Frank Fetters

Alt Title

Two plays: Absence of a past, promise of a future... and Harry, the king of kaleidoscope dreams

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Polzin, Donald E., 1930-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Theatre Arts


Absence of a Past, Promise of a Future... is the story of a visit by James Turner, a young Black college student, to his Uncle George, a poor farmer who lives in the deep South. The action begins when, while James and George are waiting for a bus back to George's house in Greenville, James stands up to the insults of some white residents in the town of Payson, where the bus station is located. They are joined later by Charles Baines, a white college instructor from Illinois who sits on the "Colored" side of the bus station and tries to strike up a conversation with James and George. Ed Payson, the young, white heir-apparent to the controlling leadership in the town, comes in and convinces Baines that it would be safer for George and James if he (Baines) were to sit on the "White" side. Baines obliges Payson by moving to the other side and becomes lost in a book while Red and Sam, two white roughnecks, enter and begin harassing James. At first, James stands up to them, but when Red places a loaded revolver up to his head, James becomes frightened and withdraws. Red then tells James that, if he is not out of town by sunset, he will die. After Red and Sam leave, Baines asks the two Black men a series of relentless questions until George becomes angry. In his anger, George reveals the atrocities which he and his family suffered at the hands of white people from the town of Payson. Later, Baines allows himself to be convinced into taking a tour of the town, and Red and Sam reenter to become even more threatening and to repeat their ultimatum. After they leave, Payson returns and inadvertently reveals himself to George and James as their deadly enemy. Baines returns shortly thereafter and does not heed James' warning to leave the bus station before sunset, so when the sun sets, Payson, Red and Sam enter to find George, James, and Baines waiting. There is an ensuing struggle, however, and Red and Sam accidentally shoot each other while wounding George. Payson and James scramble for the loose gun. James retrieves it. Payson tries to trade instant medical care for George for control of the gun. James almost relinquishes it, but George grabs the gun and shoots Payson three times, killing him. Then George dies. Harry, the King of Kaleidescope Dreams begins as a lecture on insanity given by three mental patients. They introduce Harry, who finds himself trapped in a confused version of the Hamlet myth. In this version, Claudius and Gertrude refer to Hamlet as their natural son while Harry, assuming the Hamlet role, believes his father is dead and Claudius is his uncle. In the meantime, there is a revolution going on outside the castle walls. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern appear as Revolutionaries then as psychologists. Horatio is Harry’s attendant. Even the three mental patients show as different characters in the mixed-up miasma of Harry's mythical kingdom. After the obligatory scenes of the Ghost’s appearance, Ophelia's rejection, the play within a play, and the murder of Polonius, the conclusion is reached in a duel between Harry and Laertes. As they turn to fire on each other, the castle is besieged by Revolutionaries and all are killed. After this quick termination, Harry, who is hard pressed to find another myth, immediately siezes the Cain and Abel story, envisions his attendant as Abel, and then kills him, offering him up as a sacrifice to God.


ii, 106 pages




Northern Illinois University

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