Whisper of Wings by Harris Freedman


This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent


In the Darkness…


AS THE LIGHTS FADE IN we are inside a very large tent containing simple metal clothing racks and shelves that hold the costumes, props, wigs and shoes of the Circus performers.

JACOB is repairing - sowing - the costume of the female lion tamer.

Jacob doesn't hear the sound of the Calliope. He is wearing a bright red wig with long chaotic hair and the colorful costume of a juggler and acrobat. He examines his repair job, finds the Lion Tamer's whip, holds the female costume against him and pretends to tame the lions in comic fashion.


Elias and LILY: appear together in the shadows upstage and far behind Jacob. They begin to move slowly apart at an even tempo in a wide arc around Jacob.

Jacob does not hear the thunder or see Elias or Lily enter.

As they enter Jacob hangs the lion tamer costume on the rack, changes wigs and puts on one of the colorful clown shirts, then he puts on oversize clown shoes and comically tries to walk and dance around the tent.

Elias and Lily reach opposite sides of Jacob and stop.

Jacob doesn't hear anything or notice Elias and Lily.

Both Elias and Lily speak like a circus ringmaster.

ELIAS: Ladies and gentlemen. For seven years this man, deaf and mute, traveled with a circus. For seven years he showed compassion for the giant, the smallest woman in the world, the girl with alligator skin, the Siamese twins…

LILY: He cared for the boy without arms and legs, cleaned after him, washed him, and carried him. He loves them and they love him.

ELIAS: And now before your very eyes we will give him the gift of speech and hearing.

LILY: You will see him discover the gift.

ELIAS: Will he value it?
LILY: This is his role, ladies and gentlemen.

ELIAS: This is a place of secrets, ladies and gentlemen, and yet nothing is secret. If instead of only looking at what he sees he looks at himself looking to see, a secret will be revealed.
Lily goes to Jacob. He will read her lips and answer only in Sign Language.

Elias will stand in near Jacob and speak for him. Jacob will respond with sign language.

Elias and Lily no longer speak like circus ringmasters.

LILY: What's your name?

JACOB: (ELIAS's voice) The deaf and mute one.

LILY: Why are you called that?

JACOB: (ELIAS's voice) Because I can't hear what they say, or say what I feel.

LILY: Who is they?

JACOB: (ELIAS's voice) But I can see. I can see as well as anyone does.

LILY: Who said you can't see?

JACOB: (ELIAS's voice). I can't answer the questions they ask, only those I ask myself

LILY: I'm sorry I asked your name.

Lily turns and walks away in the opposite direction of Elias.

Jacob watches Lily go. He senses a presence behind him, but he doesn't turn around to see Elias. He watches Lily walk into the shadows. As she does she turns to look at Jacob who sits, removes the clown shoes and puts on his own shoes.

Elias again speaks to the Audience like a ringmaster.
Jacob does not see or hear him.

ELIAS: A man deaf and mute lives and works in silence. When the sounds of drums begin he will hear for the first time. When he speaks he will speak for the first time, but never having heard or spoken before he won't know that he speaks and hears; he will think he thinks as always he has thought. But soon the sounds of his ears and mouth will cry out:
Lily emerges from the shadows. Jacob is Centre between Elias and Lily who are SR and SL.

ELIAS &LILY: “Why do you treat us as thoughts? We are real. Though the sound of your thoughts we be, we are that of your thoughts you can speak of hear and see!”

Elias and Lily move into the half shadow as . . .


Jacob senses the vibrations of the drums, but he is not sure what they are or where they are coming from. He is drawn to dance with the drums and dances with all of his body, all of his strength. He begins to make sounds in time with the drums.

JACOB: Boom Boom Bahboom Buh Boom b-b-ba-boom b-b-baboom bah boom.


Jacob continues dancing and making the sounds.

JACOB (cont'd) Boom Boom Bahboom Buh Boom b-b-ba-boom b-b-baboom bah boom.
(Jacob stops dancing. He listens and waits, but he doesn't realize that he hears and speaks. He will no longer use Sign Language as he speaks.)
No more drums.
(He kneels down and touches the earth to feel for sound.)
Nothing of drums.
(Jacob places his cheek to the earth.)
There are no vibrations through the ground, only the breathing of the earth, and it is only to the rhythm of its heart that I am able to dance.
(Jacob begins to beat out the rhythm he danced to before.)
Boom b-b-baboom b-b-baboom boom boom boom boombahboom boom boom…

He begins to dance again as if he heard the drums. Then . .


Jacob dances. Then he begins to run from one end of the space to the other in search of the source of the drums.


Jacob waits for the drums to resume as Elias steals out of the shadows and behind Jacob. He doesn't turn to see Elias. He searches for the source of the drums.

Jacob will answer Elias, but he doesn't look at him.

ELIAS: You have danced well. Why have you stopped?

JACOB: Can't you see I am tired of dancing?
(Jacob begins to imitate the drums and moves in rhythm.)
Boom b-b-baboom b-b-baboom boom boom boom boombahboom boom boom…
(Jacob senses that someone is behind him and he begins to turn to look, but Elias points to the sky and suddenly . . . )
(Jacob hears the thunder, and… )
(Jacob cannot exit the circle of light.)
Is there really someone there?

ELIAS: Haven't you just danced to my drums?

JACOB: I have danced to many drums, those that I have felt, and those that I have watched.

ELIAS: Which of these were mine just now?

JACOB: Neither.

ELIAS: Didn't you feel my drums?

JACOB: No. I am deaf.

ELIAS: You say no to Death?

JACOB: I say nothing to death, for I can say nothing to life.

ELIAS: You address Death as if life.

JACOB: I address no one. I motion to the wind.
(Jacob reaches out for Lily who now emerges from the shadows and moves toward him.)
It heeds me if I am lucky. If not, I make believe it does.


Jacob bows ceremoniously. Lily curtsies.


Lily ignores Elias as Jacob continues the dialogue. Jacob and Lily dance a waltz, at first small and then sweeping around the stage. He thoroughly enjoys his dance and Lily.

Jacob answers Elias, but he only has eyes for Lily. He doesn't even glance at Elias, which annoys Elias.

ELIAS: Pity you are so full of pity.
JACOB: Pity I am without pity for then 'twould be a pity.

ELIAS: So it remains a pity. Whether full of it or empty of it, 'tis a pity.

JACOB: Why do you bring your drums to me?

Elias is annoyed that Jacob is not taking him seriously. He will finally end up chasing the dancing couple around the stage trying to get Jacob's attention as the dialogue continues.

ELIAS: Why do you ask questions of me without looking at me?

JACOB: I do not wish to turn and find nothing. I would rather go on with this dream than be exiled to the sleep of my life.

ELIAS: You are not sleeping now.

JACOB: I need not sleep to dream.

ELIAS: You are not dreaming now.

JACOB: If a dream tells me I do not dream am I then not dreaming?

Elias follows Jacob and Lily around the stage as they dance the waltz.

ELIAS: Do you know who I am?

JACOB: The dream of the drums to which I have danced.

ELIAS: You have danced to the drums of Death. You have looked at Death, but now you turn away.

JACOB: If I turn to you and you are gone, and there is only the dullness of my mouth and ear, I will surely die.

ELIAS: If you do not look upon Death you will surely die of not having looked.

JACOB: Play your drums again.

ELIAS: Turn to me and ask.

JACOB: I cannot ask. And it is because I cannot ask that I will not turn.

ELIAS: It is because you will not turn to ask that you will not dance to drums again.

JACOB: I need not turn to see what is only in my mind. You dream of the drums.

ELIAS: If I am only in your mind, why is your body wet with the dance of drums?
JACOB: It is true, I am wet, but I dance upon my pillow. I have danced upon my pillow before.
(Jacob tries to kiss Lily, but she slaps him and moves away from him.)
And beheld nothing but the image of the dance after.

ELIAS: Have you ever beheld the keeper of the dance?

JACOB: Never.
(Jacob goes to Lily and kneels in front of her as if to propose.)
Touch me and I will turn to you.

ELIAS: If I touch you, you will turn to death.

Lily moves away and Jacob follows on his knees.

JACOB: Touch me and I will have lived to hear what I answer.

ELIAS: If I touch you you will turn to death.

Lily moves away and again Jacob follows her on his knees.

JACOB: You have said that and I have answered. Touch me and I will have lived and Death will have touched me when he was welcome.

ELIAS: If you welcome Death, turn to me and see.

Jacob is still on his knees in front of Lily - he places his hand upon his heart.

JACOB: If you are Death, come to me, touch me, and I'll believe.

ELIAS: You tempt me with your stubbornness.

JACOB: If stubbornness tempts Death, dead I am without the touch of death.

Lily feigns swooning because of Jacob's proposal and as she faints Jacob gets up and catches her as


Jacob and Lily dance a sweeping waltz.

ELIAS: You cannot sense the touch of Death. You can hear his voice, dance to his drums, but his touch is dead.

JACOB: Then Death has no touch and cannot touch me dead.

Elias is frustrated as they dance around him. He tries to get Jacob's attention.

ELIAS: Don't play words with Death.

JACOB: To play words I would need say words, and I am mute.

ELIAS: Don't you hear words now?

JACOB: No, I am deaf.

ELIAS: Didn't you just answer?

JACOB: Yes, and I answer again, 'I cannot speak or hear'.
Lily sweeps away from Jacob.
Why don't you answer me?


Jacob is confined within it. He still only looks at Lily.

ELIAS: If you cannot speak I cannot hear you.

LILY: If you cannot hear I cannot answer you.

JACOB: But this is a dream. We can speak to each other. Even I can speak to you and hear you. This is a dream.

ELIAS: If you are so sure of this dream why do you fear seeing me?

JACOB: That which I have always seen in life or dream held no sound for me.

ELIAS: This is neither life nor dream, but Death who speaks to you.

JACOB: That which I have always seen in death and life and in a dream held no sound for me!
(Lily enters Jacob's circle of light. Elias, who is now behind Lily and Jacob, places a wedding tiara and veil on LILY: , then puts a top hat on Jacob and steps to the side to perform the ritual of the marriage ceremony for them.)
(chanting.) Death came to me in a dream and said…

ELIAS: (chanting) There is only a part of you that is deaf and mute and wishes to speak…

LILY: (chanting) There is only a part of you that is deaf and mute…

JACOB: but I am afraid to allow that part to speak…

ELIAS: (chanting) Why are you afraid? There is no reason to be afraid.

LILY: It will drown me in words.

JACOB: If it drowns me in words how will I speak?

LILY: No one will understand me.

ELIAS: (chanting) Can you imagine how badly this would have turned out if I didn't know everything?

LILY: (chanting) I don't even want to think about it.

JACOB: We come here to see the trees, and watch the color of a bird change as it flies from its nest to the sky.

LILY: (chanting) I don't see any trees.

ELIAS: (chanting) Why did you say trees?

JACOB: I couldn't have said trees. I can't speak.

LILY: (chanting). I don't see any birds.

JACOB: I couldn't have said birds. I can't speak.

ELIAS: (chanting) He's repeating himself.

LILY: (chanting) You're repeating yourself.

JACOB: I can't hear you.

LILY: Of course I can't hear you, I'm deaf.

ELIAS: (chanting) It took me a long time to arrange this ceremony, a long time, and I don't even believe in time.

JACOB: We meet in silence. We agreed upon silence…

LILY: (chanting) ...so that we will not have to be reminded that he cannot speak or hear.

ELIAS: (chanting) Everything's gone wrong. And I know everything.

JACOB: Do you think it will work? The doctors told me nothing would work.

ELIAS: (chanting) They said that nothing could or would…

LILY: (chanting)...or even should work…

JACOB: Is there a way to give me back something that was damaged?

ELIAS: (chanting) So that something could be born in me…

LILY: (Chanting)...something possible that was there in me…

JACOB: ...but was damaged in me…
(Wedding ceremony is over.)
(Elias moves upstage to watch Jacob from behind.)
(Lily throws off her tiara and veil, slips out of the circle and she also moves upstage to watch Jacob.)
Is there a way to give me something that was damaged in me, so that something could be born in me?
(Pause). Why don't you answer me? I will not turn to you. If I turn you will go away and so will the dream. If you will not speak play your drums again.
(Jacob imitates the drums.)
Boom b-b-baboom b-b-baboom boom boom boom boombahboom boom boom…play them again! I want to dance. Boom b-b-baboom b-b-baboom boom boom boom boombahboom boom boom…
(Jacob stamps his feet and begins to dance to the rhythm he is creating. He gets carried away.)
Boom b-b-baboom b-b-baboom boom boom boom boombahboom boom boom…please play your drums again! boom b-b-ba-boom Answer me! Answer me! If you do not answer me I will turn!

ELIAS: And if I am not here?

JACOB: I will die of the emptiness!

ELIAS: And if I am here?

JACOB: I will die at the sight of Death! What shall I do?!

Jacob is still in his circle of light.

ELIAS: (to audience) If I answer him he will reply and then deny his reply.

JACOB: Tell me what to do!!
(Jacob begins to sense the vibrations of his own voice. He repeats the line.)
Tell me what to do.

ELIAS: (to audience) I'll tell him nothing.

JACOB: (Hearing and sensing his own voice) Tellll meeeee what tooo doooo.

ELIAS: (to audience) He will deny my telling with his deafness and deny his excuse of deafness with his muteness.

JACOB: (listening to his own voice) Tell me what to do.

LILY: (to audience) I hope that he speaks so hope cries out to me with his voice, but he does not speak.

JACOB: Do I speak?

ELIAS: (to audience) I'll tell him nothing.

JACOB: Do I speak? Did I just hear that I have asked do I speak?

LILY: (to audience) If I answer and he is deaf I will have lost hope.

JACOB: (to audience.) Tell me I can speak. I have walked without a sound amongst the shadows of this city. I have walked without a sound amongst the shadow creatures of this sideshow, the fringe people of this world. I have loved, without a sound, these shadow creatures for I am them and they are me. I can taste the pungency of their presence now, but my eyes are weary of speaking for me. My eyes are weary of seeking out the lips of every living thing that utters sound. I have had to crawl in the gutter to read the lip of the rat, the toad, the roach, the spider.
(To Elias and Lily without looking at them)
Tell me I can speak and I will turn to you!


ELIAS: I cannot tell you you can speak if you cannot hear.

LILY: A spider has no lips.

JACOB: Tell me I can hear and I will be able to hear you tell me I can speak.

LILY: A roach has no lips.

ELIAS: I cannot tell you you can hear if you cannot hear.

LILY: I never saw a toad in the gutter.

JACOB: I never did either. It's a figure of speech.

ELIAS: It cannot be a figure of speech if you cannot speak.

JACOB: You cannot tell me it cannot be a figure of speech if I cannot hear you.

[end of extract]


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