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EXCERPT


The Reluctant Prophet

INTRODUCTION

 

This is fiction, not history, although the narrative reflects major events in the life of Edgar Cayce. It is a ‘memory’ play, much of it taking place in the mind of the protagonist, just like the memories in your mind, except that the protagonist’s memories are heard and seen on stage. And just as you can pick and choose your memories - viewing the same memories over and over as many times as you like, in any order you like - so can the protagonist, and so can the playwright.

Not only can your mind go back in time to an event, it can go back to more than one event, switching back and forth from one memory to another.  Similarly, scenes in this play may be interrupted by other memory scenes, with the protagonist switching his attention from one memory to another, while being in the present at the same time. So this play does not just march through linear time - it organizes itself in clusters of synchronistic memories drawn into consciousness by the needs of the protagonist.

Since this is a play, not reality, there is no ‘realistic’ scenery, just platforms and a few projections. Any furniture props or hand props required are brought on stage by the actors. Nor are there ‘realistic’ costumes, only actors’ rehearsal clothes.

CAST OF CHARACTERS

 

The 51 characters – 43 male, 8 female – in this play can be portrayed in production by 24 actors – 19 male (2 juvenile) and 5 female – by double and triple casting.

EDGAR CAYCE

CARRIE CAYCE, Edgar’s mother

EDGAR as a child

DAVE KAHN, Edgar’s business partner

KYLE, an oil driller

SAM, an oil worker

PERRY, an oil worker

HUGO MÜNSTERBERG, a Harvard professor

GERTRUDE EVANS CAYCE, Edgar’s wife

LESLIE CAYCE, Edgar’s father

ROUSTABOUT, an oil worker

LYNN EVANS, Gertrude’s brother

LIZZIE EVANS, Gertrude’s mother

CARRIE HOUSE, Gertrude’s young aunt

DR. TOM HOUSE, her husband 

DR. HOGARTH, a doctor

DR. FRANKLIN, the House and Cayce family doctor

MAJOR HANCOCK, San Saba project manager  

ADAM NORQUIST, a large investor 

JOE, an investor 

INVESTOR  

FLASH MCCLARY, a saboteur

DR. JOHN GALLAGHER, Edgar’s friend  

FRANK, Edgar’s photography assistant

DR. ONE

DR. TWO

DR. THREE 

JEFF, a bank clerk

KEVIN SNOW, an associate of Edgar 

TELEGRAPH BOY 

DR. WESLEY KETCHUM, Edgar’s business partner 

ATTORNEY in Birmingham 

REPORTER in Montgomery 

SPOKESPERSON in Birmingham 

HUGH LYNN CAYCE, Edgar’s older son 

ECKEN, Edgar’s younger son, a child 

DR. COPELAND, a specialist 

DRUGGIST in Hopkinsville 

GLADYS DAVIS, Edgar’s secretary

STENOGRAPHER

STENOGRAPHER

ED STEVENS, patron of Edgar 

MAN, a Dayton client 

BARBER, in Dayton 

SON of Barber, child 

HARRY BLOOMBURG, Edgar’s patron 

POLICEWOMAN, New York City

JUDGE, New York City

CLAPPER, New York City prosecutor 

DEFENSE ATTORNEY, New York City

 

 NOTES

Since Edgar is remembering many scenes, he sometimes is not physically in a scene but watching from the location of a ‘present’ scene on another part of the stage, even when he speaks his lines of the ‘memory’ scene, giving a feeling of distance to the memory scene.

Due to the many scenes of this narrative, the script is color-coded to make it easier for the reader to visualize and understand the story. On stage, this would be accomplished by area lighting, with cooler colors in general for memory scenes.

 

LOCALES

 

ACT 1

San Saba County, Texas, drilling site, 1922 

Hopkinsville, Kentucky, home of Edgar’s parents, 1888

Edgar and Gertrude’s home in Hopkinsville, 1911-1912

Hopkinsville, “The Hill”, home of Gertrude’s family, 1909

Edgar and Gertrude’s home in Selma, Alabama, 1920

Edgar’s Bowling Green photo studio, 1905-1910

ACT 2

Hopkinsville, “The Hill”, 1909-1910

Hopkinsville, home of Edgar’s parents, 1888 

Columbus, Ohio, Home of Kevin Snow, 1922 

Birmingham, Alabama, hotel room, 1922-1923

Montgomery, Alabama, Photo Studio, 1910

Selma, Alabama, the Cayce home, 1923 

Dayton, Ohio, the Cayce apartment, 1923-1925

Hopkinsville, home of Edgar’s parents, 1925 

New York City, hotel room and courthouse, 1925 

Virginia Beach, seashore, 1925

Act 1

 

‘San Saba County, Texas.’

A platform set with various levels, each level representing a different locale, at different times.

As the lights go up, there is the sound of an old-time cable tool oil rig pounding into the earth.

On a rear-projection screen up stage appears a black buzzard circling in a hot sky near an old-time wooden oil derrick. Sound of wind across a plain.

EDGAR CAYCE, 45, enters with a long-handled shovel, goes to up center, looks at the circling buzzard, then starts to pantomime shoveling dirt.

‘Hopkinsville, Kentucky.’

Lights up down right. CARRIE CAYCE, 32, EDGAR’s mother, enters and sits on a chair, begins to peel apples.

Faintly, as if from a distance, off stage left:

                                      KYLE (off stage)

Edgar!... Hey, Edgar!

                                      DAVE (off stage)

Judge!

EDGAR keeps working. His head and shoulders dip down again, shoveling earth.

The rear projection cross-fades to woods and fields. YOUNG EDGAR, 11, is seen running through them, a thick black book clutched to his chest.

                                      YOUNG EDGAR (off stage)

Mother!... Mother!

YOUNG EDGAR bursts onto the stage down right and careens to a stop in front of CARRIE, who smiles at him.

                                      CARRIE CAYCE

What is it, Edgar?

                                      YOUNG EDGAR

I...I...               

                                      KYLE (OFF STAGE)

Edgar!

EDGAR finally hears, looks, waves toward the voices.

                                      EDGAR

Be right there!

                                      CARRIE CAYCE

Come here, son.

YOUNG EDGAR steps toward his mother, still clutching the book to his chest, eyes shining with wonder. CARRIE takes in his expression.

                                      CARRIE CAYCE (CONT’D)

Did something happen?

                                      YOUNG EDGAR

I was...reading my Bible by the brook, and when I looked up, I saw - I thought you came to get me, but...

                                      CARRIE CAYCE

                                      (a gentle smile)

But?

                                      YOUNG EDGAR

It wasn’t you.

                                      CARRIE CAYCE

No. Who was she?

                                      YOUNG EDGAR

I...could look right through her - and I saw...wings on her back….

                                      CARRIE CAYCE

Go on.

                                      YOUNG EDGAR

Then she said, “We have heard your prayers - what do you want more than anything?”

                                      CARRIE CAYCE

What did you say, Edgar?

                                      YOUNG EDGAR

                                      (childish solemn)

“I want to help others, especially sick children.” The lady smiled and then...she wasn’t there any more.

DAVE KAHN, 30, and KYLE, 40s, enter, as EDGAR walks toward them.

                                      DAVE

Kyle would like a check reading on the drilling, Judge.

                                      EDGAR

Right now?

                                      KYLE

If you don’t mind, Edgar.

                                      EDGAR

I can use a nap.

The three men walk to another level, left, the ‘shack’, and EDGAR sits at the edge of the platform, takes off his hat, loosens his belt. DAVE grabs a pad of paper and pencil, sits.

                                      KYLE

Sure wish I knew how you do what you do, Edgar.

                                      EDGAR

So do I.

KYLE smiles crookedly as EDGAR lies down, folds his hands on his abdomen, closes his eyelids.

                                      YOUNG EDGAR

                                      (suddenly worried)

Mother, am I crazy?

                                      CARRIE CAYCE

No, son, you’re blessed. I’ve known that for a long while.

                                      YOUNG EDGAR

Some kids call me a freak. Because I know everything in a book after I sleep with my head on it.

                                      CARRIE CAYCE

They’re just ignorant, Edgar. People are always afraid of things they can’t understand.

                                      YOUNG EDGAR

I don’t understand either.

                                      CARRIE CAYCE

You will, son. Some day you’ll know what you were born to do and accept it. 

She smiles, pulls YOUNG EDGAR to her, hugs him, kisses him on a cheek.

EDGAR, in trance, has been speaking silently, DAVE furiously writing down what EDGAR says. EDGAR now speaks aloud, authoritatively.

                                      EDGAR  (RECORDED)

- so be wary in the drilling at the eleven hundred to twelve hundred feet depth. As given, the production in this will be seventy thousand barrels of forty-two gravity oil per day, with strong gas pressure - 

                                      CARRIE CAYCE

Now, don’t tell anyone about the lady. She’ll be our secret! Just the two of us.

                                      YOUNG EDGAR

I love you.

As the rear projection slowly fades out and the lights dim down right, CARRIE CAYCE and YOUNG EDGAR exit. 

EDGAR sits up, tightens his belt, while DAVE corrects his notes. PERRY, 20s and surly looking, and SAM enter left and start ‘working’ by the ‘oil rig’.

                                      EDGAR

Get what you need, Kyle?

                                      KYLE

Sure did. Like always.

                                      EDGAR

I’ve got a trench to dig, then.

EDGAR walks over to SAM and PERRY.

                                      EDGAR

Need any help, Sam?

                                      SAM

Almost got it, Edgar. Been tellin’ Perry here ‘bout you seein’ where the oil was in Lucky Boy 1.

                                      EDGAR

If you don’t need me, I’ll get back to my work.

EDGAR walks back to his shovel, picks it up, stores it, turns and looks toward his ‘house’, as SAM smiles grimly at PERRY.

                                      SAM

Owners of that well in Desdemona are makin’ a fortune from it, but they’ve given him nothin’. 

                                      PERRY

How in hell can he see what’s underground?

                                      SAM

If I knew that, I’d be rich.  

Area lights dim out as EDGAR walks over to his ‘house’.

Rear projection: a full-page of The New York Times Magazine, dated October 9, 1910: ILLITERATE MAN BECOMES A DOCTOR WHEN HYPNOTIZED - STRANGE POWER SHOWN BY EDGAR CAYCE PUZZLES PHYSICIANS.

The article shows photographs of EDGAR, of LESLIE CAYCE, his father, 56, and of DR. WESLEY KETCHUM, 35. Center drawing, shows EDGAR lying asleep on a table, a weird demon hovering over him.

‘Hopkinsville.’ Lights rise on EDGAR’s  ‘house’.

DR HUGO MÜNSTERBERG, late 40s, a large strong man with a determined look on his face, walks briskly toward EDGAR’s ‘house’, turns to stride up the ‘walk’ to the ‘house’, then pantomimes banging forcefully on the front door.

EDGAR 34 goes over to him.

                                      MÜNSTERBERG

                                      (with German accent)

I am Dr. Hugo Münsterberg, dean of psychology, Harvard University.

He charges into the ‘house’.

                                      MÜNSTERBERG

I am here to prove you a fake.  

He hands EDGAR 34 a copy of the article. EDGAR 34 looks at it casually.

                                      MÜNSTERBERG

Only a fraud would seek such publicity. 

EDGAR 34 looks up.

                                      EDGAR 34

I’ve seen this article but never talked to the reporter who wrote it.

Hands article back to MÜNSTERBERG, who just grunts, puts it in his pocket. 

                  MÜNSTERBERG

Very well. What apparatus do you use?

                                      EDGAR 34

Apparatus?  

                 MÜNSTERBERG

Yes, yes, yes. Crystal ball, cabinet, what?

 

EDGAR smiles.

 

                  EDGAR 34

I don’t use any apparatus.

                                      MÜNSTERBERG

So. Your patients - do you examine them?

                                      EDGAR 34

                                      (shaking his head “no”)

No. Most don’t even come here.

                                      MÜNSTERBERG

But they write to you of their symptoms.

                                      EDGAR 34

I don’t want to know their symptoms. I don’t read their letters.

                                      MÜNSTERBERG

Well, then, how do you -

                                      EDGAR 34

Once I’m asleep, I’m told their address and my mind somehow finds them.

                                      MÜNSTERBERG

Always?

                                      EDGAR 34

Yes. Then I tell what’s wrong with them and what to do for it.

                                      MÜNSTERBERG

How did…this…start?

                                      EDGAR 34

When I was twenty-three I lost my voice for a year, got hypnotized and asked to heal myself. I did. Then the hypnotist asked how to heal himself. I told him. He was healed too.

                                      MÜNSTERBERG

How old are you now?

                                      EDGAR 34

Thirty-four.

                                      MÜNSTERBERG

What are you paid?

                                      EDGAR 34

Nothing.

                                      MÜNSTERBERG

                                      (pouncing)

Then what do you live on?

                                      EDGAR 34

I have a photography studio. 

MÜNSTERBERG gives a barking laugh.

                                      MÜNSTERBERG

You seem like a simple man, but maybe you are...devious.

                                      EDGAR 34

I only finished sixth grade. I’m as dumb as a rock when I’m awake.

LESLIE CAYCE comes on stage, sits up center left.

                                      MÜNSTERBERG 

But in trance -

                                      EDGAR 34

I seem to know everything.

Lights up on LESLIE.

                                      MÜNSTERBERG

Has anyone ever asked you to -

                                      LESLIE

- describe how the psychic work is accomplished by this body.

                                      EDGAR 32 (RECORDED)

                                      (in trance, authoritatively)

In this state, the conscious mind is subordinate to the subconscious. - or soul - mind, which obtains information either from other subconscious minds or from minds that have passed on. What is known to one subconscious mind is known to another. The mind of this body in the subconscious state can therefore access all information, since every mind records all of its experiences.

                                      LESLIE

Is the information given always correct?

                                      EDGAR 32 (recorded)

Always correct. As long as the suggestion is in accord with the subconscious or soul mind.   

As the lights go down on LESLIE, EDGAR 32 walks toward another level, which has two men on it, while MÜNSTERBERG speaks his line.

                                      MÜNSTERBERG

So, you can read minds, when asleep.

                                      EDGAR 34

                                      (over his shoulder)

Sometimes...even awake. 

EDGAR sits near the two men.

MÜNSTERBERG freezes. LESLIE exits.

ROUSTABOUT and SAM are getting set to play cards down left, on the ‘drill site’. ROUSTABOUT shuffles a deck of cards.

                                      ROUSTABOUT

Hey, Edgar, want to play? Penny ante.

                                      EDGAR

No thanks.

                                      ROUSTABOUT

Got no pennies?

                                      He laughs crudely.

                                      EDGAR

Don’t play.

                                      ROUSTABOUT

What’s the harm?

                                      EDGAR

I’ll win most hands.

                                      ROUSTABOUT

You an’ Houdini.

He laughs harshly. EDGAR stares at him, walks over.

ROUSTABOUT and SAM are seated on the edge of a platform, the deck of cards between them. EDGAR stops above and between the men.

                                      EDGAR

                                      (points at the deck)

Six of hearts.

ROUSTABOUT narrows his eyes, turns the card over.

                                      SAM 

Six of hearts it is.

                                      ROUSTABOUT

                                      (uncomfortably)

Lucky guess. You won’t call the next one. 

EDGAR points at the deck.

                                      EDGAR

Jack of spades, nine of diamonds, three of clubs.

ROUSTABOUT grabs the three top cards, looks at them, looks up. SAM reaches over, takes the cards, looks at them, looks at ROUSTABOUT. Both look up at EDGAR.

                                      EDGAR (CONT’D)

I can call the whole deck. That’s why I don’t play.

EDGAR starts to turn away, then stops, turns back.

                                      EDGAR (CONT’D)

Oh, and ace of spades -

ROUSTABOUT starts to reach for the top card.

                                      Edgar (CONT’D)

- on the bottom.

EDGAR walks over to MÜNSTERBERG.

ROUSTABOUT stares at the deck. SAM grabs the deck, turns it upside down, looks at it. 

                                      ROUSTABOUT

Well?

                                      SAM

Ace a’ spades, like the man said.

                                      ROUSTABOUT

Son of a bitch….

ROUSTABOUT and SAM exit left, as the lights go down on the area, and EDGAR 34 begins speaking.

                                      EDGAR 34

                                      (to Münsterberg)

I don’t know why I can do this, but if anyone’s ever hurt from something I say, I’ll never do it again.

                                      MÜNSTERBERG

I wish to talk with local patients of yours. Who should I see first?

EDGAR 34 starts walking away from MÜNSTERBERG as LYNN EVANS, 36, Gertrude’s brother, comes on stage, up center.

                                      EDGAR 34

Carrie House, my wife’s aunt. Her son, two years ago –

Projection screen: “The Hill”, the Evans family homestead in Hopkinsville. A dark night. Lightning flashes nearby, but no rain. Thunder rumbles.

MÜNSTERBERG exits.

As LYNN speaks, the others, below, come on stage, one bringing the rocker for CARRIE HOUSE.

                                      LYNN

                                      (to Edgar)

The doctors don’t think Tommy will live through the night. Aunt Carrie’s frantic. She insisted you come. 

LYNN exits. The rear screen goes dark.