from The Trial of the Catonsville Nine – Daniel Berrigan

formatting my own

From those in power, we have met little understanding,
much silence, much scorn and punishment. 
We have been accused of arrogance. 
But what of the fantastic arrogance of our leaders? 
What of their crimes against the people, the poor and powerless? 
Still no court will try them, no jail will receive them. 
They live in righteousness. 
They will die in honor. 

For them we have one message,
for those in whose manicured hands the power of the land lies, 
We say to them: 

Lead us.
Lead us in justice and there will be no need to break the law. 
Let the President do what his predecessors failed to do. 
Let him obey the rich less
and the people more. 
Let him think less of the privileged
and more of the poor. 
Less of America
and more of the world.

Let lawmakers, judges, and lawyers think less of the law
and more of justice;
less of legal ritual,
more of human rights. 

To our bishops and superiors we say:
Learn something about the
gospel and something about illegitimate power.
When you do, you will liquidate your investments,
take a house in the slums,
or even join us in jail. 

To lawyers, we say:
Defend draft resisters, ask no fees, insist on justice,
risk contempt of court, go to jail with your clients.

To the prosecution, we say:
Refuse to indict opponents of the war, prefer to resign, practice in private.

To Federal judges, we say:
Give anti-war people suspended sentences
to work for justice and peace or resign your
posts. 

You men of power,
I also have a dream: 
You have told us that your system is reformable. 
Reform it then. 
And we will help,
with all our conviction and energy,
in jail or out.

  • Wow! Why do you want to adapt it? Why not just do it?

  • Daniel Berrigan is a poet, not a playwright, and the lieterality of his use of the trial transcripts in creating structure makes for a VERY static piece that doesn't honour the passion and the poetry in these people.

    I backed off doing the adaptation because I think an adaptation works best as guerrilla/street theatre and the moment of war protest has really passed.

    But in your three spare moments a day you should read up on the Berrigans and revel in the time when peaceful protest and social justice was still a function of the True Christians here in America and not just a faction of the Left.

  • flloydkennedy

    Hi Travis, I've just seen the play here in Brisbane. The speech above was not in it, but the writing was excellent. I guess the Actors' Gang have made their own adaptation. It could manage some cuts here and there, but all in all I think they created a fine working text.

    And it is a fine company of actors, all very accomplished, and finely directed. The piece is engaging throughout, clearly delineated characters, choreographed with some lovely moments provided by subtle shifts in body language.

    The quibble I have with the production (and I wasn't alone in this response) is that vocally the actors tend to hover in the “I am giving a speech, I am reciting a written text, I am an actor repeating someone else's words” area. They do it well, occasionally slipping out of 'acting' voice into the real acting voice which actually sounds like a human being expressing thoughts in the moment, rather than an actor acting. This requires real skill, and I suspect most, if not all, of these actors do have this skill, they just needed appropriate direction to get it to happen.

    My feeling is that this is a tricky piece to get it to work, they just managed it, but it would have been an amazing production had they managed to go the extra mile, vocally. If you can't find actors who can do this, wait till you can.

    So, there's my ten cents. Kate will probably have something to say on the subject as well, if she gets to see it.

  • flloydkennedy

    Hi Travis, I've just seen the play here in Brisbane. The speech above was not in it, but the writing was excellent. I guess the Actors' Gang have made their own adaptation. It could manage some cuts here and there, but all in all I think they created a fine working text.

    And it is a fine company of actors, all very accomplished, and finely directed. The piece is engaging throughout, clearly delineated characters, choreographed with some lovely moments provided by subtle shifts in body language.

    The quibble I have with the production (and I wasn't alone in this response) is that vocally the actors tend to hover in the “I am giving a speech, I am reciting a written text, I am an actor repeating someone else's words” area. They do it well, occasionally slipping out of 'acting' voice into the real acting voice which actually sounds like a human being expressing thoughts in the moment, rather than an actor acting. This requires real skill, and I suspect most, if not all, of these actors do have this skill, they just needed appropriate direction to get it to happen.

    My feeling is that this is a tricky piece to get it to work, they just managed it, but it would have been an amazing production had they managed to go the extra mile, vocally. If you can't find actors who can do this, wait till you can.

    So, there's my ten cents. Kate will probably have something to say on the subject as well, if she gets to see it.