William Saroyan (1958)
 
 
CAST
 
The Duke
The Girl
The Queen
The King
The Young Opponent
A Woman With A Dog
A Young Man
The Young Queen
The Father
Gorky
The Mother
The Silent Boy
The Wrecking Crew Boss
Jamie

 

 
SCENES
 
The play, in two acts and ten scenes, happens within the space of a few days, on the stage of an abandoned theatre on the lower East Side of New York, in the midst of a slum-clearing project.

ACT ONE Scene I
 
The play happens on the stage of an abandoned theatre on the lower East Side of New York, in the midst of a slum-clearing project.

There are three makeshift bunks on the stage. On one of them lies a woman called the QUEEN, who coughs now and then in her sleep.

A man called the DUKE comes in quietly, studies the face of the QUEEN, picks up a pile of manuscripts of old plays, dumps them in a corner, opens the top one and stands, looking at it.

A series of EXPLOSIONS begin, one after another, to which he half-listens.

A GIRL comes running down the stage alley to the stage door. She makes several unsuccessful attempts to open it, finally pushes it open, comes in, and runs to the farthest bunk, gets in, and pulls the covers over her head.

The DUKE goes to the bunk in which the GIRL is hiding. After a moment, she puts her head out, looks around, notices the DUKE, looks at him out of terror-stricken eyes.


 

 
GIRL
For the love of God, what was that?

 
DUKE
All right, now. Itís only the wreckers. Theyíre knocking down the rotten old buildings around here.

 
GIRL (Gets on her feet)
Oh. I didnít know where to run. (Looks around) Where am I?

 
DUKE
This is an old theatre. Here, Iíll show you. This is the stage. Thereís the orchestra pit, out thereís the auditorium, up thereís the balcony. Can you see?

 
GIRL
Yes, now I can see all right. Iíve never seen a theatre from the stage before. It makes me feelówell, kind of proud, I guess. I donít know why, but it does. (She stops suddenly and then speaks softly.) Well, I guess Iíd better go now. Thanks very much.

 
DUKE
Thatís all right.

 
GIRL(Begins to go, stops, turns)
Of course, Iíd much rather stay. Can I?

 
DUKE
Here? No, this place is for us. The Queen over there, sick. The King. Heíll be back pretty soon. And me. Iím the Duke. Just names, of course. The Queen used to be on the stage. The King used to be a clownóhe was in vaudeville and he did Shakespeare, tooóand I used to be in the ring. Weíve been like a family almost a month now, and this is our home.

 
GIRL
Could it be my home, too?

 
DUKE
No, no, weíve got rules and regulations. There are other places for other people.

 
GIRL
Where are the other places?

 
DUKE
All over. This is our place. We found it, and itís a theatre. Theyíre going to knock it down pretty soon, but until they do weíve got ouró (Softly) rules and regulations.

 
GIRL
What are the rules and regulations?

 
DUKE
People of the theatre only. Being in the ring is being in the theatre, too, becauseówell, the King says so. Besides, after I lost my title, I went on tour. This isnít the first time Iíve been on the stage. Itís just the first time that Iíve lived on one.

 
GIRL
Couldnít I, too?

 
DUKE
Are you an actress?

 
GIRL
Oh, no. But I am tired and Iíve got to find some place to stay.

 
DUKE (Looks over at the QUEEN, speaks softer.)
Well, what have you done?

 
GIRL
Well, I was at a place where they put guns together.

 
DUKE
What did you do there?

 
GIRL
I was on hammers. I never saw the whole gun.

 
DUKE
Real guns?

 
GIRL
I donít think so. The name of the place was U.S. Toy.

 
DUKE
Did the company ever put on entertainments?

 
GIRL
Not while I was there.

 
DUKE
At school did you do anything?

 
GIRL(Shakes head)
Oh, no, I was too shy. Too shy at U.S. Toy, too.

 
DUKE
Why?

 
GIRL
Iíve always been shy. And afraid, too.

 
DUKE
Afraid of what?

 
GIRL
I donít know. Everything, I guess, andóeverybody.

 
DUKE
Are you afraid of me?

 
GIRL
Well, no, but I am afraid I wonít find a place to stay.

 
DUKE
Why donít you go home?

 
GIRL
I havenít got a home. (Pause) Can I? Stay?

 
DUKE
Youíre young. This is no place for you.

 
GIRL
Please donít make me go away. I donít know why, but I donít feel so scared here. I kind of feel at home here.

 
DUKE
Youíve got to be in the theatre. The King says so, and we all agreed. He believes in the theatre. Itís like a religion with him. So what am I going to tell him? Hereís a scared girl? No place to go?

 
GIRL
Could you teach me to be in the theatre, maybe?

 
DUKE
No, thatís not the same thing at all. But havenít you ever done anything in front of people to make them feel happy, or sad, or proud of themselves?

 
GIRL
I remember a sidewalk game that used to make me happy. (Pause)

 
One potato, two potato, three potato, four!
Five potato, six potato, seven potato more!

 
DUKE
Anything else?

 
GIRL (Stands stiffly, salutes)
I pledge allegiance to the Flag, and to the Republic for which it stands. One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

 
DUKE (Considers what he has heard)
Well, youíve been to the theatre. Youíve seen what they do. Can you do anything like that?

 
GIRL
I never went to the theatre very muchótoo expensive. At U.S. Toy, though, I used to dream a lot, and it was kind of like stuff Iíd seen in the movies. One whole afternoon I put the hammers in upside down. Well, of course, they fired me. They almost fired another girl first, but it wasnít her. It was me.

 
DUKE
What were you dreaming about?

 
GIRL
Oh. (Pause, shyly) I donít know.

 
DUKE
Was it like a show on a stage?

 
GIRL
I donítí think so, because it was only me. But I was different. I was beautiful.

 
DUKE (After thinking)
Well, Iíll tell the King youíre in the theatre. No harm in telling him, I guess.

 
GIRL
Will you?

 
DUKE
Yes. In a way you are. At any rate, youíre here. And who knows? Maybe heíll believe us.

 
GIRL
Thank you. (She seems anxious and afraid, as well as relieved.)

 
DUKE
When I was afraid just before a fight I used to jump up and down, like this. (He demonstrates) I always wanted to holler, too, but of course I couldnít. Theyíd think I was crazy. A fighterís got to be sure they donít think heís crazy. But if Iíd been able to holler just before my big fight, Iíd never have lost the crown. (He looks up, whispers) Help me. (He shouts) Help me?

 
(The QUEEN sits up, shakes her head as if to see more clearly, watches.)

 
Itís what I wanted to do. Itís what I should have done. Itís what I never did. What a fool I was. (He sits down.)

 
(The GIRL goes to him, reaches a hand out timidly, places it on his head, as a small hand on the head of a big sad dog.)

 
(After a moment he looks up at her, stands) About being in the theatre. Can you sing, for instance?

 
GIRL (Half sings)
How do you do, my partner. How do you do today?

 
DUKE
Not bad.

 
GIRL
Will you dance in a circle, if I show you the way?

 
QUEEN
Welcome to the theatre, Girl, whoever you are!

 

 
CURTAIN
 

 
ACT ONE
Scene II

 
A little later. The GIRL has tidied up the place. Both unoccupied bunks are made, the tatters and rags straightened and folded neatly. She is now sweeping the floor. The QUEEN watches, sits up, rests her head on her elbow.

 
QUEEN
Well, now, where is the King?

 
DUKE
Heíll be here pretty soon. Just rest now, Queen. Sleep.

 
QUEEN
More sleep? Sleep and sleep? (Shakes her head) Remember this, Duke. And you, Girl. If I sleep and itís time to eat, wake me. However deep my sleep may be. Lift me up out of my bed if need be. Stand beside me, one to the right and one to the left, and if I still sleep, walk with me, until I am awake again. Understand?

 
DUKE
All right, now, donít worry. Weíll wake you up.

 
QUEEN
You, Girl, if I sleep when itís time, youíll get me up?

 
GIRL
Yes, Queen.

 
QUEEN
A moment ago I spoke of something. What was it I spoke of a moment ago?

 
DUKE
No need to remember what you spoke of.

 
QUEEN
I said something. What did I say? I remembered something and then I said something. (Sleepily) But now I canít remember anymore. (She falls back.)

 
DUKE (Stands over her. Turns away, to the GIRL)
Sheís asleep again.

 
GIRL
Shouldnít she have a doctor?

 
DUKE
Sheís old, thatís all. Sheís been this way the whole month Iíve been here. And then all of a sudden sheís up, and alive, and young and beautiful, too. There just isnít enough food thatís all. She ought to have more food. Better food.

 
GIRL
I wonít eat.

 
DUKE
Youíve got to eat.

 
GIRL
Iíll go away, if you want me to.

 
DUKE
Thatís up to the King, now. (The DUKE brings the manuscript out of his back pocket, begins to read it again.)

 
(The GIRL continues to sweep. The KING comes in, an old, hard, lean man with a long lined face. He is in rags, and yet he moves in a kind of human grandeur. He carries a paper sack with a round loaf of bread in it. As he moves he seems to be deep in thought. The DUKE and the GIRL wait for him to notice them, but he isnít looking.)

 
KING
Enough of violence. Enough, I say. Be done with it. Have done with it.

 
DUKE (Clears his throat to attract his attention)
King?

 
KING (Turns, almost unseeing)
Yes? What is it?

 
DUKE
I looked for work all day. Any kind. They seem to be afraid of me, or something, thatís all. I looked for money in the streets, too. I got home a little while ago to find the Queen delirious again.

 
KING
Enough of violence.

 
DUKE
What violence? Where?

 
KING
Inóinóin each of usócrouched, waiting. In everything we doóand think, even. Enough of it. (Softly) Christ, how the people hate one another to pass the beggar as if he werenít there. To be deaf to his shameful words. A small coin for a great need. (Soberly) Iíve begged all day, begged of my inferiors.

 
DUKE
I hope youíve had a little luck.

 
KING
This loaf of bread, old and hard, but bread, at any rate. (Fishes into his pocket, comes up with a few coins, jingles them, opens his fist, looks at them.) These few sad coins. Iíve begged before. Bad luck in the coins, but worse in the violenceótheirs and my own. Iíve already called them my inferiors. Perhaps they arenít. But if they are, thereís no need for me to say so. Enough, Iím sick of it. (Notices the GIRL) Whoís that standing there?

 
DUKE
Sheís in the theatre, too, like ourselves. She speaks well, and has a pleasant singing voice. (Gestures at the beds) Sheís a helpful girl. But sheís ready to go, if we donít want her.

 
KING
Why should the girl go? Thereís a whole loaf of bread. (Goes to the GIRL) Welcome, Girl. And donít be afraid of me. I saw no eyes all day that were not afraid, and the violence of it has hurt me again, deeper than ever. In the days gone I covered this face with white grease, and redóthe clownís mask. But this face is the mask, and the other is my true face. Welcome, and do not be afraid.

 
(The GIRL nods)
 
(He places the coins in her hand.) Here is the whole dayís gain. Buy something for the Queen. Milk, or medicine, or whatever.

 
GIRL
Yes, sir.

 
KING (To the DUKE)
There were other gains. I saw a dog on a leash, held by a woman in furs. I swear that dog spoke to me with its eyes as clearly as if it had spoken with its breath and tongue and teeth and palate. Hey, beggar! beggar! Iíd give my soul to change places with you for only one turn of the world! The woman in furs gave me nothing, not even the dirty look Iíve come to count on, and even to cherish a little, since I am of the theatre, and live on being seen, even if hatefully. Any kind of a look is better than none at all. The words of the eyes of the small dog were a great gain, and another was a thought that came to me soon afterwards. A bitter thought, but a true one, and so I must pass it along. When I was richóGirl, I have been richówhen I was abroad in the world, away from the stage, and came upon a beggaróold, twisted, deformed, ugly, dirty, better than half deadó (Stretches out his arms slowly) Ėwhile I was a wit in the world, a maker of wild laughter and joyous sorrow among the multitudes, did I notice the beggar? Did I see him, truly? Did I understand him? Did I love him? Did I give him money? (Softly) No, I did not. In my soul I said, Let him be dead and out of my way. That was a gain. Bitter, but a gain. Violence! My own violence, come home!

 
QUEEN
Oh, stop your shouting. (She sits on the bunk, as the GIRL watches.)

 
KING
Oh, you are awake, then?

 
QUEEN
Wide awake.

 
KING
And thereís my bed. That makes a day. Up in the morning. Out to beg. Back in the evening. The table. The food. The company. The talk. And then to bed. (Softly) I love it too much.

 
QUEEN
Well, youíre home again, at any rate, and as you see, Iím up again. Thereís one good hour in me every day, still. One good queenly hour. (To the GIRL) I did them all, you knowóCatherine, Mary, Ann, Bess, and all the others. A young girl from the most common of families, if in fact you could call it a family at all. A poor weary mother, a poor drunken father, a dirty houseful of dirty brothers and sisters. I sometimes marvel at the way I turned out.

 
KING
Turned out or tuned in, the tableís ready, if you are.

 
QUEEN
I have never been readier, sir.

 
KING
Your arm then, Woman. (He takes her by the arm.)

 
(The DUKE and the GIRL watch, and then do the same.)

 

 
CURTAIN
 

 
ACT ONE
Scene III

 
After supper, they are all at the table.
The KING and the QUEEN are chewing the last of the bread.

 
KING
Well, thatís the end of the bread.

 
QUEEN (Brightly, almost gaily)
Yes, weíve eaten it all.

 
KING
Uptown the lights are on. The theatres are ready. The tickets are sold. The players are putting on their make-up and getting into their costumes. In a moment the curtains will go up, and one by one the plays will begin and The Great Good Friend out thereó(He gestures toward the auditorium)ówill look and listen. And little by little something will stir in his soul and come to lifeóa smile, a memory, a reminder of an old forgotten truth, tender regret, kindness. In short, the secret of the theatre.

 
GIRL (Childlike)
What is the secret of the theatre?

 
QUEEN
Love, of course. Without love, pain and failure are pain and failure, nothing else. But with love they are beauty and meaning themselves.

 
GIRL
Oh.

 
QUEEN (Acts)
Entreat me not to leave thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and where thou diest, will I die.

 
KING
Bravo, you did that very well.

 
QUEEN
Oh, King, do a clownís bit. A kingly clownís bit.

 
KING
I belong uptown. I still do. I was born there, and then I was put out.

 
QUEEN
Are you an actor, or a sad old man like all the other sad old men? I thought it was agreed. We are of the theatre. You are to perform, not be performed upon.

 
KING (Puts a crumb in his mouth)
Iím still eating. Would you have eating a performance, too?

 
QUEEN
Would you have it something else? Could it possibly be something else? Do a bit about eating!

 
KING
We just did that bit, didn't we? (He puts a crumb between his upper and lower teeth and crushes it with one deliberately large chomp.)

 
QUEEN
This time without bread. For its own dear sake.

 
KING
I am challenged, Woman. You know I would kill myself for art.

 
QUEEN
Or usófrom the wonder of it.

 
KING (He gets up quickly)
The great man comes to the famous restaurant, hungry and hushed, and thoughtful, because he remembers when he was nobody and the world was still far-away. Now, he wears the unmistakable scowl of superiority, and so the arrogant headwaiter bows humbly, and conducts him quickly and silently to the best table in the place. However, before accepting the headwaiterís offer to sitó (He indicates the drawing-out of a chair.) óhe stands a moment to notice who else has come to the holy joint, and to be noticed by them.

 
(The QUEEN leans forward, delighted both with his work and her success in having provoked him into it.)

 
But who is he? (Pause, extra clearly, now loud, now soft, inventing wildly.) Is he perhaps the new Secretary of State, before his first flight toó (Searches for an inept destination) Dubrovnik? The Spanish pianist from Palma of the Canary Islands? The man who discovered the flaw in the theory of cycles? He who invented the law of loss, or was it only the lollipop? Or is he perhaps the man who learned the language of the Arab tribes, brought the warring chiefs together, engineered the business of the oil? (Slight pause) Let them try to guess, itís good for them. In any case, itís time to sit and eat. He eats, and eats, one rare dish after another. (Comically astonished) But whatís this with the crepe suzettes? A fly, isnít it? A common fly? (He stops)

 
(The QUEEN waits expectantly. He does not go on.)

 
QUEEN (Softly)
Well, why do you stop?

 
KING (Earnestly)
Itís part of the bit. A man stops, doesnít he? Suddenly? Unaccountably? He remembers, and he thinks, doesnít he? Is it worth it? All the trying, and all the eating? (Slowly, very clearly) Joeís dead. Maryís divorced. Johnnyís boy is stealing automobiles. Patís girl is breaking up the home of a dentist.

 
QUEEN
Bravo!

 
KING
Thank you for stopping me. I might have gone on forever, from loneliness and despair. (Pause) Girl, itís your turn. Do a bit, please.

 
GIRL
A bit?

 
DUKE (Whispering)
The Pledge!

 
GIRL (Salutes)
I pledge allegiance to the Flag, and to the Republic for which it stands. One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

 
KING
What bit is that?

 
DUKE
The National Pledge, King!

 
KING
I know itís the National Pledge. But who the devil put it in a play?

 
DUKE
One of the new playwrights.

 
KING
Yes. Theyíre doing that sort of thing these days, arenít they? (Leaps to his feet, and speaks with a joyous lilt to his voice, almost singing) Ah, Lord, what a lark it is to live! Just to liveólike a mouse, even. (He does a light skipping step and breaks into song.)

 
Jimmy Jellico, down the road,
Come out, my foolish, laughing, silly Jimmy.
Your Ma is mad, your Pa is crazy,
Come out, come out, and dance with Daisy.

 
DUKE
King, I didnít know you could sing, too!

 
KING (Softly)
You ma is mad, your pa is crazy. (Pause) And over thereís the bed. I sometimes think Iím dead and have just remembered. Itís most strange. And then suddenly there I amónot dead. And thatís more strange than the other. Your turn then, Duke. A scene from a play, please.

 
DUKE (Opens the manuscript)
The first act of a play about some people who have come to a little hotel on a side street in a great city.

 
KING
Yes, yes, in search ofóWhat are they in search of, Girl?

 
DUKE (Whispers, as GIRL turns to him for help)
Now, just donít be afraid, thatís all. Tell him.

 
GIRL
Well, oneís looking for his father, anotherís looking for his mother. Anotherís looking for a home, another for a place to hideó

 
QUEEN
There is no hiding. None whatsoever. It canít be done.

 
KING
Ah, let her go on, will you? One seeks a home, another a hiding place. Go on, Girl.

 
GIRL
Oneís looking for a husband, another for a wife.

 
DUKE (Turning a page of the manuscript)
Ah, here we are. The lobby of the hotel. (To the GIRL) The moment I saw you I was sure I knew you.

 
GIRL
I was sure I knew you, too.

 
KING
Is that from the play?

 
DUKE
Yes, King. The moment I saw you I was sure I knew you.

 
GIRL
I was sure I knew you, too.

 
QUEEN
No, no, donít go back. Never go back.

 
DUKE
But the lineís repeated, Queen.

 
QUEEN
Ah, well, then.

 
DUKE (Acts)
I said to myself, I know her. Iíve seen her before.

 
GIRL
I said to myself, I know him. Iíve seen him before.

 
KING (After a pause)
Go on, please.

 
DUKE (Swiftly)
Thatís all there is. He tries to smile and be polite, and so does she, but it doesnít help, so she goes up to her room, and he goes out into the street.

 
KING
Another new playwright, I presume.

 
DUKE
Yes, sir.

 
KING
Very strange, I must say.

 
QUEEN
Itís not strange at all.

 
KING
Nothing happens.

 
QUEEN
Nothing happens! Itís the story of our lives.

 
KING
Yes, it is actually, isnít it? (Pause) Girl?

 
GIRL
Yes, King.

 
KING
Stand before me, please.

 
GIRL (Stands there)
Yes, King.

 
KING
Do not be afraid. (Pause) You have a bed?

 
DUKE
Iíd like her to have my bed.

 
QUEEN
Your bed? Youíd be dead by morning without your bed.

 
DUKE
My clothes are warm.

 
QUEEN
You must be very strong and handsome inside to be able to love with so much courtesy.

 
DUKE
No, Queen. I am a slob, inside and out, and all because fifteen years ago in my last fight, I was afraid I might kill my opponent with one blow. And so, down I went, killed with one blow by my opponent. (Pause) Whether Iím dead or alive by morning, the Girl will be safe in my bed. Courtesy, or whatever you want to call it, that now I can look up and holler all I like.

 
KING
Holler what?

 
DUKE (Softly but clearly)
Help me to win without killing my opponent!
 

 
CURTAIN
 

 
ACT ONE
Scene IV

 
Later. STORM. WIND. The sounds of human sleepingóBREATHING, MURMURING, a HUM.
The GIRL is asleep in the DUKEíS bed. The QUEEN in her bed, and the KING in his.
The DUKE is walking up and down, to keep warm. Every now and then he shadow-boxes in silence. Stops, bundles himself in his rags, walks again. He is remembering his big fight. He walks the boundary of the fight ring, takes his corner, and waits, looking up now and then. The GONG is heard, but differently Ė like a chime Ė almost an invitation to sleep. And out of nowhere comes the charging young OPPONENT in trunks and boxing gloves. The DUKE puts up his arms and works fearfully, trying to keep away, but suddenly the OPPONENT tags him. He wobbles, tries to clinch, but is caught again, and his knees buckle. The OPPONENT tags him quickly, and steps back to watch the DUKE collapse. A VOICE is heard far away whispering one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eightÖThe DUKE gets to his feet, but the OPPONENT is on him again. He tries to clinch, but fails. Again the OPPONENT steps back to watch the DUKE collapse. The DUKE is counted out, as he gets to one knee. The OPPONENT helps him up, embraces him quickly, pats him on the back, and goes. The DUKE stands, dazed, unbelieving, and then sinks to one knee again.
The GIRL sits up suddenly, notices him. Gets out of the bunk, fully clothed. Goes to him, shyly.
She takes him by the arm, as if from the ring of failure and disgrace of long ago, and helps him into the bunk.
The GIRL listens to the DUKE as he breathes heavily and then slowly quiets down and falls asleep. She then wanders around in the dim light to see if there is anything she might do, but there isnít. She is cold, she shivers, her teeth chatter.
She sits on a box and begins to work in the gun factory, doing the same thing over and over. A handsome YOUNG MAN comes, dancing a tango, bows to her, they dance, and then the YOUNG MAN goes.
The KING sits up, notices the GIRL, gets off his bunk, and goes to her. Takes her by the arm to his bunk, and helps her to lie down. When she is asleep, the KING begins to walk around to keep warm, too. He then lies down and curls up like an animal, in the hope of finding warmth, but there is no warmth in him or in his rags or in curling up.
A WOMAN with a small dog on a leash appears. The KING gets up quickly, becomes abject, holds out his hat. The WOMAN stops, looks away. The dog looks up at the KING. The KINGíS voice is heard whispering for the dog: Hey, beggar! beggar! Iíd give my soul to change places with you for only one turn of the world. The WOMAN and the dog go.
The QUEEN sits up, goes to him, takes him to her bed, helps him to lie upon it, and waits until he has fallen asleep.
The QUEEN begins to cough, and then she sees herself as a beautiful young girl in rags, who comes and stares up at her a moment and then goes.
The KING, the DUKE, and the GIRL sit up at the same time, look at the QUEEN, and then at one another. They listen to the raging STORM. The GIRL goes to the QUEEN. The KING goes to the Stage Door, bolts it, places his ear to the door, and listens. The DUKE stands beside him.

 
DUKE
We all woke up at the same time, King.

 
KING
Yes, I know we did.

 
GIRL
I dreamed a dream of loveóagain.

 
QUEEN
And I a dream of lifeómy own, almost gone now, swift and silent, and speechless.

 
KING
I saw the little dog.

 
DUKE
And I lost the fight. King, whatís going on?

 
KING
Weíve come to a time.

 
DUKE
What kind of a time?

 
KING
Cold. Iím cold. (His very voice seems frozen. He puts an arm around the QUEEN, another around the GIRL.)

 
(The Duke does the same. They stamp their feet to keep warm, and move slowly in a small circle.)

 
QUEEN
Why do you gather us into a circle?

 
KING
Because we can get a little warmth from one another in a circle, thatís why.

 
QUEEN (Steps out of the circle, annoyed)
No, I refuse to joint that church.

 
KING
Itís no church. Itís usósleepless and cold.

 
QUEEN
No, I refuse.

 
KING
Weíre cold, Woman, in a cold night, in a cold building, in a cold city.

 
QUEEN
King, youíre scared. Of dying, I suppose. But for Godís sake, Man, please do not let a little cold and a little fear make a fool of you. Iím cold, too, and so is she, and so is he, and for all I know this is my last night, or yours, or theirs, or anybodyís, but until my mind is going entirely, I intend to stay alive as if this were the morning of the first day, and I a young girl with the world to seek. King, I say there is no death, even though I know I shall soon be no longer among the living.

 
KING
What the devil are you talking about, Woman? Or have you gone mad?

 
GIRL
Is that from a play?

 
DUKE
Oh, no.

 
GIRL
Can I say something, then?

 
DUKE
Of course you can.

 
GIRL
Queen, it was warmer when you were in the circle.

 
QUEEN
We need a fire, then, not a philosophy. (She coughs)

 
GIRL
You didnít cough while you were in the circle.

 
QUEEN
I donít want the circle to cure my cough. My cough is not an illness. Itís a language I havenít learned to understand yet.

 
GIRL (To the DUKE)
I said something. Now, you say something.

 
DUKE
O.K. (To the QUEEN) It is better to stand together than to stand alone.

 
QUEEN
Duke, believe me, were you one of my own three sons, I couldnít cherish you more, but I am afraid that what you have just said can do my pride as a mother very little good.

 
KING
Moses Himself almost said the same thing.

 
QUEEN
Go ahead, then. Hang together. Circle around like animals. Kneel and pray. Weep and moan. Iíd rather freeze to death alone.

 
KING
Will there never be a woman a man can be glad he met?

 
GIRL (To the DUKE, quickly)
Iím going to say something more. Oh, Queen, stay with us.

 
QUEEN
Listen, Girl. You and I invent no philosophies and no religions. We go along with the boysóuntil we get fed-up to here. (She indicated her nose) And then we say, Boys, go on alone now, please. Kill yourselves in the name of God, or truth, or justice, or the moon, or water, or ice cream, or anything else you can think of. Kill yourselves, and then explain it to us. Weíll be here waiting, and once again weíll listen to the pitiful and preposterous explanationóhow you were wrong but right but wrong but right.

 
KING
I give up. If Christ Himself had had you around He would have sold oranges for a living.

 
QUEEN
I wish He had. Oranges are nice. I remember especially their lovely smell in the wintertime.

 
KING
All of the great thinkers and prophets would have forgotten their noble visions and pure dreams.

 
QUEEN
They should have. Their noble dreams and their pure visions didnít helpódidnít help, Man. And did hinder.

 
KING
Hinder what?

 
QUEEN
The real challenge. The only challenge, as you know. The challenge that is in each of us. If we are nothing involved in nothing and wish to be something involved in something, let us discover how we may achieve this transformation without fear, without lies, without humiliation, without belittlement of ourselves and others, without violence. You came in from the streets not many hours ago and spoke against violence, didnít you?

 
KING
Oh, I am the villain of the world, and all because I am a man. Woman, Iím cold. I believed that with our arms about one another we might be a little warmer in our poor bodies. Now, why do you make of this simple act a crime against reason and right, thought andótheology, for instance?

 
GIRL
Are they acting?

 
DUKE
Oh, no, theyíre living.

 
QUEEN
That little circle is the motheróand the fatheróof violence.

 
KING
Gathering together is an act of love.

 
QUEEN
Not at all. Itís an act of fear. Fear of others unknown to us. But who are they, excepting ourselves again? They arenít people from another plant. They havenít two heads to our one, four arms to our two, or another way to start and stop life. If you canít think, Man, at least try to remember. Youíre not cold, youíre frightened. There is no danger, youíre old.

 
KING
A whole month she lies on that bed hanging onto life by the barest thread, but tonight when I must protect my family, she becomes Joan of Arc herself, grown old.

 
QUEEN
Protect? There is no protection.

 
KING
No illness, no death, no danger, no defense, no protection. Girl, speak to your mother, please. Comfort her. Sheís mad, she speaks in tongues, nobody can follow her.

 
GIRL
It is cold.

 
QUEEN
Weíre agreed on that.

 
DUKE
We all woke up at the same time.

 
QUEEN
Weíre agreed on that, too.

 
GIRL
We all feelóstrange. As if something were happening everywhere, not here alone.

 
QUEEN
The weather is happening everywhere.

 
DUKE
No, something else, Queen. Iíve dreamed of losing the fight before. I lost the fight. Why wouldnít I dream of losing it? So it canít be that. Iíve been in bad weather before, too, and not inside, either. Outside. So it canít be that, either. Itís something else, and Iím scared to death.

 
GIRL
Iím not. Of anything.

 
DUKE
No? When you first came here you were afraid of everything, and now you say youíre not afraid of anything. How did that happen?

 
GIRL (Earnestly, trying to guess)
I donít know. Nothingís changed, except that I am here. (Softly) And thankful to each of you. (To the QUEEN) It isnít that youíre like my mother, as my poor mother never was, you are my mother. (To the KING) And you my father. (To the DUKE) And youówell, not my brother, and not my lover, or my husband, either, but something like all of them put together. (To the QUEEN) Heís a man. A very kind man. And now that I know heís scared, I love him more than ever.

 
DUKE
You love me?

 
GIRL
Yes.

 
DUKE
Since when?

 
GIRL
Since the minute I saw you, when I came out of hiding, expecting to see a whole world in ruins, and life itself breathing its last breath, and saw you instead, on this stage. Since then. A hundred years ago.

 
DUKE (To the QUEEN)
Donít tell me something isnít happening. When I was young and strong, I was not loved. Oh, there were many, one after another, but I wasnít loved. I knew it, and they knew it. It was a game, nothing more, and fun while it lasted. I was false, and they were false, and there was money to spendóand pride, and power, and arrogance, and youth, and laughter. And lies to use up. I didnít care. I wore the Crown, didnít I? Iíd won the title, hadnít I? (Almost amused but also amazed) And then I lost the title, and they were all gone. And I was stupid. Iíd always been stupidójust strong and swift and lucky. Donít you love me, Girl. Iím used to it.

 
GIRL
I love you.

 
DUKE
Donít pity me, either. Pity hurts worse than hatred, worse than ridicule. Iím not kind. When I was young and truly myself, and there was one like you among the others, I never so much as saw her. There is no kindness in me.

 
GIRL (To the QUEEN)
I love him. (To the KING) Why? Am I too good for him? Am I radiant suddenly in the middle of the night? I canít sleep. I canít rest. I canít forget. Iím cold and alone, and I donít want to be any more.

 
(Sounds of slow FOOTSTEPS, of SHUFFLING, STUMBLING, and FALLING are heard in the alley. Everybody hears the sounds, but as the sounds are faint, they do not pay very much attention to them.)

 
DUKE
Thank you for your love, Girl. Thank you very much, but in the morningó

 
(In the alley a womanís MOAN is heard, long and drawn out)
(A manís VOICE is heard mumbling: Soon, soon, now, soon.)

 
ówhen this strange night is over.
(There is a slow RATTLING of the bolted door, and then three KNOCKS, not very loud, and slowly. The DUKE whispers.)

 
DUKE
King, thereís somebody out there.

 
(An animal MOAN is heard)

 
GIRL
Who is it?

 
QUEEN
Open the door, King. Itís somebody in need of help.

 
DUKE
No, let me open it. Iím scared to death, butówell, Iím the strongest here.

 
(He moves. The KING stops him.)

 
KING
How can we help? We have nothing here. Three beds for four people. Rags for clothes. No food. No fire. How can we help?

 
QUEEN
By not being afraid, of course.

 
KING
But I am afraid, and so are you. I donít know whatís out there. Iím not even sure itís human. Sometimes it sounds human, sometimes it doesnít. But even if we werenít afraid, why should we open the door? Thereís a whole world out there, full of fortunate people in their own homes, not in a hulk of a haunted theatre. Let them help, whoever or whatever it is. (He listens) Perhaps theyíve gone, in any case.

 
(A womanís soft MOAN is heard again)

 
Ah, I donít know what to make of it. Why should they come here? Weíre better than half-dead ourselves. How can we help? Help with what?
(SOUNDS)

 
QUEEN
You made a human circle a moment ago. Bring them into that circle, as an act of love.

 
(SOUNDS)

 
KING
I donít know who they are.

 
QUEEN
It doesnít matter who they are. They are in need. This is a theatre, Man, not a cave. We are people of the theatre, not animals.

 
(SOUNDS)
 
KING
I canít argue with a woman. Letís ask one another, then, if this is what we must do. Girl, shall we open the door?

 
(SOUNDS)
 
GIRL
Yes, King.

 
KING
Thatís already two against two. How about you, Duke?

 
DUKE
I donít know. I donít seem to be able to think any more, but if the girl does love me, as she says she does, and says open the door, what can I, twice her size, ten times her strength, say? Iíll open the door, King.

 
(SOUNDS)

 
KING
Well, now, itís three to one, and the last is myself, six charlatans, and half a dozen lunatics. Iíll open the door.

 
DUKE
No, let me, King.

 
KING
Stand together at the edge of the stage there. Itís a large theatre, and there are other places in which to hide, if need be.

 
(They stand together at the edge of the stage. The KING stands up straight, ready to go.)

 
QUEEN
King?

 
KING
Yes, Woman?

 
QUEEN
I love you, sir.

 
KING
You talk too much.

 
(The KING walks swiftly to the door, opens it, and a MAN, leaning upon it, almost falls into his arms.)

 
MAN (Whispers)
Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 
(The KING supports him, helps him in. A huge black BEAR, walking upright, follows the MAN. The QUEEN, the GIRL, and the DUKE gasp. The KING turns, sees the BEAR, tries to hide behind the MAN.)

 
Donít be afraid of him. But for Godís sake, somebody please help my wife.

 
(A womanís long MOAN is heard, then a CRY of a newborn baby. The MAN begins to walk toward the sound, falls upon the BEAR, who holds him up. The GIRL runs out, followed by the QUEEN.)

 
CURTAIN
 

 

 
END OF ACT ONE
 

 

 

For more info. on William Saroyan,CLICK HERE


The Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
© Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance, 2012. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this text is permitted. Performance rights must be secured for any performance.