One To Fear
Bill Long 7/1/07
A New Screenplay by William Frazier
In his inaugural screenplay, One To Fear, Oregon writer William Frazier has given us a stirring, provocative and engaging narative about race, self-awareness and the power of the spiritual world that some people are able to perceive. By the time you experience the drama of One to Fear, you are convinced that there is much more to life than we normally experience. Life, for Frazier, is determined not simply by forces that we can easily identify but also by unseen forces of malevolence as well as good. Just as a scientist can look into a microscope and pronounce that the world as we see is starkly different from the concatenation of crazily-moving molecules that s/he sees, so Bill Frazier is convinced that a person with "spiritual perception" sees the life in ways that include but are not limited to the realities of the "normal" world.
The Flow of One to Fear
Set in a small college town in Eastern Oregon, familiar to Frazier from his childhood, One to Fear depicts the story of a mixed-race college senior, Daniel Hartman, who discovers, to his amazement and growing consternation, that he can "see" behind the world in which we live and heal people from their injuries/illnesses. This ability, however, will come at a tremendous cost for Hartman because every healing he is able to perform is closely connected with the loss of someone he loves. There is thus what you might call a "dilemma of power" that Hartman faces--he has a power that he longs to unleash but it is a power that must be constrained or even tamped down.
This dilemma of power is interlaced with another theme which Frazier gently but insistently probes--and that is Hartman's strangeness as a mixed race (hence, African-American in our culture) young man in a racist culture. The narrative with which Hartman grows up is that his African-American father left him and his Caucasian mother because the father just couldn't take the prejudice attendant upon being in that kind of familial relationship in the early 1980s. In fact, as Daniel later will learn in a dramatic encounter with his father, his father actually possesses the painful gift that Daniel has, and he left the family because of his awareness that if he continued to receive and benefit from the fruit of this gift, members of his family would die.
Daniel's Strange "Gift"
Thus we are presented with not simply with a racial drama which slices to the heart of our continual national drama about race and multi-cultural acceptance, but also with the fact of a multi-generational power that father has bequeathed to son. This power to heal possesses in itself a tremendous ability to alienate and intensify feelings of strangeness and lack of fit. As the play opens we, as well as Daniel, are unaware that he possesses this gift. But it first manifests itself when Daniel goes over to his girlfriend's (Libbie) house to pick up an assignment that she inadvertently left behind. The house is empty, and on the way to the house Daniel encounters an elderly nosy neighbor, Mrs. Bemis, who rudely confronts him with an overlay of racial hostility and overprotectiveness of Libbie's family.
Once inside the house Daniel looks at a portrait of Libbie's family (her father, a physician, also can't stand Daniel because he is a mixed-race man), sits down in a reclining chair, leans back and then, in a state that is between waking and sleeping, is visited by a white dove that then turns black right before his eyes. Blood begins to flow from Dan's face and his hands. He leaps up from the chair to stanch the flow and wakes up, aware that he has "dreamed" everything. But then, as he is catching up with himself, he notices a black feather slowly drift to the carpet. The reader (and viewer) is presented with the first inkling of a world into which Daniel will soon be powerfully drawn.
In an agitated state of mind, he leaves the house, only to be confronted once again by Mrs. Bemis. But rather than seeing in her only the ravings of an old racist, he sees mucuos begin to form in her eyes and pour forth from her in a disgusting manner. She is unaware of this happening, but it is a harbinger of her death. Daniel leaves her rapidly, continues on with his day and then is later informed by Libbie that Mrs. Bemis died shortly after the encounter. Daniel is thus brought face to face with an ability that he now has--to see not only the person that stands before him but to see the "true nature" of the individual as well as the signs of imminent death. Once he knows he has this gift, Daniel begins to see the signs of human decline and death all around him. But, he also discovers that he is able by the power of touch to restore people to their healthy selves. In an informative section on the nature of human blood Frazier (who consulted a hemotologist and an expert on electron microsocpes--about how our blood works and how a scientist "sees" it) shows how a sample of Daniel's blood possesses some additional cells protected by a layer of protein that keep the cells from dying. This "discovery" could potentially alter the nature of human disease and healing.
So as not to steal all the thunder from Frazier's screenplay, suffice it to say that the more Daniel learns about his gift, the more the "powers of darkness" are unleased in his life. He loses his best friend immediately after he has performed a dramatic healing on his pastor's mother. He becomes oppressed by the gift at the same time that the demand for his "services" is growing. He loses his girlfriend who is now just too "freaked out" by all these things to keep with Daniel. Spiritual forces which normally seem dormant are now as alive as Portland roses in June.
In handling the dilemma of power and the reality of the spiritual world, Frazier also includes an insightful Episcopal priest and a culture of Christian symbolism which helps to give Daniel perspective and support. For once an author has helpfully presented "mainline" Christianity in a positive and actually crucial role in interpreting and explaining an important human issue.
It doesn't take Frazier long to get to the problems I have discussed, and he maintains a high level of suspense throughout the work. Sexual innuendos and encounters between boyfriend/girlfriend help to lend realism to this passionate drama. When we arrive at the stunning conclusion, we all become believers in a realm that many of us have only reluctantly given credence to.
Bill Frazier is currently promoting One to Fear through an agent, with the hope that it will be turned into a movie in the near future. We will all benefit if and when it receives the showing it deserves.