Ten Lepers

by Kent Suss

Summary

Ten people stricken with leprosy leave their homes to begin a new life at a leper colony.  When they hear that Jesus is teaching nearby, they venture out in the hope of being healed.  Repelled by the crowds, they stumble upon a way to get close to Jesus and have their lives transformed.

Scripture

Luke 17: 12-19

Characters

Rachel, a wealthy merchant
Simon, Rachel's slave
Jana, a Samaritan woman
Susanna, a poor Hebrew widow
Stephen, Susanna's son
Josiah, a priest of the temple at Jerusalem
Lucus, a Roman soldier
Helen, a Greek pilgrim
Mira, Helen's life-long friend & travelling companion
Doris, a Hebrew woman

Script

Scene 1: Simon and Rachel: The First Sign
Simon: Once upon a time there was a wealthy woman named Rachel.  Her husband had
died, leaving her a fleet of trading ships, and a number of very fine houses.  She could have sold the ships and the houses and lived out her days in comfort, but she had goals.
Rachel:(examining herself in a wall mirror) Simon, the red or the blue?
Simon: I prefer the blue, madam.
Rachel: Then fetch me the red at once.
Simon: I was Rachel's slave, and my good taste had earned me the post of personal assistant.
Rachel: You will deliver this letter and then you will meet me at the harbor to inspect a new shipment of cloth that has just arrived.  Then you will accompany me to a conference on trade this evening. (She models a hat) The print or the stripes?
Simon: Busy.
Rachel: (indignantly) Busy?  And why shouldn't I keep busy?  Should a wealthy widow like me keep to herself and keep her nose out of business?  I'll have you know my dear Abe would never have been the success he was without my advice.  Do you think I ought to retire?
Simon: No, just wear something on your head that is less busy than that hat.  It looks too much like a flowerpot.
Rachel: Hmmm.  Perfect.  Simon, I do dream of retirement, but should I sell my ships to my competitors?  Should I just walk away from all I have worked for?  Things are worth more than money.  Some families have lived in my houses for 20 years.  Some people have sailed my ships for just as long.
Simon: I'm sure whatever you have in mind is a brilliant idea.
Rachel: I will sell my ships to their captains, and my homes to their tenants.  When they can afford this, and when I can, I shall retire and we shall enjoy my freedom.
Simon: And will I enjoy your freedom as much as you say?
Rachel: (Looking in the mirror)The day I retire, Simon, you shall enjoy your own
freedom.
Simon: Marvellous.
Rachel: You like it??  Well, then...Change something.
Simon: I mean that I would marvel at finding myself a free man. (Adjusting Rachelís robe behind her neck) I would be overjoyed.
Rachel: I solemnly promise you that day will come.
Simon: Rachel, (he is scrutinizing the side of her lower neck) what is this?
Rachel:(looking closely) What is what?
Simon: Neither of us dared speak the word that was in our minds.  When that first open sore, that first disintegration of the skin, that first lesion appears, the truth dawns slowly, and the full weight of the future settles on one's shoulders bit by bit.  We made the trip to the temple in Jerusalem, and the priest ordered Rachel quarantined for seven days.  She stayed alone in a tent in the desert for the obligatory week, and then the priest examined her again.
Rachel: Leprosy.  I can say it.  Say it, Simon.
Simon: Leprosy.  The word meant a long, slow death lived as an exile from society.  No leper could enter a house or buy at the market.
Rachel:  The leper's camp.  My new home.  (She over-formally offers him her hand.) Simon, you have your freedom sooner than you thought.
Simon:   Freedom?  What would I do with this freedom?  Free to wander, to settle down. (He grasps her outstretched hand) Free to follow my best friend to her death.
Rachel: I must go. (She tries to withdraw her hand.)
Simon: (He clings to her hand) We will go together.

Scene 2: Josiah, Stephen, Susanna, Jana: The Temple

Josiah:(inspecting Stephen's right arm) Hmmm.  Let's see the mark on the other arm, boy.
Susanna: His name is Stephen.
Josiah: Eh?
Susanna: Pardon me, your holiness.  I said his name is Stephen-- not "boy".
Josiah:(overly polite) I beg your pardon.  Stephen, would you mind showing me the mark on your other arm?
Stephen: (showing him) It's about the same as it was a week ago.  No worse.
Josiah: About the same, yes, ABOUT the same.  Leg!
Stephen: What?
Josiah: (patronizing) Kindly show me the mark on you LEG, Stephen, son of...(he
searches for the name).
Susanna: Susanna.
Josiah:  Ah, I may be mistaken, but I think most good Hebrew boys use their FATHER'S name as a surname.
Susanna: Well, he hasn't got a father.
Josiah: Oh?
Susanna: He never had one.
Josiah: (sarcastically) Well, isn't today just full of surprises.  Let's just see the MARK!!
Stephen: (reluctantly pulls up his pant leg to show a big ugly mark.  Josiah almost retches.)  I guess this one's got a bit worse.
Josiah: Stephen, son of Susanna, I declare you UNCLEAN!
Susanna: No!  It's not possible!
Josiah: God struck King Uzziah with leprosy for violating his Temple.  Perhaps this is his way of punishing evildoers.
Susanna: (Clutching Stephen)  You can't be serious.  He's just a boy!
Josiah: Just a boy!  Oh, no, not at all.  He's Stephen the Leper!  Good luck at the leper camp, NEXT!
(exit Stephen and Susanna)
(enter Jana)
Jana:    Sir, I've found these strange markings on my skin, and I'm worried they might be serious.
Josiah: But, you're a Samaritan.
Jana: (pretending to be amazed) So I am.
Josiah: Don't you know Samaritans aren't allowed in the Temple?
Jana:    Sir, if you could just tell me what these marks are, if you know. (She steps towards him.)
Josiah: (Backing away) You Samaritans don't respect God's laws, you don't honor the sanctity of marriage, you eat unclean animals, and you have the nerve to come to the temple looking for help from God?
Jana:   I don't claim to be worthy of anything special.  I'm sick!  I may be dying.  I've come to ask for God's mercy.
Josiah: In my experience, which may be limited compared to yours, God's mercy is not available to Samaritans.
Jana: Then where does a dying Samaritan woman go for help?
Josiah: Will you leave this place if I tell you?
Jana: Yes.
Josiah:  On the road to Samaria, there is a leper colony.  Food is brought there daily, (sarcastically) out of mercy.

Scene 3: Mira and Helen: Greeks

Mira: (entering Helen's tent and whispering) Helen!
Helen: Mira!  (horrified) Why are you here?
Mira: I had to see you.
Helen: Mira! You shouldn't be here!  You'll catch it, too!
Mira: Oh, Helen.(goes to embrace her)
Helen: Stay away!  You have to leave.  You have to go back to Greece!
Mira:   Helen!  Helen, look at me.  Look at me! (She shows her a lesion on her arm) Look here.  (She shows her another on her neck)And here. (She shows her a third on her forehead) And here.  I have it already.  It's spreading.  Fast.
Helen: Oh, Mira.(She embraces her)
Mira: Well, at least we saw the temple.
Helen: And the gardens.
Mira: And the palace.
Helen: We never heard Jesus of Nazareth, though.
Mira:   Oh Helen, I know your heart was set on hearing him teach.  I hear the crowds are unbearable, though.
Helen: What will our families think has happened to us?
Mira: I wrote them.
Helen: What did you write?
Mira: I told them we'd been sold as slaves to a wealthy foreign sultan.
Helen: They'll never come looking for us.
Mira: Exactly.
Helen: How did this happen to us?
Mira: I don't know, Helen.  I don't know.
Helen: (Brushes Mira's hair away from her face) You look ridiculous.
(They laugh)

Scene 4:  Full Cast: The Leper Colony

Lucus: That was pathetic!  If you're going to be good lepers, you're going to have to learn to shout clearly and together.  Now try it again.
Lepers (everyone else except Josiah - half-heartedly, not in very good unison) Unclean!  Unclean!
Lucus: No, no, no!!  On the count of three!  One, two, three...(he conducts them)
Lepers: (together) Unclean!  UnCLEAN!!
Lucus: (reluctantly)That was better.  Now I want to see you wave your arms around.  You, boy, try it.
Susanna: His name is Stephen.
Lucus: Listen, woman, I didn't ask for this job.  I don't like lepers.  I don't hang around with them when I get off work, and I certainly don't learn their names.  Boy, try it.
Stephen: Unclean (waves his arms) unclean!
Lucus:  Not bad.  Wave your arms a little more  - scary, like.  And use your diaphragm.  And here, put more ashes in your hair.
Stephen: (Waving his arms ferociously) UNCLEAN!!
Lucus: (enthusiastically) Great job Stephen! (clutches his head with his hand) Aarrgh! No names.  Thanks a lot, woman!
Susanna: Susanna.
Lucus: Susanna. AARRGH!
Doris: Hey!  Who is that?  Someone is coming.  Unclean!
Lepers: UNCLEAN!
Jana: He looks familiar.  Oh, great.  It's you.
Josiah: (arrives and falls on his knees) God has stricken me, too.
Jana: For what sin, priest?
Josiah: I don't know, but it must have been very evil.
Jana: Perhaps for turning away a dying Samaritan.
Josiah: Maybe I shouldn't have given you directions to get here.
Jana: Believe me, I'd heal you if I could just to keep you out of my life.
Lucus: If you old friends are through with your happy reunion, perhaps we could get back to chanting practice.
Mira: (Advancing slowly on Lucus) You know what you can do with your chanting
practice?
Lucus: You stay away from me, you leper!
Mira: What?  Afraid of a little human contact?
Lucus: (As the lepers gather around him) Don't touch me!
Lepers: (Separately at first, then together in a slowly rising chant) Unclean, unclean, unclean, unclean...(this continues into Lucus' next speech)
Lucus: Stay back! (draws his sword) I'm warning you!  FREEZE! (the lepers fall silent.) You want to kill me with your disease?  You're too late.  (He tears off his helmet.  He has a huge lesion on his head.)  See?  I'm already a leper.  There! Do you want to touch this?  Do you?

Scene 5: Doris, Helen, and Rachel: A Sorry Bunch

Doris:  What a sorry bunch we were.  Ten in all.  Rich, poor, woman, man, Hebrew, Greek, Roman, Samaritan.  Living off half-rotten rations left outside the boundaries of our camp by charitable yet terrified locals.  The same locals who showered stones on us if we ventured too close to their homes.  We weren't ungrateful.  We were bitter.
Helen:  No one visited us.  We made sure of that.  We scared off anyone who strayed into our camp with shouts of  "unclean".
Rachel: There was no one to talk to but one another.  Helen, what is your deepest regret?
Helen: I'm sad for my family, but what really hurts is that I'll never hear Jesus teach.
Doris: Ah, Jesus!  Yes, you've missed out.  I saw him turn water into wine.
Rachel: I hear he performs all kinds of strange works.
Doris: He catches fish with his voice, and walks on water.
Helen:  Really?  Tell me more!
Doris: He once fed five thousand people with seven loaves of bread and two fish.
Helen: How did he do that?  Oh, (disappointed) you're joking with me.
Doris: Absolutely not!
Rachel: It sounds strange, dear, but I've also heard that he heals the sick.
Helen: (pause) How sick?
Rachel: (pause) I hear he raises the dead.

Scene 6: Full Cast: Beginning the Journey.

Simon: We were happy for a reason to leave the camp.
Lucus: It's not so much that seeing Jesus is a good enough reason to leave, but rather, that not seeing Jesus isn't a good enough reason to stay.
Jana:    You've been talking to the priest too much, Lucus.  If you have no hope, why do you keep putting one foot in front of the other?
Simon: Jana, don't be so hard on him.  Would you want to be left behind; the only leper in a leper colony?
Jana: Is that all we are, Simon?  Are we just lepers?
Simon: I'm a slave -- (he remembers) a free slave.  A friend.
Susanna: I'm a person, a woman.  I have a son.
Lucus:(in despair) I'm a soldier cursed by God!
Simon: And so we trudged on, feeling different degrees of hope and despair.  When we passed other travelers, we shouted "unclean" to save others from our curse.  To each other, we were the only world we had left.  To strangers, we were just lepers.
Susanna: We followed other travelers on their way to see Jesus.  The crowds got thicker and thicker.  Thousands of people hoping to hear words of truth, to see miracles, to be healed.  People eager to be filled with wonder.

Scene 7: Full Cast: Meeting Jesus

Mira: (They turn to face front) We rounded a bend in the road and were frozen by what we saw.  Ahead of us lay a broad valley.  The hillsides were like an enormous quilt of seething color and motion.  People too numerous to count covered every inch of ground.
Josiah: Far off, in the center of the valley, lay a tiny blue lake like a saucer on an immense tablecloth.  On its surface bobbed a tiny boat.  In this boat sat two men: one holding onto the oars, and one...(he can't find the right word) The energy of every soul in this valley seemed to be focused on this one man.  His arms and lips moved, and a ripple began as people close enough to hear passed the message on to those behind them.  The words swept outwards in waves until they reached us.
Doris:  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.  Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  I was in desperate need of comfort.  Mourning had become a state of being for me.  But the hope of healing that had brought me this far was slipping away.  The crowd was packed tight. There was no way for us to squeeze our way through.  I was ready to turn around and drag myself away, when young Stephen spoke.
Stephen:  Unclean!  UNCLEAN!!
Mira: People turned to look at us.  I was mortified.  Be silent!
Josiah: Someone clapped a hand over Stephen's mouth. (He claps a hand over Stephen's mouth.)
Doris:  But something strange was happening.  People were crowding against each
other to get away from us.  An empty space was growing around us.
Mira:  The massive quilt gave a shiver and shifted ever so slightly.
Josiah:  In surprise, the hand on Stephen's mouth dropped for a moment.
Stephen:  Unclean!  UNCLEEEEAAAAN!!
Josiah:  The hand stayed dropped.  The crowd was actually moving aside, like the Red Sea opening up.
Mira:  We all joined in the chant and pushed forward as a group.
Lepers: (Waving their arms) Unclean, unclean... (the chanting continues)
Doris: (Over the chanting) As we advanced, the path opened up before us.  The entire valley seemed to murmur and ripple as we got closer and closer to the tiny lake and Jesus, until ten lepers stood on the shore.  (The lepers all freeze, and one by one drop their hands.  They are all somewhat hunched over.) Something in his look told me that he remembered me from the wedding at Cana over a year before, where I had seen him turn water into wine.
Stephen: Jesus took up an oar and started to row the boat towards us.  The other man hesitated a moment and then put his oar into the water as well.  The boat scraped up onto the beach and Jesus jumped out.
Josiah: He walked towards us, saying nothing.
Mira: He just looked us in the eyes.
Doris: (straightening up) He touched my shoulder.
Stephen: (straightening up) He touched a lesion on my cheek.
Josiah: (straightening up) He gripped my face in both his hands, and stared into my soul.
Mira: (straightening up) He stopped in front of me and smiled when I whispered "Have pity on us."
Doris: (softly, sadly) And then he sent us away.

Scene 8: Full Cast: Getting Healed

Stephen: Not away!  To the temple!  To be inspected by the priests.
Helen: But the sores are still here!
Mira: So what now?
Stephen: To the temple.
Susanna: To the temple.
Lucus: To the temple!!
Helen: We walked along the road, saying nothing, until Mira gave a cry.
Mira: Helen -
Helen: -she shouted -
Mira: - Helen, my hands are so smooth!
Susanna: It was happening to all of us.  Decaying tissue was transforming before our eyes into healthy, baby-soft skin.  Legs and arms became strong again.  Vision became clear.  We all looked at one another, and the most exhilarating truth became obvious.
Lepers: (ad lib, they inspect, touch, grasp, and embrace one another) You're healed! Am I healed?  How about my neck?  Your head is clear!  You look terrific!
Lucus: Clean!  CLEAN!!!
(Lepers ad lib a celebration: they embrace, play fight, jump for joy, fall to their knees and pray, and perform other expressions of celebration.  They dance their way off the stage until only Jana is left.  She steps forward  and delivers the final monologue looking forward, over the audience.)

Scene 9: Jana the Samaritan

Jana: Sir?  I came back to thank you for my life.  The others?  They are in Jerusalem, being examined by the priests as you instructed.  I suppose they'll all go back to their old jobs and lives.  Rachel, the wealthy widow, has freed her slave Simon...Well, she set him free when she got leprosy, and now she set him free again and gave him a paid position in her household, and she promises that the widow and her son will be adequately cared for, and the Greeks will have passage home to their families. No, sir, I haven't been examined by the priests.  Well, I am a Samaritan, and I am not welcome in the temple.  I am not free to worship there, but in my heart I will worship the power that healed these sores, forever.  My faith?  My faith has made me well?  Oh no, YOU have made me  well.  Your mercy and your power.  You have made a miracle out of me.
............................................................
Copyright Kent Suss, all rights reserved.
The script may not be reproduced, translated or copied in any medium, including books, CDs and on the Internet, without written permission of the author.
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged. In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed. He may be contacted at: ksuss@mtyp.ca