The Immigrant: A Hamilton County Album

The Immigrant: A Hamilton County Album

by Mark Harelik

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“[Mark] Harelik’s irresistible comedy-drama [is] one of the sweetest and coziest plays imaginable.”—Houston Post

1909. The year that Haskell Harelik, a nineteen-year-old Russian émigré, arrives at the port of Galveston, Texas. Far from his native land and struggling with an alien language, Haskell becomes a penny-a-piece fruit peddler in and around the small town of Hamilton. In the decades that follow, he attains success as a merchant and community leader—and is recognized as a beloved husband, father, and neighbor.

This is Haskell Hareklik’s story . . . and our story.

This critically acclaimed drama celebrates the immigrant experience—the laughter and tears, the toils and triumphs.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307775412
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/05/2011
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Actor–playwright Mark Harelik has frequently appeared in the leading role in The Immigrant, beginning with the play's premiere produciton at the Denver Center Theatre Company. The Immigrant has since been produced in cities large and small throughout the United States. In collaboration with Randall Myler, Mr. Harelik has also written the play Lost Highway: The Music and Legend of Hank Williams.

Read an Excerpt

(The Greenhorn Cousin)
Once a cousin came to me.
Pretty as gold was she, the greenhorn,
Cheeks like red oranges,
Tiny feet begging to dance.
She didn’t walk, but skipped.
She didn’t talk, but sang.
Her manner was gay and cheerful.
That’s how my cousin used to be.
Hair in golden locks,
Little teeth like a string of pearls,
Little eyes like twin doves,
Little lips like spring cherries.
I introduced her to my neighbor,
The one with a millinery store.
I got a job for my cousin,
Long life to Columbus’s land.
She worked for wages for many years
Until only half of her was left.
The cheeks like red oranges
Are now entirely green.
She had found herself a boy.
He took away all her money.
He watched every move she made.
Every night he beat her.
The years have now gone by.
My cousin has become a wreck.
Under her pretty blue eyes
Black lines are now drawn.
Now when I meet my cousin,
I ask how are you, greenhorn.
She says with a sorrowful face
To hell with Columbus’s land.
REFRAIN:        Where shall I be when the first trumpet sounds?
Tell me, where shall I be when it sounds so loud?
When it sounds so loud as to wake up the dead,
Tell me, where whall I be when it sounds?
CHORUS:         When judgment day is drawing nigh,
Where shall I be?
And God the works of men shall try,
oh, Where shall I be?
When east to west the fire shall roll,
Where shall I be?
How will it be with my poor soul, oh,
Where shall I be?
            When wicked men his wrath shall see,
Where shall I be?
And to the hills and mountains flee,
oh, Where shall I be?
When rocks and mountains fall away,
Where shall I be?
And all the works of men decay, oh,
Where shall I be?
            All trouble gone, all conflict passed,
Where shall I be?
And old Appolyon bound at last, oh,
Where shall I be?
When love shall reach from shore to shore,
Where shall I be?
And peace abide forever more,
oh Where shall I be?
HASKELL HARELIK (rhymes with garlic)
The immigrant. He arrives at the Port of Galveston at the age of nineteen. A Russian Jew.
His wife. Three years younger than Haskell.
Owner of the Perry National Bank of Hamilton, Texas. A rock-solid, unyielding man. Forty to forty-five years old.
His wife. Ten years his junior.
The scenes, aside from the Prologue, are various locales in and around Hamilton, a tiny agricultural community in central Texas, from 1909 to the present.
NOTE: The original production of this play was accompanied by projections of photographs and clippings from the Harelik family album. As the pages of the play turned, so did the pages of the album.
The slide projections and sounds introduce us into the countryside of Byelorussia, the heartland of the Russian-Jewish people. We hear a simple balalaika tune, “Di Grine Kusine.” Pictures of Russian farmlands gradually become pictures of Jewish village life. Intruding into this pastoral scene come the sights and sounds of the pogrom: the mad clatter of invading hoofbeats, the shouts and cries. We see the IMMIGRANT standing in the center of the stage. The noises whirl around HIM. We hear whispers of “America, America,” and shortly the images are those of escape, of train travel, of masses of refugees crowding onto boats in German ports. A lengthy and difficult crossing of the Atlantic, packed into steerage. The arrival at the port of entry. Not Ellis Island, as we might expect, but the Port of Galveston, Texas, in the summer of 1909. The IMMIGRANT is lost, hungry and bewildered. We hear cries of Texas longshoremen, Mexican longshoremen, and the general hubbub surrounding an active port. One of the centers of activity is the unloading of South American banana boats. We hear Texan and Spanish voices hawking bananas.
The blast of a boat whistle blacks out the stage, and one immigrant’s American life begins.
Scene One
Hamilton, Texas, 1909. The clear, tuneful song of a mockingbird brings up the lights on the front porch of MILTON and IMA PERRY, and the street. IMA is watering plants on the porch.
Pananasapennyapiece! Pananasapennyapiece!
(HE enters, hauling a ramshackle wheelbarrow filled with bananas, some fresh, some horribly rotten. HE is wearing the traditional long black coat, prayer-shawl vest, and short-brimmed cap of the Orthodox European Jew.)
(IMA stares at HIM. After a moment, HE moves a few feet down the street, then is overcome by a sudden dizziness.)
(Calling through the screen door.)
Milton! Milton! There’s somebody out front!
Who is it?
I don’t know. He don’t look good.
He looks sick, Milton. You better come look.
Stay where you are.
(HE joins HER on the porch.)
(From the barrow, the IMMIGRANT has pulled HIS water bottle, its lid dangling. When MILTON calls to HIM, HE gestures toward THEM with the empty container.)
Kennt ihr mir geb’n ah bissel vasser? (Can you give me a little water?)
Get inside. Get.
Who is he?
Do what I say now.
Ich darf ah bisseleh vasser. Nur genook ontsufill’n mein flasch. (I need a little water. Only enough to fill my bottle.) Vasser.
Oh. Well, you can get some “wasser” at the well at the side of the house.
(The IMMIGRANT doesn’t understand.)
At the side of the house. There. Wasser. Get going.
(HE starts toward the well, then hopefully:)
No bananas.
Thank you.
(HE exits.)
Best find some shade!
Milton, who was that?
Banana pedlar. Wandering around, I expect. I give him some water.
Well, I’ll swan.… He scared the daylights outta me.
No harm long as he keeps moving, I expect.
(HE goes inside leaving IMA on the porch.)
(With relief.)

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