Casper Hauser (with Nancy Hanks)

 Foreground is Peter Graham as Casper Hauser.  Ensemble (l to r): Christy Pasqualicchio, Michael Alcide, Nellie Fishenzon, Alisha Purcell, and Devon Ewalt Casper Hauser (A Language Game) Castillo Theatre, October 2004 Photo: Ronald L. Glassman

Foreground is Peter Graham as Casper Hauser. 
Ensemble (l to r): Christy Pasqualicchio, Michael Alcide, Nellie Fishenzon, Alisha Purcell, and Devon Ewalt
Casper Hauser (A Language Game) Castillo Theatre, October 2004
Photo: Ronald L. Glassman

 

CASPER HAUSER
(A Language Game)

By Nancy Hanks & Dan Friedman

Prologue and 18 Scenes

[+DOWNLOAD]

© 1998
Version Produced by Youth Onstage! 2004

 

Actors/Characters
Casper Hauser/Peter
Actor/Brian
Christy/Mrs. Strauss
Alisha
Nellie/ Miri
Michael
Devon/Karl

 

NOTE:
Blanks in the script (           ) may be ad-libbed by the actor.
In scenes where characters are identified as Townsperson 1, 2 or 3, assignments should be made at the discretion of the director.


PROLOGUE

ACTOR
This is the story of Casper. Casper the Friendly Ghost. No. Casper Weinberger the former United States Secretary of State. No. Casper Oil. No. That’s Castor Oil. No. Kaspar Hauser. Famous wild child. A foundling discovered wandering the streets of Nuremburg, Germany in 1828. Raised in a shed. Or not raised at all. Couldn’t speak. Nothing, not a word. An animal. Some say he was the heir to the throne of Baden who had been kidnapped when he was an infant. He was murdered five years after he showed up. So who knows? At this point, who cares? Lots of people. Kaspar Hauser has inspired more than 2,000 books, plays and movies. Now this one. Only in this one, this Casper, our Casper, was found wandering the streets of Hauser, Arkansas sometime within the last ten years. No one thought he was a crown prince. There are no kings in America. He does appear to have been raised in a shed. To have grown up in a shed. Some say he’s the illegitimate son of William Ichenhower, the chicken king of Arkansas. Owns chicken processing plants all over the state. Well, Debbie Strauss, who worked in the plant here in Hauser, cutest little gal in Hauser, left town very suddenly some 16, 17, 18 years ago. Never heard of again. Who knows what to think? Do we ever? I am an actor. I play myself. Casper is also played by an actor. A different actor. Casper can’t play himself because he’s dead. Or never lived. The difference isn’t always clear. 

CASPER
My name is Kaspar Hauser. I’ve come to…I wanted to…….I’ve come to tell you. My name is Kaspar Hauser. Kaaaaspaaaaaar. (pause) Howwwwww – zzzzzzerrrrrr. I was asked to tell you what happened to me. I’ve come to tell you who I am and how I came to. They asked me to come here to tell you how I died. How I did……They asked me to tell you…My name is Kaspar Hauser.

ACTOR
Kaspar, tell them what happened. 

CASPER
My name is Kaspar Hausier. Kapier Hoser. Kaspar Hauser. Ka…Ko….ssss..peeeeer…sssssserrrrrrrrrr.

ACTOR
Kaspar, you were born in Germany in 1812. Go on, now. 

CASPER
You are a voice from the past. You no longer intimidate me. You….you are dead….

ACTOR
Kaspar was 16 years old when he appeared on the streets of Nuremburg, Germany in 1828.

CASPER
You didn’t murder me. You only did not bury me. 

ACTOR
He had been raised without human contact, chained to a stake in the floor in the middle of a dark room. 

CASPER
I have been…I have…I have asked to come here to speak about soul murder. 

(Laugher from Townspeople.)

ACTOR
Yes, that’s right. Go on, Kaspar. Go on… “TO SPEAK ABOUT…”

CASPER
I had many friends at that time. I became very friendly with many people. I was a well-known personage. 

ACTOR
Kaspar, how can you say you had so many friends? People thought of you as a freak. 

CASPER
People thought many things. I never knew what to think. 

ACTOR
Kaspar, you couldn’t think. 

CASPER
I was a shining example of what the community could produce. At that time. 

ACTOR
Hello. My name is (name of actor). I’m an actor. Welcome to tonight’s show. I’m (name of actor). I’m an actor. You might remember me as (character) in (play). We were on tour in ’88. Texas was rough. So was Missouri….But we did it. By god. We did it. Welcome to tonight’s show. Nice to have you here. So……well, let’s see…..Tonight, we’ll be taking a look at….Kaspar Hauser. Who was he? How did he live? How did he die?

DEVON
Who’s that?

ALISHA
Who’s what?

DEVON
That one. Who is he?

CHRISTY
That’s Kaspar Hauser—see? The guy in the overalls. That’s Kaspar. He’s what the show is about. And I think the other guy is…

NELLIE
That’s (name of actor). He’s an actor.

ALISHA
That’s not fair. You heard him say it. 

NELLIE
What do you mean it’s not fair? That’s stupid. You heard him, too. 

DEVON
Who is he?

ALISHA
That’s (name of actor). He’s an actor.

MICHAEL
I think (name of actor) is like Kaspar except he sort of makes sense or something. Something like that. 

DEVON
Yeah, but who’s Kaspar Hauser?

CHRISTY
What difference does it make? Listen to what they’re saying and find out. And stop asking all those questions. It’s making me dizzy. 

ALISHA
Oh, sure, who died and made you God? How come you think you know so much anyway?

MICHAEL
If you don’t ask questions you won’t find anything out.

ALISHA
That’s got nothing to do with it. 

CHRISTY
This is something that hasn’t got to do with anything anyway so what’s the difference?

NELLIE
It does have to do with something. We just don’t know yet what it is. That’s all. 

DEVON
Where are we?

MICHAEL
Where are we where?

CHRISTY
We’re in here with everybody else where everybody else is. 

ALISHA
Not EVERYbody. Not EVERYbody else. 

MICHAEL
What do you mean not EVERYbody? Everybody where?

NELLIE
There was that voice…

CHRISTY
There was that voice. 

DEVON
What voice?

ALISHA
What voice?

ACTOR
And these…these are the….these are the people of Hauser… With all the madness of contemporary society
There we were. Gary, Indiana, 1972
He’s Black and there’s no way around it
And a Jew too
You fellas been here long?
I just live around the corner
Where were you when the trouble started?
When people go this way they cannot go that way
She is a fallen woman
Men are pricks
I had a dream
Four score and seven years ago
40 acres and a mule
We should all learn to live together
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
What would your mother say?
He should be taken out and shot
I said I would be there
Where were you when……
He’s been shot
The cops are in on it
He’s in over his head
Once a ________ always a ________
She’s fishing for a compliment
It was murder, plain and simple
You better be moving along now
I better be moving along now
Down the road a piece
I must tell you
That will get you no where
Let’s straighten this out right now
Don’t you ever….
There must be a better way
This has got to stop
We got separated but we planned to hook up later
Head them off at the pass
Stand clear of the closing doors
Buddy told me he would never be coming back to Sheridan but I didn’t believe him.
Now he’s back. 
I can well imagine
He took a fall there
I didn’t hear you the first time
What did you say?
If you didn’t hear me I must not have said it properly
She said she was gong into town and she’d be back in a little while
What time was it?
Everyone should stop here
When you get there, give me a call
Everyone told me not to do it
It was a disaster
I told her three times not to go in there
Now look what you’ve done
It does no good to tell her
You can’t tell him anything
Somewhere there’s a sun rising
The sun comes up every day
It’s the same time as yesterday
I found it in the garbage
This better be good
No one ever talks about it
You never told me that before
I didn’t see it the first time around
He told her he loved her and then he went out with whatshername
He said he wouldn’t do it again
He said he wouldn’t do it again and then he did it
Somewhere there’s got to be a __________
If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times
I’ve looked everywhere
I can’t find it
It’s no where to be found
Have you seen my __________?
Can I trouble you for a __________?
Did you see my ____________?
Everywhere they went they caused a scene
He was a troublemaker anyway
No matter how you cut it
I thought I saw you the other day
I believe I am justified in being here because I believed this before I came here

CHRISTY
I was the first to see him. He was walking down Main Street in Hauser. As naked as a jay bird. He was just a boy. Well, a young man really. He was all grown, down there, if you catch my drift. He was white as a ghost, which is why I called him Casper. He was walking down Main Street in Hauser, which is why I called him Hauser. Casper Hauser. He didn’t look scared. He didn’t look mean. He looked kind of lost. A little soft fur on his face. I don’t know, I’d figured him to be about 16. he didn’t smell good. And when I asked him what his name was he didn’t say nothing. He just stared at me. Probably the fist woman he ever saw, not that he knew what he was looking at. I walked him over to the pay phone outside the barbershop. Called the sheriff. By now other folks had seen him and were coming around to gawk. Grown ups were shooing away the little kids. He was naked after all. Never was no one else naked on the streets of Hauser before -- or since. The sheriff drove up, scratched his head, and wrapped Casper up in a blanket. Took him to the jail and called the shrinks up at the university. They drove down the next day. They didn’t know what to make of him either. Casper stayed in the jail over night. He didn’t seem to mind. He didn’t seem to mind anything. They took him to the mental hospital after that. He was gone a long time, couple of years, I think. 

ALISHA
I really saw him first. Before he got to town, walking along past my house. But I didn’t tell no one. I was scared. I thought he must have escaped from the loony bin or jail or something. No clothes. His thing just flopping in the wind. So I called the kids inside the house and locked the doors. They thought I was nuts. They think I’m nuts anyway. 

NELLIE
I met Kaspar on a trip home. It must have been spring break or something from my second year in graduate school. One feels compelled to make these trips now and then, I suppose. I know it meant a lot to my mother. So anyway, here I was back in Hauser, home from my Masters program at NYU. I had gotten up early that morning because I really wanted to see if I could make coffee before anyone else got up and think for a few minutes. Have that moment for myself that the women’s magazines tell you you need. Do something for yourself, they tell you. I decided to go out in my slippers and get a paper. I don’t know what I as thinking. My apartment in New York is above a bodega on 6th Avenue. The Avenue of the Americas. I always thought that was such a kick. “The Avenue of the Americans.” Anyway. I stood for a moment on the porch and then decided to walk into town. It’s about a mile and a half – maybe 20, 30 blocks or so. I’m sorry this is taking me so long. I know you’re interested in Kaspar. The point is that on the walk I kinda forced myself to relax and began to notice the walk. Things that were different, things that were the same. Nothing much had happened in Hauser since I left. I thought about how I didn’t really know how things were in Hauser, though, ever. I’d always been so bent on gettin’ out. Never really saw it how it was. So for me to say things were the same and hadn’t changed…us kids used to say nothin’ ever happens in Hauser and if it did, nobody’d notice…Well, her I was walking along deep in thought, as they say, and when I rounded the corner expecting to see Lindberg’s Drug Store, I saw this guy standing in the middle of the town square. Something made me go up to him. I’d never never do this in New York. I said something like, “Hi, do you need help?” It probably wasn’t like that at all, but that was my sentiment, ya know? He had a piece of paper in his hand with script written on it which was difficult to read. I looked at it and looked at him and again asked my insane question, “Do you need help?” He said—I remember it so clearly—it was in German, but a dialect I wasn’t familiar with. Something like—wished I had had a tape recorder or had written it down—it seemed very important to him. He said “Ich bin Kaspar Hauser. Reutä wähn, wie mei Vottä wähn is.” Or “Ä Sechtene möcht ih wähn, wie mei Vottä wähn is.” Or in High German it would be,“Ich möcht’ ein solcher Reiter werden wie mein Vater einer war.” It was extraordinary! The translation, or a translation, is “I am Kaspar Hauser I want to be a graet rider like my father was before me.” I didn’t know what to do! Did he say, “I am Kaspar Hauser. I wish to ride and my father is with me.”? Did he say, “I am the rider my father wishes me to be.”? Mrs. Kohl came up and kinda dragged him away. I didn’t know what to do. The lights flickered on at Lindberg’s. I followed Mrs. Kohl and this young man. Then I stopped. I had to get on with my business. I had started out to get a paper. Walked, mind you, walked all the way into town where they don’t even know what a New York Times is and my mom and dad would be getting up soon and I hadn’t had my moment to myself. I turned around and stalked my way back to the house. “Jesus,” I thought. “What the hell was that? Can’t even go home for a little gratuitous visit with the folks. Jesus Christ. What the hell was that?” 

ACTOR
That, it turns out, was another thing that never happened in Hauser. 

CASPER
Around here Spring comes fast. Big black clouds roll in from the west. Rain. So much rain. Many greens. 

CHRISTY
Shades.

CASPER
Yes. Shades. And buttercups. Yellow. Black-eyed Susans. Orange. 

CHRISTY
Flowers.

CASPER
Yes. Flowers everywhere. In the fields. In the woods. On the side of the roads. In the Summertime it gets very hot around here. 

CHRISTY
In the heart…

CASPER
The crickets and katydids sing very loud at night. 

CHRISTY
In the heart of America. 

CASPER
Everything so alive. 

CHRISTY
In the heart. 

CASPER
And so hot. Sometimes it all collapses. A tornado, a twister, a big wind, the wrath of God, comes through. Everything gets sucked up, spun around, spit out. Sometimes that happens. 

CHRISTY
Mostly it doesn’t. 

CASPER
Mostly it doesn’t. But sometimes it does.

CHRISTY
Shit happens.

CASPER
All this was before I had words for it. All this happened before I could say it. Before “hot.” Before “rain.” Before “summer.” Before “crickets.” Before “green” and before “shades.” “Shit happens.” Did I know that before I said it?

CHRISTY
Names are only names. 

CASPER
Names change everything.
CASPER
Ich bin Kaspar Hauser.

NELLIE
Ich! Been Kaspar in Hauser. 

CASPER
Ich bin Kaspar.

NELLIE
Kaspar, you aren’t icky!

CASPER
Icky!

NELLIE
Yucky. Yuk-it-y, yuk?

CASPER
Yuk-it-y-yuk.

NELLIE
Now you say my name. My name is Miri. Say Miri. 

CASPER
Now you say Mira. 

NELLIE
Miri.

CASPER
Miri.

NELLIE
Yes! That’s right!

CASPER
Yes! Right. Yes right bin Kaspar.

NELLIE
Yes, Kaspar. Miri. I’m Miri. You’re Kaspar. 

CASPER
Yes, I’m Miri. You’re Kaspar.

NELLIE
No! No! I’m Miri. You’re…

CASPER
No! I’m Miri!

NELLIE
No! I’m Miri!

CASPER
Yes! Right Miri.

NELLIE
Oh, Kaspar!

CASPER
Miri.

NELLIE
I like you, Kaspar! You’re my friend. We’ll be friends forever.

CASPER
Friends. Hauser I friends.

NELLIE
Now let’s play a game.

CASPER
Miri I you Kaspar friend.

NELLIE
Yes we’ll be friends. Now. Let’s play hide and seek.

CASPER
Friends. We’ll be friends.

NELLIE
Yes. Now, you hide your eyes and I’ll go away and you try to find me. 

CASPER
Now you say now.

NELLIE
Yes. Now, come on, close your eyes.

CASPER
Eyes. Miri.

NELLIE
See, like this.

CASPER
See….

NELLIE
No, Kaspar.

CASPER
No, Kaspar.

NELLIE
No Kaspar. No Miri. Gone. See?

CASPER
Gone see. Gone-see.

NELLIE
Gone gone gone in the world world world. If you whirl around like this, it’s fun. See?

CASPER
See gone.

NELLIE
And then you become an angel sweet as the baby Jesus and fly up to heaven. 

(Casper falls.) 

NELLIE
See the trees around are all going above us and the sky is below.

CASPER
Fly up to heaven…

NELLIE
…and the heaven opens up and there’s a new…

CASPER
…baby Jesus…

NELLIE
Kaspar, what if the trees were up there and the sky was down here? Wouldn’t that be fun? We could walk around here with the trees hanging over us like the peacocks in the zoo spread their feathers. 

CASPER
What is the feathers hanging could walk in here Miri Kaspar my gone in the world?

NELLIE
Oh, isn’t it fun, Kaspar? Isn’t it grand? Oh, we’ll be great friends!

CASPER
Oh isn’t it grand…

NELLIE
Oh Kaspar.

CASPER
Oh Kaspar.

NELLIE
Oh Miri.

CASPER
Oh Miri.

NELLIE
Oh Miri Kaspar.

MICHAEL
He was okay. I liked him fine. I didn’t dislike him or nothing like that. There really wasn’t anything to dislike. Or to like, for that matter. Anyway, I never had much to do with him. I work at the chicken plant. He never worked at the chicken plant. We didn’t move in the same circles. I met him once though. He was okay.

DEVON
I never trusted him. How can you trust someone like that? Don’t know where he came from. Know what I’m saying? He could have been anyone. He could have been an alien.

MICHAEL
Oh Christ!

DEVON
No, really. This might sound crazy to you, but I think he just might have been an alien. 

MICHAEL
Yeah, right. 

DEVON
How else do you explain him? He didn’t know English. He didn’t know Spanish. Shit, he didn’t know no language. No human language. And being naked like that. It’s like he just took human form, you know, but didn’t have any clothes to fit his new body. That’s what it seems like to some of us. How do you explain someone like that otherwise?

MICHAEL
Oh shit, he was just a crazy kid. A wacko. Maybe his mommy and daddy chained him in a dark shed and treated him like a dog. It happens. You hear about stuff like that all the time. I do. On the news. 

DEVON
Not around here.

MICHAEL
Well, you don’t hear about aliens around here either. 

DEVON
Oh now, Prichard over to Hooterstown saw a UFO back in ’97.

MICHAEL
Alien or not. I don’t think he was a bad kid. I never heard of him hurting nobody or anything like that. He didn’t do drugs or nothing. 

DEVON
My wife thought he was an angel. Now she’s a nut case that’s for sure. 

MICHAEL
I wouldn’t say he was an angel. Just a kid who didn’t know shit from shinola. But I liked him okay. 

ACTOR
Hello. My name is (name of actor). I’m an actor. Welcome to tonight’s show. I’m (name of actor). (name of actor) I’m an actor. You might remember me as (character) in (play). Welcome to tonight’s show. Nice to have you here. So…..well, let’s see….

CASPER
My name is Kaspar Hauser. I’ve come to…I wanted to……I’ve come to tell you. My name is Kaspar Hauser. Kaspar Kaspaar Hauser Haussar…. Kaaaaspaaaaaar.  (pause) Howwwwww–zzzzzzerrrrrr. I was asked to tell you what happened to me. I’ve come to tell you who I am and how I came. They asked me to come here to tell you how my trousers hurt….In the dishwater clouds where the barrels poke up…

CHRISTY
Casper, tell them what happened.

CASPER
My name is Kaspar Hausier. Kapier Hoser. Kaspar Hauser. Ka…Ko….ssss..peeeeer…sssssserrrrrrrrrr.

CHRISTY
Casper…

CASPER
My name is Kapier Hoser.

MICHAEL
Casper, you were born in Arkansas in 1978. Go on, now.

CASPER
You are a mark inside your past. You no longer incruciate me. You…you are dead….you are dead in the head….dead in your tracks…A big crow ate your liver…

ALISHA
Casper Hauser was 16 years old when he appeared on the streets of Hauser ten years ago. 

CASPER
I have come here to speak to you about soul food…

DEVON
He had been raised without human contact, chained to a stake in the floor in the middle of a dark room. 

CASPER
I have been asked to come here to tell you my story. 

CHRISTY
Yes, that’s right. Go on, Casper. Go on…

CASPER
I was friendly. I was a friend. People were my friends. 

ALISHA
Casper, how can you say you had so many friends? People thought of you as a freak.

DEVON
When I grow up I want to be an idiot savant. 

CASPER
As I was saying. I was a well-known personage. A celebrity. I was truly a shining example of what the community could produce. At that time.

(Actor hands book to Casper who begins to study it.)

CHRISTY
It was after he came back that I got to know him. He could talk then. 

NELLIE
And he could read too.

CHRISTY
They taught him all that up at the university.

ALISHA
Probably shouldn’t have. 

NELLIE
He loved to read. He loved to read out loud. It was like music to listen to him.

ALISHA
Goofy. Sitting there reading out loud like some kind of a weirdo in a nut house. 

CHRISTY
He loved words. He wrestled with them. 

NELLIE
He caressed them. He made them moist. He opened them up. 

CHRISTY
He never took words for granted. 

NELLIE
He never took anything for granted. That’s what was so nice about him, I think. He didn’t take people for granted either. Everyone seemed to amaze him. 

CHRISTY
The psychologists up at the university asked if I could help get him a job here in Hauser. I’d been going up to visit him every few months. So I knew he loved books. 

NELLIE
All those little swiggles on paper that could become sounds. They were like magic to him. 

ALISHA
Jesus!

CHRISTY
So I asked old Mr. Strassheimer, who owns Hauser’s only book and card shop if he could hire Casper. 

ALISHA
Strassheimer’s no fool. It was good for business. Everybody wanted to come and meet the freak. 

NELLIE
For some he was a freak, I guess. For some others he was a breath of fresh air. 

ALISHA
We got plenty of fresh air in Hauser. That’s one thing we have. But he was fresh, I’ll grant you that. 

NELLIE
He was nothing of the sort!

ALISHA
Used to stare at my boobs. Don’t tell me. I know. 

NELLIE
He was honest. That ain’t the same as fresh. 

ALISHA
Oh, Jesus!

CHRISTY
I used to visit him at the bookstore. I’d bring him lunch. Bought lots of books. Never read so much in my life. Myself, I prefer Harlequin Romances. But, he had us reading poetry and philosophy. Lots of stuff I didn’t understand. 

ALISHA
He didn’t understand that shit either. 

CHRISTY
He never claimed he understood anything. He just said he could see with words. He got us all seeing with words. 

NELLIE
Walking with words. Sleeping with words. 

CHRISTY
Sort of reshaped everything. 

ALISHA
Sort of made the town crazy, I’d say 

CHRISTY
Was that so bad?

ALISHA
I wouldn’t let my kids near him. I’ll tell you that. 

CASPER

(Reading from The Blue and Brown Books, page 17, by Ludwig Wittgenstein)

“I shall in the future again and again draw your attention to what I shall call language-games. These are ways of using signs simpler than those in which we use the signs of our highly complicated everyday language. Language-games are the forms of language with which a child begins to make use of words. … When we look at such simple forms of language the mental mist which seems to enshroud our ordinary use of language disappears. We see activities, reactions, which are clear-cut and transparent.” 

CHRISTY

(Reading from Growing Up Explained by Fred Newman and Lois Holzman)

“What is at issue here, from a social therapeutic point of view, is the difficulty of creating with language, that is, creating/using the activistic mode of discourse. The epistemological structure of Western discourse is so permeated by interpretive, representationalist, explanatory, identificatory ‘aboutness’ that virtually every new utterance is an occasion for still another interpretation or explanation. It is almost as if analogizing or identifying with (‘This reminds me of…’ ‘I felt that way when…’) were the only possible way to make a (pseudo-) connection with someone. We much more function as literary critics in moment-to-moment exchanges in our culture than as co-authors (particularly as co-poets).”

ALISHA

(Reading from Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, vol. 1, page 159, by Ludwig Wittgenstein)

“If I talk or write there is, I assume, a system of impulses going out from my brain and correlated with my spoken or written thoughts. By why should the system continue further in the direction of the center? Why should this order not proceed, so to speak, out of chaos?”

CASPER
When I begin to speak, I begin with what I want to say that I can’t say if I don’t put it this way. They say it differently, but they are all saying the same thing. They put it differently. They mean different things. Their experience of the same thing is different so they talk about it differently. They talk the same. I had no “experiences” before I saw and talked with people. There were no “details” in my life until I spoke with people. There was a tiny shaft of light came into the room at different time. But for me there was no “different times” because there was no time itself. I just was an my surroundings were. There was no purpose there was no perception there was no line of march no line of communication no progress no enlightenment. Mainly I experienced no alienation. 

(Laughter from the Townspeople).

NELLIE

(Reading from The Collected Works of L.S. Vygotsky, vol. 1, p. 251)

“The structure of speech is not simply the mirror image of the structure of thought. It cannot, therefore, be placed on thought like clothes off a rack. Speech does not merely serve as the expression of developed thought. Thought is restructured as it is transformed into speech. It is not expressed but completed in the word.”

CASPER
Thought is not expressed but completed in the word.

CHRISTY
“In the beginning was the Word…”

CASPER HAUSER
I often wonder at memory. I often wonder. Since I learned this word. Memory. I have wondered. What do you remember, they would ask me. (Shrugs) What do you eat? I eat bacon and eggs. I eat ice cream. That I learned to answer. What do you drink? I drink water. I drink coke. I like coke. I learned to answer. What do you see? I see you. That I learned to answer. What do you remember? I don’t think, I don’t think I remember. Although I’m not sure what it is. Things happened. But without words could I remember them? I don’t even know if I remember not having words. Can I talk about them now? I’m not sure. What do you remember? I learned to answer that too.

ACTOR
I remember my lines. Of course I remember my lines. That’s my bread and butter. Memorizing lines is what I do. For a living. If you can’t memorize lines you can’t work in the theatre. It’s the bottom line, pun intended. I remember everything. Not just lines. Sense memory. Body memory. Where would an actor be without memory? At the unemployment office, that’s where. And if you don’t remember, then you make up the memories. Not much difference between what actually happened and what you made up once it becomes memory, now is there? Don’t get me wrong, acting isn’t just technique. Far from it. It’s a lot more than memorization. You have to live in each moment. On stage as in life. On Earth as it is in Heaven…Fresh. As a daisy, so to speak. But you can’t live in the moment if you don’t remember the earlier moments. Can you? I can’t. It’s all connected, see? Yesterday’s memory is connected to the memory we’re making right now. Life is a memory making activity. And my job is recreating memories. Mine. The playwright’s. The director’s. Yours. Now if I can recreate your memory on stage I’m a great actor. That remains to be seen. Or remembered. 

WOMAN 1
I don’t remember it now it was so long ago. I forgot to tell him when it happened and now it doesn’t matter. 

CASPER
It was a time. 
A long time I would call it now.
Then it was no time.
I didn’t know time.

I played with the teddy bear.
And the truck.
I never saw a real truck or a real bear.
I never saw anything but the shed.
I didn’t know it was a shed.
It was the world.
I didn’t know there was a world.
I didn’t know.
I drank the water he brought.
Then I ate what he brought.
The corn flakes, the bread and balony.
White bread.
Now I know what he brought. 
Then I slept.
Then I played with the truck and the teddy bear.
Then I ate the corn flakes.
Then I slept.
That was my life.

One day, I don’t know which one,
He took me out.
Out.
It hurt my eyes.
I had been in before. In the shed.
He set me on the road.
Like an American, I took to the open road.
Americans love the road.
I didn’t know that then.
I didn’t know, I just walked.
I walked to Hauser.

It was a time.
Along time I would call it now. 
Then it was no time. 
I didn’t know time.

There. 
I’ve said what I had to say.

NELLIE
I will do this. (Raises her skirt) Now, you do something.

(Casper pulls his pant legs up)

No. No. Ok. I will do this. (raises skirt to show underpants)

DEVON
She’s trying to seduce him. 

CHRISTY
She’s teaching him something.

ALISHA
She’s teaching something about sex. How to have sex with her. 

MICHAEL
She’s not doing a very good job, is she? Look at him. He doesn’t get it. 

ALISHA
She wants him to be attracted to her.

CHRISTY
No, she doesn’t. She wants to teach him something. 

NELLIE
No. No. It doesn’t go up with you. It goes down. When I go up, you go down. Ok, try it again. If I go up, you go down. 

(CASPER falls to his knees.)

CASPER
You are up. I am down. Is this right? Do you go down?

NELLIE
I don’t know. Maybe. Ok, I go down, you go up. 

(CASPER gets up, NELLIE lies down, CASPER looks, gets distracted. Wanders off. TOWNSPEOPLE point at NELLIE)

ALISHA (Outraged) She’s giving herself to him!

(CASPER wanders off-stage. NELLIE writhes on floor, gets up.)

NELLIE
(To TOWNSPEOPLE) You stupid pigs!

ALISHA
(Outraged) You were doing it to him!

NELLIE
Doing what? What was I doing?

CHRISTY
No, she wasn’t. 

(CASPER re-enters on cue from ACTOR )

ACTOR
Casper, do you see how the scene is done?

CASPER
I have come to tell you…

ACTOR
No, now we’re showing the story. You must show us your story. 

NELLIE
Ok. Look. I do this.

(She sits on a chair with her legs wide apart)

Now you do something. 

(CASPER sits on a chair, drags it to her and sits in front of her with his legs open, looks at TOWNSPEOPLE.)

CASPER
You Pigs.

NELLIE
Ok, I’ll do this, see. (Stands, raises her skirt) OK, I’ll do this, see. (Takes her skirt off) now you do something. 

(CASPER takes his pants off) 

Ok. Yes. Now we’re getting somewhere. 

(They stare at each other and CASPER sits down. NELLIE walks off stage. Over her shoulder to TOWNSPEOPLE) 

Pigs.

DEVON
What did I do?

MICHAEL
You were watching.

(ACTOR walks in comforting sobbing NELLIE.)

NELLIE
I just can’t do it this way. They’re all looking at me funny. I’m very sensitive, you know. Do you want me to do the scene or not? I don’t know how I eve got mixed up in this. Why don’t you do it? This is not a great situation. I can’t really do this now. Look at him. He’s a….. he’s a….. Casper, I think it would be better if you touch me. 

CASPER
There’s a significance in what you say and I would like to do this with you if I can. Please suggest to me what I should do and I shall be more than happy to do it. 

NELLIE
(Groans)

MICHAEL
He responds as if these are real questions and not accusations slanders provocations. 

CHRISTY
My first political discussion today. 

ALISHA
He responds as if these are statements of import…

CHRISTY
My second third fourth fifth sixth seventh…twenty-ninth….eighty-first…one thousand forty seventh…

MICHAEL
Casper Hauser was born in a shed raised without human contact. 

DEVON
Life is not a bowl of cherries.

NELLIE
Eat the rich. 

MICHAEL
Better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

CASPER
What is to be done?

MICHAEL
Well, yeah, he was the talk of the town for a while there. Talk of the country, really. Was on TV and everything. 

ACTOR
I hear he made some people nervous. Is that true? 

MICHAEL
Hauser isn’t used to so much attention and all…

ACTOR
Not just that. There are reports that he had a strange effect on women. Some people say that every woman in town fell in love with him. 

MICHAEL
Well, yeah. That’s sort of true. He would sit up at Strassheimer’s Book and Card Shop and read those books. And the gals just loved it now, didn’t they?

DEVON
He was a pervert. We might as well say it. 

MICHAEL
I don’t know about that. I think he just didn’t know his ass from his elbow about much of anything. Including sex.

DEVON
He knew how to fuck!

MICHAEL
Well, now maybe he did. But we have no call to be talking about that. We don’t know nothing about Casper and his sex life, now do we?

DEVON
I know. And most everybody in town knew. At least those that wasn’t keeping their eyes closed.

MICHAEL
Now, Karl, reading books to the ladies isn’t exactly…

DEVON
He was sticking it to ‘em all.

MICHAEL
Don’t be stupid, Karl.

DEVON
Well, damned near, as I hear it. 

ACTOR
Why did the women like him? I’ve seen pictures. He was good looking, I guess. But not that good looking. 

MICHAEL
Maybe it had nothing to do with looks. Maybe they were looking for something different. That’s how I figure it. Around here, well, you know, we’re pretty much the same. And he pretty much wasn’t. 

DEVON
That’s for sure!

MICHAEL
They all went soft around him. Maybe it was because he was more like a little kid than a man. They weren’t afraid of him, you know. 

DEVON
Maybe it was because he put a spell on them.

MICHAEL
People don’t cast spells on people, Karl. This is the 21st century. 

DEVON
I don’t care what century it is! I know what he did. Nearly worn his pecker off. That’s what got the fool killed. Some husband who’d had enough. 

MICHAEL
And what husband might that be, Karl?

DEVON
Damned if I know. My wife steered clear of that pervert so it wasn’t none of my business. All I’m saying is, who else would want to slit his throat?

MICHAEL
It’s a real shame on the town him being killed like that.

DEVON
The town’s back to normal now, ain’t it? Everybody’s reading their books to themselves now and sleeping where they’re supposed to sleep. 

MICHAEL
Karl, no one ever sleeps where they’re supposed to sleep.

ACTOR
This is a hard play. I’m not telling you anything new, right? Right, but what I mean to say is that this is a hard play to act in. You can see that. For one thing, where’s the plot? All these stories start and then they don’t go anywhere. Beginnings without ends. Or without middles. Or maybe they’re middles without beginnings, damned if I know. You can imagine what that does to an actor. Where’s the through line? Where’s the character development? Where, indeed, is the conflict? But it’s particularly difficult to be me. Well, not to be me, that comes naturally, so to speak. I mean to act this role. It’s particularly difficult to act this role. After all, what exactly is this role? I don’t even have a stillborn story to work with. Who am I playing? An actor. I am an actor. Should I be speaking about myself? And who would that be anyway? What am I acting? Or am I? Let me put it this way, if I might: I could play every scene differently, as a different character that is, and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, would it? No it would not. Forget about plot. Plots are helpful. They give you a framework. But we can live without them. Right? We’re dealing with a certain level of postmodern sophistication here, am I right? But no character? Without a character to play, what is there to play? What are we playing now you might well ask. I wouldn’t know. One thing has become clear to me. I’m not sure that “clear” is the right word, but it will do. Clearly this is a different game. Okay. I can deal with that. It’s a different game, but is it acting? And if it’s not, what the hell am I doing? And you, why are you listening?

NELLIE
One of the things I liked about Casper is how much he listened. How well he listened. He listened to everything I said. No one ever did that before. 

CHRISTY
He listened because he was never quite sure what you were saying. He was straining. Words were a task for him.

NELLIE
Yes. He worked at listening. So I worked at talking. It was a pleasure. 

ALISHA
It gave me the creeps. Like talking to a retard. Or a crazy person. You never knew what he was really hearing. 

NELLIE
He heard what I said. He listened like he ate. With concentration.

CHRISTY
Yeah. But you’d never know what he’d say.

NELLIE
That’s what was so wonderful. It always had something to do with what I’d said, but it was never what I’d have expected.

ALISHA
Yeah, that’s what I mean. It was strange.

NELLIE
It was like a breeze coming through the window when you didn’t expect it.

ACTOR
This is a play hard. A blow hard. A hard play. A hard row to hoe. Hoe do you do? I’m not saying to new. To you. You knew. What I mean is, right. You can ear that, yes? Double vision on the left? For one wing. There’s the lot. The plot. All these stories. All these tales wagging. All these tongues hanging out. Beginnings it out ends. Ends out. Go out. Come in. Please, sit down. Damned if I know. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I don’t. You can image. An actor. Like me. Where’s the on flick? The conflict? But it’s on a par with me. I mean this ol. Role. Rock and roll. Will never die. But I will. Onion roll. With cream cheese. I don’t have a story to oink with. Pork chops are helpful. They give you something to cut. We’re dealing with a cretin level of postmodern sophistication here, am I right? Right or song. Wrong song. I here am. Giving my all. My IOU. My perfor lance for you. What am E acting, you might bask. Baskin Robbins. Robinson Crusoe. Faster than you can say Jackie Robinson. Hat is there to play? I woudn’t owe. No. Should I be speaking about myself? And ho ould that be any ay? Or am I? And you are you whichwatching? If you don’t have a character, how do you know what to say?

CHRISTY
(To the ACTOR) It just takes some work. You need to relax. Can I get you an iced tea?

CASPER
I’ll have the stuffed peasant, please, with a little garlic on the side.

CHRISTY
Look, try to get the waiter’s attention.

CASPER
Here he comes—I’LL HAVE THE STUFFED PEASANT WITH GARLIC ON THE SIDE.

TOWNSPERSONS

(Laughter)

MICHAEL
You mean pheasant…you’ll have the stuffed pheasant.

NELLIE
What’s a seven-letter word that means all at once? Everything all at once?

CHRISTY
Toute suite. Toute suite is such a lovely phase, don’t you think?
Toute suite. I like that turn.

CASPER
I’LL HAVE THE PEASANT UNDER GLASS TOUTE SUITE.

(All Townspeople improv the correction to Casper’s statement)

MICHAEL
Such a strange fellow. Nice fellow. Strange, though. I’ll have the petit foi gras. Did you mow the lawn before you got up this morning? Dew on the dandelions. Eat your greens. Pass the salt of the earth, please.

ALISHA
And there’s no sense asking for __________these days. They won’t understand you and you won’t get it anyway. Better to ask for what you’ll get. You’ll be satisfied that way. No sense asking for _________. Watch they’re going to bring _________ to the table. Watch.

CASPER
I’LL HAVE THE STUFFED PEASANT UNDER GLASS WITH ___________.

TOWNSPERSONS

(Improv by Townspeople of the correction)

DEVON
I’ll have the correction.

DEVON
I’m hungry.

CHRISTY
The food is here.

CASPER
Let’s eat.

ALISHA
Pat the dog on the way out. It’s good manners. Don’t forget to pat the dog on the way out. It’s good manners.

ACTOR
So, tell us. Who was Casper Hauser? How did he live and how did he die?

CHRISTY
Casper Hauser came to our town many years ago. He was a bit strange. He had his own way of doing things. He had his own way. He was very nice. He was just a kid.

MICHAEL
Casper was born into a family that did not take care of him. He was chained to a stake in the middle of a floor in a tower…

ACTOR
A Tower? In Arkansas?

MICHAEL
It was a tower. That’s how I hear it.

ALISHA
Some say a dungeon. It was in the olden days. Many years ago before we could really know how things are. Of course, nowadays there are many ways of knowing how things were and that might be a difference.

MICHAEL
Well, it was a tower because they talk about it like it was a tower. It could have been a shed or a dungeon, I guess. But I agree that there was no light.

NELLIE
It’s hard to talk about because there was no experience of this before this.

CHRISTY
Well, I don’t know if that’s altogether true. There are people in the world who are living like that now.

DEVON
But they are not of this world.

MICHAEL
What other world is there?

DEVON
I don’t know. Isn’t there a Third World?

ACTOR
When did you first meet Casper?

CHRISTY
On Main Street in Hauser. 

ALISHA
When he walked pass my house naked and all.

NELLIE
When I came home from college. He welcomed me home. Sort of. 

DEVON
I never met him. And I’m glad of it. I’ve heard things.

MICHAEL
I met him once. He didn’t have much to say. Neither did I.

ACTOR
How did he die?

DEVON
Damned if I know.

MICHAEL
Don’t be so quick, Karl.

DEVON
I never even met him, I told you that. Not dead and not alive. Never.

NELLIE
He left us alone in a dark alley. A thief him killed for the money in his pockets. Behind the honky-tonk. That’s what the Sheriff said.

ACTOR
What do you say?

NELLIE
I say I miss him.

DEVON
I bet you do!

CHRISTY
You be careful, Karl. No point in being mean. This is a small town; we have to live together. 

MICHAEL
Casper Hauser was the Salt of the Earth. I only met him once. But he was a salty dog, yes sir. Salt and pepper. 

ALISHA
I don’t know why they killed him. He was crazy and all, but they cut him up real bad. Didn’t need to do that, I guess.

CHRISTY
He came without speech. But we talk about him a lot now.

DEVON
You can’t just come in here and fuck everything up…

ACTOR
Is that what happened? 

NELLIE
Who knows? We all have different memories of my friend Miri Kaspar. Don’t we?

SCENE IMPROVISED BY THE CAST FROM CLIQUES OF CONTEMPORARY LIFE.

CASPER
I know that they will ask me in the morning what I thought of my life and I won’t know of course. But they will ask and I will answer something hopefully. I have always hated language for its…

CHRISTY
Tell them you have nothing to say about it.

CASPER
I have always hated language for its failure…

NELLIE
Better yet, don’t tell them anything.

CASPER
I have always hated language for its failure to deliver…

NELLIE
He has always hated language for its failure. I have always loved language for its capitulation. Language for its malleability, its impreciseness, its failure to pin down…

CASPER
There once was a woman from Vrance
who rode on the side of a prance
she spoke not a word so silently absurd
she didn’t know silence was a dance...

CHRISTY
He always hated language for its failure to…

CASPER
She always loved language for its lie, for its malleability, for its incorrectness and fluidity…

NELLIE
I have always loved language for its impreciseness, for its failure to be precise, for its failure to…

CASPER
I have always hated language for its failure to deliver its promise…

ALISHA
I have always feared men for their logic. The death squad is calling. Shall we go? To the altar? To the wall? To the Last Supper? A last request before we go? 

TOWNSPEOPLE
This language…
Do you think we can get it back?
Take it back?
Was it ours?
Did we make it and they took it from us?
Did we make it?
If we made it and they took it, they made it theirs and we were
Left holding the bag.
Did they steal it?
Who made it?
Who made it theirs?

CASPER
I know that they will ask me in the morning what I thought of my life and I won’t know of course. But they will and I will answer something hopefully.

CHRISTY
Tell them you have nothing to say about it.

NELLIE
Better yet, don’t tell them anything.

CASPER
My life was as not my father before me…

ALISHA
My life was as not the one I had hoped for. 

MICHAEL
My life was always beyond my grasp.

NELLIE
Where did I lose you?

CHRISTY
Don’t speak to me. Don’t speak to me in your words that keep me from my duties. I have duties, I do. So do we all.

CASPER
I have struggled with, made love to, been frustrated by words. Words, meanings, memory…

ALISHA
The death squad is calling. The preacher is calling. He’s on the phone. He wants to know if we’ve set the date. If I make a new word, will it mean something new? I’m so confused. 

MICHAEL
Sorry we are gone.

DEVON
Next time I get to play Casper. He always gets to play Casper and I never get to.

CHRISTY
What are you talking about? You were playing Casper. Jesus. You always say that.

 

END