The America Play


Suzan-Lori Parks

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The America Play: Act 2, Part B: Echo Summary & Analysis

The Foundling Father declares to the audience: “Ladies and Gentlemen: Our American Cousin, Act III, scene 5.” The scene between a Mr. Trenchard and a Miss Keane begins, with Keene finding an undisclosed document she is looking for. Mr. Trenchard soon declares that he “cannot survive the downfall of my house” and points “a pistol to [his] head!” The crowd applauds, the Foundling Father yells “OHWAYOHWHYOHWAYOH!” and then, after a pause, “Helllooooooo!” (twice).
This scene interrupts the otherwise continuous narrative, just like the other “Echo” (the gunshot) that periodically sounds as a trace of the Foundling Father’s existence. Perhaps this scene is one of the signs Lucy has been looking for—but perhaps it also simply shows how other stories from the past (like Our American Cousin, the play Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated) take on new life and meaning as they ricochet across history. While the Foundling Father appears to be directing this brief play-within-a-play, he suddenly slips into spectator mode, cheering with the same line that Lucy said he blurted out at the Great Hole of History—and the same enthusiasm that Lincoln allegedly showed for Our American Cousin. In this way, his identity begins to shift, becoming hybrid: he is neither directing nor acting, in or behind the scenes, fully living or fully dead, or Lincoln or himself.
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