Microphone Plays‎ > ‎

The People with Light Coming Out of Them

The Free Company

The People with Light Coming Out of Them

Feb 23 1941


Source: The Free Company Presents ...: A Collection of Plays about the Meaning of America (New York, N.Y.) Dodd, Mead Publishers, 1941 





ANNOUNCER

The Columbia Broadcasting System presents "The Free Company."


MUSIC: (Brass choir full . . . strings to back)


MEREDITH

"For what avail, the plow or sail.

Or land or life, if freedom fail?"


MUSIC: (Brass choir . . . strings to back)


MEREDITH

This is Burgess Meredith speaking from Hollywood. The purpose of "The Free Company" is to illustrate by a series of plays the meaning of freedom and partiuclarly those civil rights which make that possible. 


Some of these plays have for their dramatic themes particular sections of the Bill of Rights. Others, like today's drama, will be more general in scope. For our first play in this series, Pulitzer Prize playwright William Saroyan has written, "The People with Light Coming Out of Them." When we asked William

Saroyan to join "The Free Company," Bill said:


SAROYAN

Sure. I'm fond of freedoom--crazy about company. What do I do?


MEREDITH

Write us a play.


SAROYAN

O.K. When?


MEREDITH

Now.


SAROYAN

Right now?


MEREDITH

Sure.


SAROYAN

Good! What do you want this play to be about?


MEREDITH

The United States of America.


SAROYAN

My favorite subject.


MEREDITH

About why you like America.


SAROYAN

Why? (Laughing.) You might as well ask me why I like to breathe. What do you really want?


MEREDITH

Well, Bill, tell us something about why you think this country is worth living and fighting for. Give us your reasons in a little play. You have reasons?


SAROYAN

Millions of 'em. As many reasons as there are places and people. Take California, for instance. Or Texas, or New York. Take San Francisco, or Peoria. Take any place. (Like a railroad conductor.) Rockville Center, Freeport, Merrick, Belmore, Wantagh, Seaford, Massapequa, Amityville, Lindenhurst, and Babylon!


MEREDITH

Wait a minute. Can't you sort of break that down a little?


SAROYAN

Sure. We'll make it local. Now, look. We'll take one city block. Any place. One American row of houses. O.K. There it is. Now, we'll take one American. Anybody. Let's take somebody something like myself, so I'll know what I'm talking about. Otherwise, anybody. Instead of being a writer, let's say this fellow's a painter. He looks at things carefully and then paints what he sees in them. O.K. There's the street and there's this young painter. He's standing on the corner.


MEREDITH

What corner?


SAROYAN

This American corner. Now, give me a typewriter and I'll go to work.


MEREDITH

Sure. Here you are. Sit right down.


SAROYAN

Thanks. (Inserts paper in typewriter, talking as he does so.) Come on, old Walt Whitman. Tell us about America. Tell us about where we live. About home and the family. And Mark Twain, you tell us about it. And old Dan Boone. And a hundred and thirty million people--you tell us about it. 


SOUND (Typing fades. Segue to street sounds . . . street car goes by. People walk. Kids holler to one another. Other street noises.)


YOUNG MAN (still "SAROYAN")

This is a good block. I'll tell you who lives in this block. Well, in the flat below me is the old husband and wife and their granddaughter. The old man's retired: He used to be a railroad worker--they gave him a pension about two years ago. Yesterday I saw him at the corner, just kind of standing in the sun there, burned up about having no job, and he said:


OLD MAN

How does anybody know when a man is through? I'm not through and never have been. As long as a man wants to work, he's not through. Oh, I'm keeping busy. They're not going to kill me with kindness. Do you know what I'm doing now, eh? Well, it's the truth: I've got a whole setup in the basement. Last week I made a little table, and this week I'm working on a chair. I've got to keep going. I've got to do things. You can hear me hammering down there, can't you?


YOUNG MAN

Is that you hammering?


OLD MAN

Yep. How does it sound to you--young and vigorous?


YOUNG MAN

It doesn't sound old.


OLD MAN

I'll say it doesn't. There's plenty of people around here that can use a table, or a chair, or one thing or another, and I'm going to go ahead and make these things--if they can't afford to pay for the lumber, I'm going to make a present of it. I like to be making something--I don't like to sit around being an old man. Ever hear me sing while I'm working?


YOUNG MAN

Yes, I believe I have.


OLD MAN

How does it sound? Come on, now, tell me the truth.


YOUNG MAN

Not bad at all-- What is that song you keep singing all the time?


OLD MAN

"Dolly Day"?


YOUNG MAN

Is that what it is?


OLD MAN

You mean-- (He sings.) "Dolly Day looks so gay, I run all round and round, to hear her fairy footsteps play as she comes o'er the ground."


MUSIC (in. Orchestra repeats the song, as much as above, while they listen.)


YOUNG MAN

Yeah, that's the song.


OLD MAN

Oh, that's my favorite. "Dolly Day." My wife's name is Dolly. So long, lad.


YOUNG MAN

So long, Pop. I'll be seein' you. Well, the old man and his wife--they're folks. And the girl--their granddaughter--she's a stenographer somewhere and she goes to work every morning looking like a princess. The old man--he's Scotch--his wife's English, with a little French--and the granddaughter's mother--she had some Spanish. That's a lot of folks. Well, I was sitting on the steps last Sunday when the girl came home from church, and I never saw anything prettier. She's something like her grandfather when it comes to starting a conversation anywhere at all. She came up the street and started talking from about ten yards away.


GIRL'S VOICE (from a distance, approaching and stopping) Hello--you're the man who's taken the flat upstairs, aren't you? It seems funny not hearing a lot of noise up there any more--there were five growing kids in the family that moved out just before you moved in, and they sure used to have a lot of fun. Gee, it's a beautiful day, isn't it?


YOUNG MAN

It sure is. One of the most beautiful I've ever seen. Too good to waste indoors.


GIRL

That's one thing I like about church on a good day--when it's all over, you go out humming the last song they sang and you step into beautiful sunshine and walk home feeling glad and hungry and happy about everything.


YOUNG MAN

I've got to do that--I've got to go to church next Sunday myself. What kind of a sermon was it?


GIRL

Oh, it was a little sad and made me feel angry about the war and the way people are behaving--but--well, we've got to know about wars and what they mean to people, and what they do--so the last song we sang was "Rock of Ages."


YOUNG MAN

"Rock--of--Ages." I haven't heard that song in years.


[Orchestra and voices for a moment.


GIRL

It's a beautiful song. "Rock--of ages, cleft--for--me." It's good for people to feel that something is solid for them to hang onto. People sing songs like that all over the world, I guess. (Pause.) What do you do?


YOUNG MAN

Oh yes, that's exactly how she said it. She's an American. She wanted to know, so she asked. She was sincere, and she was interested. I told her.


YOUNG MAN

I'm a painter.


GIRL

A house-painter?


YOUNG MAN

Well, I paint houses, too, among other things, but I don't mean that kind of painting. I paint on canvas.


GIRL

You mean you're an artist?


YOUNG MAN

Well, yes, although that sounds a little high-tone for me. I'm a worker whose work is to paint. I've got no boss and I don't keep regular hours or anything like that, but I work like everybody else.


GIRL

Gosh, I never knew people could live so near artists.


YOUNG MAN (laughing)

Wait a minute--don't get me wrong. I'm not famous. In fact, I'm not very well known to more than ten or eleven people in the whole world. I'm not rich--either. I'm sort of poor, but it seems like everything I really want and need I usually get.


GIRL

How do people get to be painters?


YOUNG MAN

Well, I suppose it creeps up on them gradually until they're so sure they're painters that they're willing to work for years trying to prove it--I'm in my seventh year now.


GIRL

Have you got a lot of paintings?


YOUNG MAN

Lots of them. Dozens.


GIRL

Can I see them sometime?


YOUNG MAN

I wish you would, but I've got to warn you that they're not nearly as pretty as some people in the world. Why don't you get your grandfather and grandmother some day when I'm in town and go upstairs and loaf around. The door's always open.


GIRL

We wouldn't go into your house if you weren't there.


YOUNG MAN

Why not? It would be easier for you to look at the paintings, and I wouldn't be there to bother you, trying to explain them. It's not easy for a painter to explain his pictures. You see, you start to paint things, and then after a while as you learn more and more about painting, you start to paint what's inside of things and always coming out--light comes out of most things, especially people, and it sometimes comes out of houses and streets and rooms and windows and all sorts of things that everybody sees every day--well, I sort of concentrate on that light. I'm interested in it. Even when there's no sun shining, if you look carefully you can see light coming out of all sorts of things, but it's not easy to explain.


GIRL

Gosh, you sound like a preacher--only it sounds real--not like a sermon.


YOUNG MAN

Everybody's a preacher, I guess--it's simply a question of what a man preaches.


GIRL

What do you preach?


YOUNG MAN (laughing)

Well, to tell you the truth, I believe something that's so ordinary it's almost embarrassing to mention it--in fact, somebody sophisticated might laugh at me--I believe there's more good in things than anybody ever bothers to see, so I keep looking for it all the time, and when I find it, I try to keep it in a painting, so other people can see it, too. After they see it in a painting, well, they see it everywhere else, too. That's what painting's for.


GIRL

Can we really go up and look at the paintings?


YOUNG MAN

I'm going to take a walk to town in about an hour. Why don't you all go up after you've had dinner? I won't be back until evening.


GIRL

You're sure you won't mind?


YOUNG MAN

Mind? I want you to see my pictures--that's why I paint them.


GIRL

All right, then, we'll go up, and thanks.


YOUNG MAN

O.K. Well, she walked off and I went up to my room.


SOUND (Key in door, door opens, then closes. From a distance trumpet playing begins. It is unmistakably the blowing of a student. It sounds beautiful and sad and eager.)


YOUNG MAN (slowly, with the trumpet in between sentences)

Hear that? That's Mike Okagawa. He lives across the street. He's fifteen. His father runs that cleaning and pressing place. Mike delivers for his father. I've been here only two weeks, but I know practically everybody in this block. Take Mike, for instance. He came upstairs one afternoon with one of my suits his father had cleaned and pressed. I was working at the time, and it looked as if it was going to be a good picture, so I didn't want to stop working. I hollered, "Come in," the door opened, and somebody said:


MIKE

I've brought your suit.


YOUNG MAN

O.K., bring it up and put it on a chair somewhere. I went right on working. I guess I must have worked at least forty minutes more before I stopped. The picture wasn't finished, but I didn't want to do any more work for a while. Wait 'til the morning and go back to it fresh. Well, I lit a cigarette, inhaled, yawned, and stretched.


[He yawns and stretches. Somebody else yawns and stretches with him.


YOUNG MAN

Hello. Who are you?


MIKE

Mike.


YOUNG MAN

Hi-ya. My name's Jim Smith.


MIKE

Pleased to meet you.


YOUNG MAN

How long have you been here?


MIKE

Ever since I brought your suit.


YOUNG MAN

Oh, I'm sorry--how much is it?


MIKE

It's all paid for. You paid my father the day you brought it in--don't you remember?


YOUNG MAN

Then, why--?


MIKE

I wanted to see you make the picture. I never saw a man paint a picture before. Can I look at it?


YOUNG MAN

Sure--it's not finished, but you can take a look at what I've got so far.


MIKE

Thanks. (Pause.) That sure is pretty.


YOUNG MAN

Do you really mean that?


MIKE

That second house--that's our house, isn't it?


YOUNG MAN

Do you live in that house with the green roof?


MIKE

Sure--right over the shop. Wait'll I tell Pa. (Pause.) It sure is pretty.


YOUNG MAN

What's your last name, Mike?


MIKE

Okagawa. I'll bet you know what nationality that is.


YOUNG MAN

Since it's yours, I'd say it's American.


MIKE

Oh, sure--but when it's my father's, it's Japanese, I guess. He was born in Japan. I was born in that house in the picture. Gee, I never thought I'd see that little house in a picture.


[The trumpet has been going all the time, all through this, and it is now going stronger than ever.


YOUNG MAN

Listen to him, will you? Listen to Mike Okagawa across the street, blowing the trumpet. Isn't that beautiful? That's what I like about this block. All the wonderful Americans living here, doing their work and raising their families and going to school, trying to learn how to play the trumpet and looking around everywhere for the good things. Three doors from here is the Ariola family. Father, mother, and seven kids, all under seventeen. Well, they're a great gang of people. The father works in the wholesale produce market, so he gets up at three in the morning to go to work. You know I sometimes walk around town late at night to see how things are then, and one night as I was coming home, I ran into Pete Ariola on his way to work. Well, it's very quiet at three in the morning and you don't expect a stranger to come up to you and start to talk, but Pete did.


SOUND (Early morning sound, a man walking, a door closes softly and a man comes down steps. The two men walk, then stop.)


PETE

Hello.


YOUNG MAN

Hello.


PETE

You're the new fellow in this neighborhood, ain't you?


YOUNG MAN

Yes, I am. I've got that flat three doors up from your place.


PETE

Sure, I see you before. What's your name?


YOUNG MAN

Jim Smith.


PETE

My name Pete Ariola.


YOUNG MAN

That's a good name, Pete. You're up early, aren't you?


PETE

I go to work every day three o'clock in the morning. Where you been? You work nighttime?


YOUNG MAN

In a way.


PETE

What you mean?


YOUNG MAN

Well, I haven't got any working hours, so I guess they're all working hours.


PETE

Where you work?


YOUNG MAN

Pete, I'm a painter. I paint pictures. I look around and paint what I see.


PETE

You, painter? Artist?


YOUNG MAN

Yeah.


PETE

I work wholesale produce market. Where's your family?


YOUNG MAN

My wife's visiting her folks, but she'll be here in a week or so.


PETE

Lonesome, huh?


YOUNG MAN

A little.


PETE

You got kids? I got seven kids.


YOUNG MAN

Seven. That's swell. I've got only two.


PETE (proudly)

I got seven. All go to school, except two. The babies. Sometime you lonesome, come over our house, have a drink of wine, eat some food, meet the kids.


YOUNG MAN

Thanks, Pete. I will.


PETE

Jim, your name?


YOUNG MAN

Yeah, Jim Smith.


PETE

All right, Jim, come on over--we have a good time.


YOUNG MAN

O.K.


YOUNG MAN

So I went over to Pete's the next night and met the family.


SOUND (Door bell rings. Door opens, accordion, voices, gaiety. Door closes.)


PETE

Oh, hello, Jim Smith. Come in, come in. You have supper with us. (Calling.) Oh,--Angela--get some wine for our new neighbor-- This is Jim Smith. (To Jim.) Angela--my wife.


YOUNG MAN

How do you do, Mrs. Ariola.


MRS. ARIOLA

Hello, young feller.


PETE

These are my kids--kids, wait a minute. (Music stops.) Meet the new neighbor--Jim Smith. Let's see--we start with the babies. This is Nickie.


YOUNG MAN

Hi-ya, Nick.


PETE

Hey, Angela, look--the neighbor pick up Nickie. Nickie, you like this feller? Sure you like him. Eh--that's fine. This little girl is next: Flora--my little flower. This feller--he's Pat. Hey, Pat, how you feel?


PAT

O.K., Pa--hello, Mr. Smith.


YOUNG MAN

Hello, Pat.


PETE

This lady--oh, she's a lady--look those high-heel shoes--she's Rosa, gonna be opera singer.


ROSA

I'm gonna be a school teacher.


PETE

All right, Rosa--school teacher, opera singer, too.


ROSA

Papa wants everybody be an opera singer.


PETE

Next, da big fellers--Joe, fourteen; Tom, fifteen half, and the oldest boy, Dominick, sixteen half, and another one on the way. All right, everybody, this feller, our new neighbor, Jim Smith.


EVERYBODY

Hello, Mr. Smith.


PETE

All right, Jim, drink this wine. Come on, kids, let's give a song: "O Sole Mio." Dominick, give me a chord in F.


[They sing, including young man.


YOUNG MAN

Well, we all sang, and I sang as loud as anybody else. We drank and had supper together and talked, and before I left that house I knew how important a part of America it is. What a great American Pete is, and his wife, and all the kids. They've all been up to my place for a visit, and now and then the oldest boy, Dominick comes up alone and talks. Everybody I've met on this block so far has had something to talk about. Dominick--for instance--wants to know if he ought to go to college, like his father wants him to, or if he ought to get out and go to work down at the wholesale produce market and help out with the family expenses. Well, I don't say anything--I just listen--and after two or three visits Dominick answers all his own questions, and then he gets up and says:


DOMINICK

Well, thanks a lot, Mr. Smith--thanks for telling me--that's what I'll do. I'll go to college and work both. I guess there's time for everything if a fellow makes up his mind to find the time. I can work during summer vacation, and I can work Saturdays. I'd work Sundays, too, but we're Catholics and Ma would get sore if I didn't go to church Sunday. Well, I'll be seeing you. That sure is a swell picture.


YOUNG MAN

There's a fellow who's got a furnished room in the house at the corner. He's a doctor at the hospital up the hill. There's a clinic up there and I drop in once in a while to see the people when they're sick, and that's where I met this fellow. Well, the kids love him--they're afraid of the other doctors, but they love Dr. John--John Bailey's his name, but they call him Dr. John. We got to talking and he came up one afternoon for a drink. I wanted to know why the kids weren't afraid of him--most people are a little afraid of anybody whose color is a little different from their own, and Bailey's color is the blackest black you ever saw. I asked him about the kids not being afraid of him.


BAILEY

Well, maybe it's because kids are people at their best. A kid with a pain, all he wants is to have the pain taken out of him. I don't go to work on a kid until I get to know him. We talk a little while, and the first thing I know they forget I'm a doctor--they even forget I'm colored. And then I know I can go to work. The greater part of pain is feeling hopeless about it, and I never feel hopeless about anything. Kids find out about that and they stop being afraid of pain, too--well, by that time more than half of it's gone, and what's left of it is on its way out. (Chuckling.) I laugh a good deal, too, because laughing's just about as strong as sunlight as a healing force. Where there's laughter, there's never fear. It helps the kids.


YOUNG MAN

How does it happen that you do laugh, though?


BAILEY

Well, I didn't used to--I used to let my own troubles grow--until finally I found out that that was foolish. The living are healthy. Life is healthy. It's full of energy and laughter. I know that from my work. Oh, I've got to help them with medicine and heat and treatments and all that, but what really heals them is their own faith. Mind if I have another drink?


YOUNG MAN

Go ahead. Pour me one, too.


MUSIC (especially composed, American throughout following)


YOUNG MAN

All the people in this block are like that. Like Bailey and Pete, and his boy Dominick, and Mike Okagawa, and the old man, and his granddaughter. But this block's no different from any other block in any other town in America. People are like that all over the place, and when you've got people with light coming out of them, like it comes out of these people, then you've got light coming out of their houses and the streets they live on, and the towns where these streets are, and the whole land where these towns are. You hear 'em coming to life in the morning, the alarm clocks ringing, the faucets running, and everybody getting up to start another day. You know they're happy people because they belong to a happy nation. They're free people and they're glad to be alive. I've done a lot of looking around all over this country, because that's my work, and everywhere I've gone--from the biggest city to the smallest town--I've seen people with light in 'em. Human people. People who are young and friendly and kind--oh, I know. I've seen bad people, too--all kinds of 'em--but I looked a long time, and it's gotten so that I can see right through people who look as if they're bad. But they're not bad--they're having trouble--they're up against something--things have been going wrong--they've lost faith--they need more things than they've got--they're out fighting because they don't know what else to do about the trouble--but even these people are good people. Something's pressing against their spirits, hurting 'em. Everything isn't perfect in any block of any town or city in this country, but in this country it's always trying to improve--it's always working at the job, the same as a painter's got to work at a picture he's painting. Look out this window down at the street. It's not a fancy street. The houses aren't much. The people in them aren't people you read about in newspapers and magazines. But down there is America. That street, and those houses, and the people living in them. There is the strength of this nation, and the hope of the world. Look at the light shining out of those humble houses. That light is the light of a happy nation, a free and growing people, a people without fear, a people who love instead of hate, whose casual everyday humanity is stronger than any other power in the world. This is a good block. I like it here, because the best in people from all over the world is growing here into the first real nation of the world--the American nation--the nation of human people--the people with light coming out of them.


MUSIC (up to conclude)


MEREDITH

Burgess Meredith speaking--thank you, William Saroyan. In many countries, the light of humanity flickers and dies--snuffed out by faithless men, by men who have no light in themselves and who therefore deny the existence of light anywhere. Our nation was formulated by men who cherished the light that comes from people. The meaning of our freedom is this: here, in our land, darkness can never win. Let us then resolve again, in the face of threatening shadows, that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.


MUSIC (theme . . . brass choir . . . strings to back)


MEREDITH

John Garfield, Nancy Kelly, Eduardo Ciannelli, Edmund Gwenn, William Tracy, Tim Holt and Clinton Rosemond have joined "The Free Company" in presenting the first in a series of broadcasts, William Saroyan's original radio play, "The People with Light Coming Out of Them." Leith Stevens composed and conducted an original music score. Charles Vanda produced. To all these people, to the Screen Actors' Guild, to the American Federation of Radio Artists and to the Columbia network, who have all combined to make this series possible, this is Burgess Meredith offering the sincere thanks of "The Free Company."


MUSIC (theme full . . . down to back)


ANNOUNCER

Next week this same time "The Free Company" will present a play by the Pulitzer Prize winner, Marc Connelly, entitled "The Mole on Lincoln's Cheek." "The Free Company" series is directed by Irving Reis. This is the COLUMBIA . . . BROADCASTING SYSTEM.


Comments