THE OUTRAGE PROJECT - FEATURING PLAYWRIGHT FRANCE-LUCE BENSON

FROM THE DEVIL'S SALT

By France-Luce Benson

Playwright's Note: The following is a monologue from my play “The Devil’s Salt”. From 1959-1986, during the Duvalier dictatorship, Haiti was terrorized by a brutal and corrupt civilian army known as the Ton Ton Macoutes. As America gradually becomes a “Police Nation”, and victims fall prey to men in blue who are apparently above the law – I can’t help but draw parallels. In the play, the character of Serge illustrates how quickly one can fall prey to corruption; and if we are not willing to take action immediately, things will only get worse.

SERGE: We arrested a man in Port au Prince, several weeks ago, held him there in prison, until a few days ago, when we-we… I do not even know what we were looking for, what they wanted from him. But he would not talk. He had no information. This was clear. They say he was planning a coup d’etat, but they had no evidence, en.  He was a very thin man, a small man, with gentle eyes, and a polite way of speaking. Even when they call him gaga, makak, piece of shit, devil - He never fight back. So a few days ago, I was asked to take him to a room. The stench was like the chicken coop after the rain. They tell me to close the door, then to tie his hands and his feet. One of the other officers had a bag, he turned it upside down and let the contents fall at his feet. At first, I did not realize what it was. But as I looked closer…  They were decomposed, green, some still with fresh blood. I could see-a hand, a foot, an ear. The officer took his machete and chopped them up into smaller pieces. My job was to force and hold his mouth open as they stuffed it. They continued until he begin to choke and vomit. Vomit and blood shot from his mouth, his nose. Finally they stopped. He was on the floor now, choking on human remains. And then the officer with the machete sliced his hand, spit, and casually walked out. The others followed. I had become sick, and I must have lost consciousness for a moment. When I opened my eyes again, everyone was gone, everyone but him.  I can still hear him now. His last breath, begging, crying to be set free. I could not stand to watch him suffer like that, to hear the breath pushing to get out. So I took my knife and stab him in the chest. Just to set him free. I say a prayer for his soul, and I leave. I say to myself, ce fini. When I return home, I will burn my uniform and I will never return to Port Au Prince. Fini! But now, now they want me to… There is a man here, un Agronome, by the name of Edner Vil. Un agronome, oui? A man of the earth! What could he possibly? I have orders to take care of him. Un agronom! I can not take another life, en. I can still hear him. I can still smell his blood. I can’t, but, but I was told that if I do not follow orders they will come here. They will hurt you, and the children. What must I do?  En? Tell me, what I must do!  Tell me!

France-Luce Benson’s plays have been produced by Crossroads Theatre Company, The Fire This Time Festival, New Perspectives Theatre, JACK, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, Harlem9, the Billie Holiday Theatre, and the Ensemble Studio Theatre where she is an honored Lifetime Member. She graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with an M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing, and has also studied at Columbia University/Harlem Arts Alliance, Circle Repertory Theatre School, and Florida International University. Her screenplay, Healing Roots, won the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan screenplay competition, and the Sloan Foundation in association with Ensemble Studio Theatre also awarded Ms. Benson a New Play Commission to write The Devil’s Salt, a full length play about Haitian activist Jean Dominique; which was featured at EST’s First Light Festival 2013.  She is a two time Schubert Fellow, as well as a three time scholarship recipient at the Upright Citizens Brigade. She is the writer and producer of the short,“Black Baby Agency”, which she developed with UCB.   Ms. Benson is also an Associate Professor at St. Johns University, a proud member of the Dramatist Guild of America, and New York Women in Film and Television.  Fati’s Last Dance was honored by the Kennedy Center (Lorraine Hansberry Award), and won the Mary Marlin Fisher Prize from Carnegie Mellon University. Most recently, she was named a Finalist for the Women’s Project Playwrights Lab. She is currently working on a new play tentatively titled “The Deportation Chronicles”, commissioned in association with ACLU, and based on the true stories of hundreds of American Immigrants unjustly detained and deported. 

 

This is the 4th post in the 8-part series featuring poets and writers on theme of OUTRAGE. Here is my brief intro to the project.