The Cry

By William Electric Black

Beverly, a town near Salem, spring 1692. A STRONG GUST of WIND then lights up to see a young girl, ELIZABETH, pacing back and forth behind a meeting hall. Her apron has been intentionally placed on the ground to hide something. The sun hangs late in the day. ELIZABETH seems very aware and disturbed by this.

 

ELIZABETH

I bid them come? Did they not swear
to gather behind the meeting hall. Soon
Goody Williams will want her supper and
when the fat pig squeals you must fill
her gut. Pray, fill it until she burst!
    (looks off)
I will surely be whipped if I am not
back soon for the pig is truly a beast.

 

Another young girl, ANNIE, enters dressed in similar attire. She carries a wooden bucket and wears her apron.

 

ANNIE

I prayed you’d still be here!

 

ELIZABETH

You are good at prayers for I am
still here AND waiting! Where have
you been?

 

ANNIE

I could not so easily steal away.
    (raising bucket)
Look you, I had to pretend to fetch
water to escape the claws of Goody
Henry. And with the whole town talkin’
witchcraft in yonder Salem...

 

ELIZABETH

What happened in Salem will be
silenced after what happens here.
Especially after we drink blood
and conjure spirits.

 

ANNIE

I will do no such thing.

 

2.

 

ELIZABETH

Do you strike out against me?

 

ANNIE

Conjuring spirits will surely
get us hung. It is a sin! You
remember how Reverend Hale was
bent on hanging Goody Walker but
she died of fever first.

 

ELIZABETH

He will have more than one witch
to catch if you and Catherine drink
with me.

 

ANNIE turns away.

 

ELIZABETH

Annie, you swore to do this deed.
We each swore on our mother’s grave.

 

ANNIE

It was all talk! All talk, I say.
We are no conjurers of spirits. And
neither are those girls in Salem.

 

ELIZABETH

You take their story for sport?

 

ANNIE

Most certainly! And I do not understand
why our town has fallen under the spell
of a silly story.
    (beat)
Girls can not fly. And you are mad to
believe so!

 

ELIZABETH

You say I am mad, Annie Smith? Well,
let it be so.
    (wicked grin)
I killed a chicken. I slit it’s
throat then drained the blood into
a cup.

  3.

 

ANNIE

Pray, why do such a thing?

 

ELIZABETH

To conjure spirits the same way Abby
and the other girls did in Salem. They
drank blood, they danced... They conjured
up the devil and t’was he who gave them
wings to fly and a voice to cast out those
who walk with the devil.

   

ANNIE

Shut it, Elizabeth. You talk nonsense!

 

ELIZABETH grabs ANNIE by her arm and holds her tightly.

 

ELIZABETH

Now look you! We shall drink blood,
conjure spirits, and fly.

 

ANNIE

Let go of me. Goody Henry will
think I have gone off to Salem
and back to fetch water. And I
must tend to her supper or else
she bid Mr. Henry to...

 

ELIZABETH releases ANNIE’s arm.

 

ELIZABETH

Aye...they all want their supper!
And we are the stray dogs who must
fetch it for we have no parents of
our own. We fetch when they command
and beg for their kindness so they
don’t beat us... Well, I tell you
I will fetch and beg no more for my
Goody Williams. Hear me, when Catherine
comes with the poppets we will carry
out the plan.

 

ANNIE

Your plan, Elizabeth? Catherine and I
only agreed so you would shut it.

  4.

 

ELIZABETH

Ye are afraid. Admit it!

 

ANNIE

I am not! But people in Beverly
are. Witchcraft is but a breeze
away. The village is out, don’t
you see?

 

ELIZABETH

I only see a frightened girl.
But after you drink blood and
conjure spirits, you need not
be afraid.

   

ANNIE

Listen to yourself! Did you not hear
what happened in yonder Salem? People
died. They were hung because Abby and
and her jolly band cried out witch!
WITCH! WITCH!!!

 

ELIZABETH quickly covers ANNIE’s mouth.

 

ELIZABETH

Hush, someone will hear you!

 

ANNIE removes ELIZABETH’s hand

 

ANNIE

So who’s afraid now? They will
hang you, us, if we proceed with
this course of action.

 

ELIZABETH

I SHALL NOT FAIL!

 

ELIZABETH quickly moves aside the apron on the ground to reveal a bloody knife and a cup. She picks up the knife and cup.

 

ELIZABETH

I slit a chicken’s throat. I
could easily slit another
chicken’s throat.

5.

 

ANNIE

Look at you! You need not drink
blood. You are already one with
the devil!

 

ELIZABETH

Maybe so. But you shall drink. You
and Catherine shall both drink.

     

ANNIE

If I am not back with this water
Goody Henry will send Mr. Thomas
Henry out with a thick strap. And
when he finds me he will whip me for
he gets great pleasure in doing so.

 

ELIZABETH

Because Goody Henry gives him none.

 

ANNIE

You are wicked one, Elizabeth.
I stand not with you! Now get
out of my way!

 

ELIZABETH

Drink this blood and Thomas Henry
will never beat you again. You will
be free. Free and powerful. Just
like Abby.

 

ANNIE

I hear tell Abby played God. She
and the others decided who got
to live and who got sent to the
gallows.

 

ELIZABETH

They have folks to do the hanging. We
just have to cry out which ones get
the noose. Our hands will be clean.

 

ANNIE

But not our minds, our souls. We
will rot in hell. Now I must go!

  6.

     

ELIZABETH thrust the bloody knife towards ANNIE’s neck then pushes the cup up to her lips.

 

ELIZABETH

You must drink!

 

ANNIE

I SHALL NOT!

     

ELIZABETH

DRINK!

 

CATHERINE, another young girl, sallies in holding three poppets.

 

CATHERINE

I pray, what is the matter here!

 

ANNIE

She’s...she’s gone mad I tell
you. She has killed a chicken
and put it’s blood in a cup that
she now presses to my lips.

 

CATHERINE

Does she speak the truth? Does
the cup overflow with chicken’s
blood? Or might it be some mixture
of tomatoes and beets.

 

ELIZABETH

You do not believe me?

 

ELIZABETH lowers the knife and the cup. ANNIE seizes the moment to escape into CATHERINE’s arms.

 

CATHERINE

You’ve frightened her. You are
such a silly child, Elizabeth.

 

ANNIE

I tried to tell her I wanted no
part of this.

 

 

7.

 

ELIZABETH

And you, Catherine? Where do you
stand.

 

CATHERINE

Behind a smelly barn now used as
a meeting hall. And frankly, I do
not intend to be here much longer.
I came only to deliver your poppets
and fetch Annie. Pray, Goody Henry
is all a howl for you.

   

ANNIE

You see! YOU SEE! Now I am done
for.

 

CATHERINE

I did buy you some time. I offered to
find you before Sir Thomas Henry’s
belt found your backside.
    (giggles)
Come along, Annie.

 

CATHERINE hands the poppets to ELIZABETH and curtsies.

 

ELIZABETH

    (irate)
I should kill the both of you!

 

CATHERINE

Oh posh! You won’t kill us because
you need us.

 

ELIZABETH

That’s what you think.

 

CATHERINE

D’y’ hear that in Salem Abby’s strength
t’were in numbers. Abbey, Betty, Ruth,
Mary... Why you can’t conjure and fly
alone. One person dancing in the forest
moves no trees. But hundreds shake the
earth. The trees have no choice. They
must bend and sway when hundreds dance.

  8.

 

CATHERINE (CONTD)

Reverend Hale, this very morning on
the church steps, said that by herself
Abby is just a scared, little lamb.
    (proudly)
But now the lamb is a wolf.

 

ELIZABETH

You are truly wise, Catherine.

 

CATHERINE

Sensible. Mother and father always
said I had good sense. Though they
are with God now, I have maintained
that quality they hath placed upon
me.

 

ELIZABETH

I am neither sensible nor wise.

 

CATHERINE

You let your emotions lead you.
And that can be very dangerous.

 

ELIZABETH

Aye...you are right. So dangerous.

 

In a flash, ELIZABETH drops her knife, grabs CATHERINE by the hair and quickly pours the chicken’s blood into her mouth. CATHERINE falls to her knees gagging while trying to spit out the blood.

 

ANNIE, alarmed, rushes to CATHERINE’s side.

 

ANNIE

I pray it be tomatoes or beets!

 

CATHERINE

God, oh GOD! It is blood. You have
given me devil’s milk. Am I to die?

 

ELIZABETH

You will live, unfortunately.

 

9.

 

ANNIE

But surely she will grow ill! I
must fetch the doctor.

 

ELIZABETH

Let Catherine give us a word first.

 

CATHERINE

DAMN YOU! YOU ARE A SERPENT IN
DISGUISE!

 

Elated, ELIZABETH kneels down next to CATHERINE.

 

ELIZABETH
The devil takes you! Do you not
feel him?
    (shakes Catherine)
Let him in! LET HIM IN! LET HIM...

 

CATHERINE

OH, GOD! OH, GOD! I FEEL HIM!

 

ELIZABETH

GOOD, I WILL FEEL HIM TOO!

 

ELIZABETH drinks from the cup. The WIND begins to blow.

 

ELIZABETH

Annie do not strike out against
  the devil. Drink with us!

 

ANNIE

I... I can not.

 

CATHERINE

I dare not face the devil without
all of you. He is too powerful!

 

ELIZABETH

Aye... we must face him together
like we swore to! Drink his blood 
Annie, or Catherine and I will be
blinded by the storm of crows he
sets upon us. (looks) See, they come!

10.

 

The sound of CAWING CROWS joins in with the sound of the blowing wind. Afraid, ANNIE kneels with the others. She takes the cup and drinks. She violently coughs and rolls to the ground.

 

ELIZABETH

Look! Look, Catherine. The devil
takes her quick. The dark one now
calls upon us to do his bidding.
T’will be many hangings in Beverly
come sunrise.

 

ANNIE’s body jerks, convulses. The WIND HOWLS LOUDER.

 

  CATHERINE

My Goody Johnson will hang! 

 

ELIZABETH

My Goody Williams will hang! Reverend
Hale will hang!

 

ANNIE rises to her feet and starts to flap her arms.

 

ANNIE

I’M ABOUT TO FLY! I MUST FLY!

 

ELIZABETH and CATHERINE also stand and begin to flap their arms.

 

  CATHERINE

I’M GOING TO FLY, TOO!

 

ELIZABETH

WE MUST FLY OVER THE TOWN CRYING
OUT NAMES OF THOSE WHO DANCE WITH
THE DEVIL!

 

They continue to flap their arms while crying out - Goody Johnson must hang, Goody Williams must hang.

 

ALL

Goody Williams, Goody Johnson, Goody Henry...THEY MUST HANG! THEY MUST HANG!  HANG...

 

BLACKOUT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Electric Black

William Electric Black, aka Ian Ellis James, is a seven-time Emmy Award winning writer for his work on "Sesame Street" between 1992 and 2002. He also wrote for Nickelodeon's "Allegra’s Window" and Lancit Media’s "Backyard Safari." His children’s television show - “Rap-U-Cation” was just optioned by FarView Entertainment. Presently, he is head writer and executive producer on “Dragon Clouds”. In a series of multimedia projects with Doug E. Fresh, Chuck D, and Artie Green, he has campaigned for exercise and good nutrition for young children, prescription drug awareness and obesity prevention. Recent awards include: La MaMa Regional Theater Tony Award, 2018. NY State Assembly Citation - Charles D. Lavine, Member of Assembly, 2018. He has received a Bronze Apple (National Educational Video Award) for directing. He has also received several Best Play Awards and has been published by Benchmark Education, The Dramatic Publishing Co. and Smith & Krauss. He is a faculty member at NYU’s Tisch School (Dept. of Dramatic Writing and NYU’s Summer High School Program). He has also taught at The Collegiate School, The Riverdale Country Day School, Southern Illinois University, 92nd Street Y, Teachers & Writers and TheatreWorks USA. Black's record with "activist" plays is admirable. In 2009, he directed Theater for the New City's sensational and serious "Lonely Soldier Monologues: Women at War in Iraq," a staged series of monologues based on a book by Helen Benedict. The play earned widespread notice and significantly helped the issues of America's female soldiers to be widely recognized for the first time. Black launched his GUNPLAYS series at TNC with "Welcome Home Sonny T," a play that spotlighted two significant forces driving the current epidemic of gun violence: the social impact of alienation and unemployment on young black males and the declining influence of black ministers as a force of stability in affected neighborhoods. He is author of a series of Pre-K, early reader books re: gun violence awareness - A GUN IS NOT FUN (see www.Gunplays.org for his plays and children's books on gun violence awareness).