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Street Preacher

In 2001 I was a sophomore in college, with a bit more time on my hands than I can imagine now. I wrote a play called “Street Preacher”. You can read the complete text here:

Title: Street Preacher Credit: by Dylan Kinnett


There are pedestrians on a moderately busy street corner. A man, who appears homeless, produces a Bible and reads from it, arms outstretched, wild-eyed.

WHITEY “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows. We considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. Yet, by his wounds we are healed.”


Whitey situates a video camera on a tripod, and speaks to it.

WHITEY This is an urgent warning. This is an urgent warning: if you are alive and viewing this tape then you should know that you have missed the rapture. Do not - I repeat - do not receive a mark of any kind on your body, especially your right hand and forehead, from anyone, no matter who they are and no matter what the reason. I am speaking to you from the other side of glory. You are special to God. You are special to God. We’re rooting for you. Be a Rebel. Resist to the end. We’ll see you soon. Love, the church. My family doesn’t like the name Whitey, so I’ll open with my real title: this is Mustard Seed Southern Giant Curl ‘Da Ram Lamb saying hello to the true believers. And to the rest of you, I love you very much but I will definitely witness against you at the white throned judgment and I would gladly step in for the angels and bind you hand-in-foot casting you into the lake of fire personally, since you died rejecting my lord and savior the lord of the universe and beyond. May God have mercy on your wretched souls and there is no such animal as a Christian psychologist. These are false prophets, wolves in sheep’s clothing. When people say that they are with God, they speak the truth. God will care for my kids because they’re saaaaved; but what hope is there for you? Absolutely no hope, you lying hell-bound beasts, fit for destruction, who blaspheme the Holy Ghost with every breath you take.

Whitey sings now.

WHITEY (CONT’D) ~ This train is bound for Glory This train ~ This train is bound for Glory This train ~ I’ll see my family On the great white morning ~ This train is bound for Glory ~ This train . . .

He sees invisible spirits.

WHITEY (CONT’D) Why thank you Mary; that was a lovely thing to say. Mom-Wade, Gramma Pearl, Bertha, did you folks like that? Oh Solomon! You’re such a flatterer. To camera The love of man and woman will fail you every time. The profession of faith in the safety of a church never saved anyone because that’s not God’s plan. The kingdom of God, rapture, apocalyptic reckoning of the highest order, it is all at hand. Look around you. By the time you see this, hear my words, it’s in the air - this air, not some ozone up there. Let the church wallow with its head in the slop. It is a gaggle of bovine beasts, inbred, domesticated. Its strength is flaccid now. The Church is dead. There is no church. I am speaking to you on behalf of The New Church. I am speaking to you from the other side of glory. I have left the garden of earthly delight, but I see things there that remind me of the glory of which I speak. Yes, I suppose I see glory in them: glory in the curve of the earth, glory in the rocks and stones. I see glory in the beasts that roam this earth. I see glory in the birds, glory in rain bringing water down to form streams, rivers, oceans, ice. There is glory in the miracle of ice. I see glory in the human animal, who can use a miracle as a tool, cubes in a cold drink. And the perception of glory, don’t you think I see glory in that? All this glory I see, all this, it’s nothing. They are earthly things. They will be destroyed. Sooner or later the Earth will spin into the Sun.

He speaks to the camera now.

WHITEY (CONT’D) Look it up: Physics, Astronomy, Gravity, Time. The last tree standing, if a tree stands at all that is, by then, that last tree will pop into flames like a match in the microwave, long before the rocks and stones melt into pools forming currents of molten lava while it will all grow still hotter and boil, spattering magma like grease on the lid of a pan into what thin sheets of ozone remain, and the water and the air will drip back to Earth as its liquid corpse is engulfed by the sun. What is there beyond that? Look around you. The rapture is everywhere. All these things approximate the glory of which I speak, but they are nothing. They are Earthly things, fit for destruction. I am speaking to you from the other side of glory, where Jesus was and is, and from whence he shall come again. The ryapture is everywhere. It’s comin’ right at us, like the landscape on a freeway, getting closer without moving, faster. I see glory in the blur, faster than a freeway, crashing past landscape. I see glory in the chaos, the random human constructions, the divine machinations, faster, faster, on the way to glory, faster than the freeway. What goes faster than a freeway? It’s a train.

He sings again.

WHITEY (CONT’D) ~ This train is bound for Glory This train ~ This train is bound for Glory This train ~ I’ll see my family On the great white morning ~ This train is bound for Glory ~ This train . . .

A knock at the door is heard, mid song. Whitey stops to answer it. The Singin’ Evang’list enters with a guitar. He is dressed as well as his means can provide, although disheveled. He is a man senile before his time. He is like a dog. Whitey returns to the camera, not missing a beat

WHITEY (CONT’D) I would like now to introduce you to a new friend of mine in the Lord.

THE SINGIN’ EVANG’LIST Hello it’s good to be able to talk to you people and . . .

Strums guitar once

THE SINGIN’ EVANG’LIST (CONT’D) I love the Lord. I know that your son is tryin’ to do the best he can and ever’thing and the Lord, uh had us in uh, meetin’ or so and since I’ve grown to know him and um strums uh, I’m known as The The Singin’ Evang’list from Nashvull Tennessee and I had ‘im over as a guest th’ other night, was glad to have ‘im. and uh he wanted us to get together and sing a few songs for you and uh worship the Lord Whitey mumbles ‘amen while the evangelist says: and I hope y’all enjoy it. and I hope the Lord blesses you and you have a long…prosp’rous, happy life.

He plays and sings the old songs he still remembers.


While The Singin’ Evang’list continues playing and singing, Whitey dances. He starts slow and crouched, humble at times, then wry, ready to strike. Slowly, while stomping around in semicircular lines he raises his hands from earth to sky. This is a primal dance. Perhaps he has a tambourine. During the dance, the wall is lifted leaving the stage bare again, except for the evang’list who is in the corner. The lights go red. Whitey is confronted by a mass of bodies. They are red, and naked. They move obliviously like zombies, packed and bumping together like crowds in a nightclub. Whitey’s dance is undone, the bodies are in the way. Bewildered, trying to drive the demons out, he reads:

WHITEY The spirit of the sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has annointed me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the lords favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,

The Demons dissipate.

WHITEY (CONT’D) and provide for those who grieve in Zion, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of the spirit of despair. They will be called Oaks of righteousness, a planting of the lord, for the display of his splendor.

Whitey is spent. He exits. The evang’list plays one more song before realizing he is alone and it is time to conclude for the camera


THE SINGIN’ EVANG’LIST I hope ag’in that ever’ onna you have a very happy, life. We’ll be gettin’ together ag’in mebbe a little further down the road. This is The Singin’ Evang’list from Nashvull Tennessee sayin’ so long until we can see you again, or, hear from ya, or ‘n’ May God bless each and one ever’ onena you in his family. I say again I love him Whitey because he is my brother and he is my brother because he’s, workin’ in the Lord.

EVANGELIST puts the camera away. Miriam enters, from upstairs, with laundry as the evang’list, who is bored, switches the radio on to the contemporary christian channel

MIRIAM Where is he? … He left again didn’t he? Pity he didn’t at least come up and say hello before he left.

MIRIAM is sorting laundry.

MIRIAM (CONTD.) I wonder where God will call him to next? Nashville again, Atlanta perhaps. You know he came home from Chicago. I can’t really say how long he was there, depends on when he got there I guess. Sure, he sent letters, packages when he could, but he lived homelessly. This is his home. We miss him. God’s work is a lonely thing. He rode a bicycle all the way here from Chicago. Did he tell you? He witnessed all the way, stopping when the spirit called him. What is that music you’re listening to, Christian contemporary? I don’t care much for that stuff. Oh, no you don’t have to turn it off. I just don’t care much for that stuff, that’s all. That music, it may be about the lord but it just doesn’t feel very spiritual to me. It’s empty. It’s all “oh holy god we praise your name, blah blah blah.” Those people just don’t sound like they really mean it to me. (They’re just singing songs they know Christians will listen to and buy. Faith is not something you can make money off of.) And I’ve heard people who really feel their faith. They certainly don’t sound like that. I don’t much listen to the radio. I prefer my stories, soap operas, but more than that I like romance novels. I don’t suppose you know much about that sort of thing do you?

She waits for him to reply. He does not.

MIRIAM (CONTD.) (CONT’D) There’s something magical about them, they take you in, and away from everyday life, to another place - a place that’s full of love. People need that stuff you know. If you ever read a fairy tale as a child, then you know what I’m talking about. That’s what my stories are for me. The Knights ride off into the distance, chasing dragons, with tokens of their ladies’ love. And they always return to the ladies they left behind, with spoils of victory. And the soaps, boy do those people talk. They talk about their problems and argue and conspire. Of course, they have to, or there wouldn’t be any talking at all between the sex scenes. I don’t much care for the sex scenes. Its the talking I watch it for. Keeps the lonliness out. By the way, who are you? Where are my manners?

THE SINGIN’ EVANG’LIST I’m known as The Singin’ Evang’list from Nashvull Tennessee and he was over th’ other night, was glad to have ‘im. and uh he uh suggested we sing a few songs about the Lord in his basement, yours too, for this tape he’s makin’ to git the word acrost on the television

MIRIAM You must have travelled with him then, poor thing, you must be tired. Did he say you could stay here… hm? … were you going to sleep here tonight?

evang’list nods.

MIRIAM (CONT’D) I’m afraid you can’t stay here. You don’t have to go, but you can’t stay. Understand? Here, I’ll give you some money so you can find a room someplace. I’m sorry, sometimes my husband takes on a little more than he should. God, there’s a billion people on your earth and you give it all to him. Why him? Why must it always come down to one man? Out there in the street, sleeping on boxes, persecuted by everyone, passersby, other homeless, police, doctors. The doctors - he got taken in for drinking too much once - we all struggle with temptation. The doctors called it a demon that he has, a disease to be medicated and destroyed. The work of the devil is what those doctors do, silencing the word of god. I don’t believe in any mental illness. All he needs to do is come home, let me take care of him. He needs a rest from the harsh world. The work of God can’t be done by human hands in so short a time. It shouldn’t be done by human hands at all, or, at least, not my husband’s, not all by himself. It’s not fair. He tries anyway, though. And in the meantime, there’s this, this, dark side of a fairy tale. Pining away, wishful thinking “Some Day my Prince will come” is all well and good when you’re young, and your whole life is made out of somedays, but then you get older, and your prince never comes, not in the form of a Lord God Almighty to save us from ourselves, not even in the form of a husband. Well, I thought my prince had come with that one, but then he rode off again leaving me thinking someday my prince would come again. That place you can only read about, the fairy tale place where the princes come from, where the love is - anything I’ll ever have stinks as soon as I compare it to that stuff. Look around, everything stinks, stinks to high heaven I tell you. And high heaven? High Heaven direct address this is Miriam, take a big ‘ol whiff, it’s starting to stink awful bad down here if you know what I mean. My prayer, my only prayer is that someday something would happen to end my loneliness. I’m getting to the point where any prince will do. Why does God press him so, drive him on? The end must be near. Why else? I’m afraid.


RUTH “People leave their ropes the way they leave their lives” I think my dad told me that once; and he would know. Shit, look at his desk. Look at this room! I move this furniture around all the time. I just can’t seem to feel settled. Everything looks out of place. Like that pumpkin. It’s been there since Halloween. It’s December now. The smell is sickly sweet, disgustingly sour. Strange thing is that looking at it, you can’t tell its rotting, it looks just fine. My mother doesn’t think it’s fine. She thinks it’s disgusting She thinks I’m disgusting. Fuck her, anyway, what does she know. I knew he was coming. I could feel him getting closer. I knew she’d let him in. he’d stay here. he’d come into this place and she’d smile and love him like he hasn’t fucking been gone for years.

She reads a letter.

RUTH (CONT’D) Salvation is yours. Does he know she cries herself to sleep? She doesn’t know I hear her, but these walls . . . I hear her at night. Pacing down the hallway. I smell the cigarette smoke from the kitchen. Cancer sticks, she says. But she smokes them all the same. He’s the cancer. I’m getting out of here. Soon. I’ll escape from a world of messy desks. The only problem is, I can’t. (What would I do? Where would I go? Who would I hurt by leaving? Parents, friends, myself? Each option denies oppurtunities. How do I choose? I don’t. I can’t.) I just stay here hoping to make up my mind in this mess. There’s one of mom’s stupid dime novels on my desk, another waste of time, and a book about God. I haven’t read it. Then there are all these old papers from a class I took like forever ago. I keep them because of interesting doodles, notes passed in class, or sometimes just because I forget to throw shit away. Random paper just flows through my life, unorganized. Every now and then a particular piece lands on my desk for reasons I don’t understand. Come back to my desk a week from now, that paper won’t be here. I won’t be able to tell you where it went. I won’t let myself leave messes behind. I will lift and carry every piece of furniture in the room before I’ll ever let that happen. I won’t be like him, I know I am, but I won’t. I remember, once, I went to bed after a pretty good day. Before I could fall asleep though, I had this thought: (I really believed it. I was convicted.) I’m going to become exactly like my father, and I cried. We’ve got our differences though, thank god, and god’s one of our differences. I’m not some religious freak. If I’m crazy, like him, I’m crazy in other ways. Religion is supposed to find sacred in the everyday. There is nothing sacred about all this mess I’m in. I’m drowning in my own life. These letters . . . salvation is yours . . . salvation is mine? Jesus saves? Has Jesus saved your sorry ass lately? Will Jesus stop these fucking letters from coming?

She rips up the letter and throws it on the ground.

RUTH (CONT’D) I’m not afraid of you. Our father who art in heaven. . . Do you know where my father is? Most of the time, I don’t. Why does he send these letters? Why can’t my mother sleep at night? Do you know why I’m not fucking afraid of you? Because I don’t have a father, and I don’t have a mother; You took them away from me. No prayers changed your mind. He thinks he’s following you. He sleeps on the street, so he comes home stinking, whenever, if ever, he decides to come home. I wish he wouldn’t.

picking up the peices of the letter.

RUTH (CONT’D) It’s the cancer, it’s him, it’s your voice, God. You scream inside his head. Why don’t you stop it? Heal the sick. Cure the lame. Make the blind man see. Are you going to save me? See this rotting family? Its cancer. It will eat at my insides until nothing’s left. Do you see this? Do you hear this? Make him new again. Will you wipe away her tears? Then do it, because I don’t see any salvation anywhere around here.

The Gospel Singer, the DEMONS/PASSERBY turn into a choir, the Singin’ Evang’list, the orchestra. Ruth stands in the middle of the labyrinth. Whitey and Miriam enter from opposite side of the stage. Whitey speaks.

WHITEY The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the lords favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of the spirit of despair. They will be called Oaks of Righteousness, a planting of the Lord, for the display of His splendor.

MIRIAM and WHITEY share a goodbye moment, kiss, and WHITEY exits. MIRIAM stands alone behind RUTH, who has crumpled to the floor. Music fades.