Illyria Street Commune

By Fredy Perlman (2011)

Revolt Library Anarchism Illyria Street Commune

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(1934 - 1985)
Fredy Perlman (August 20, 1934 – July 26, 1985) was an American author, publisher, professor, and activist. His most popular work, the book Against His-Story, Against Leviathan!, details the rise of state domination with a retelling of history through the Hobbesian metaphor of the Leviathan. Though Perlman detested ideology and claimed that the only "-ist" he would respond to was "cellist," his work as an author and publisher has been influential on modern anarchist thought. (From :


This document contains 15 sections, with 31,280 words or 200,644 characters.

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to Donna — Ben A note on performing Illyria Street Commune A dash at the end of a speech indicates that the next speaker begins before the previous one is finished. In general, there should be no pauses; props can be carried in and out while the action develops. Sequences in different parts of the room can sometimes be done simultaneously, depending on the discretion of the performers. If a prompter is necessary, it would be consistent with the play (“Ben’s play”) if Ben sat in a corner with a script, and intervened to correct lines, stepping out of his corner into scenes in which he takes part. In general, only plot and character developments have been worked out; mannerisms, motions, and also actions of other people in the house, have not. Since the setting is the main room of a commune, much will probably be happening all the time. But in developing such actions, criteria like “This will really... (From :

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TAPED NARRATOR (voice of Olympia played through a tape recorder): It began with isolated strangers in the big city, hostile and suspicious individuals surrounded by shells, their tentacles warning them of constant dangers. VOICE OF OLYMPIA (from right): Your garden is extremely well kept. VOICE OF DONNA: It’s what I like best about this house, especially now when the sprouts start coming up. VOICE OF OLYMPIA: I’ve never seen such an enormous kitchen and so well equipped! VOICE OF DONNA: I guess they just ran off and left all their stuff, as if the city were being invaded. VOICE OF OLYMPIA: What’s in here? VOICE OF DONNA: I don’t know what they used this room for, but I’ve been putting things here I didn’t have the heart to throw away. VOICE OF OLYMPIA: That chandelier — did it actually hang somewhere? (From :

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TAPED NARRATOR: For almost a year we failed to break down the isolation. We remained strangers, tenants in an apartment house, miles apart at our jobs during the day, walled off from each other at night, polite and suspicious, unwilling to share, afraid to touch each other. One experimented in the privacy of his room, another smoked in the privacy of his, the third continued to tend her garden. The house was big — but dead. And then something happened; it started to come alive. VOICE OF PHILIP (from right): If you break that vase one more time I’ll break your ass! Play with your own things. (Upstairs door slams) (OLYMPIA and TONI enter from right) TONI: How can you expect me to move in here when you haven’t even told them about me? OLYMPIA: I thought it would go more smoothly if you helped create an atmosphere. TONI: Wh... (From :

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TAPED NARRATOR — Five isolated particles started to come out of their shells, to shed their tentacles, to form a community bristling with life. And as soon as five of us stepped out of our prisons, other lonely, isolated individuals were drawn to us like bees to flowers. (During the narration, ALEC and LEON have installed themselves on the floor near the picture window) ALEC: It’s my turn. LEON: No, it’s mine. ALEC: All right, it’s yours. LEON (Shakes and throws dice): My armies invade Ran! ALEC: That’s Iran. (throws): My armies invade Syria! (TONI enters from right) TONI: What are you two doing? LEON (throws): Mine advance to the Tigers. ALEC: We’re playing a game my father gave me. (From :

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TAPED NARRATOR: The ice was broken. Two members of the community joined us, then a third, and still others followed, even actual street people. We were no longer a green island surrounded by indifferent, salty sea; the waters receded and new land began to appear. The community around us became aware that something live and vital was stirring in its midst. (During the narration, a typesetting machine, a desk and a chair are brought to the room. ALEC runs in from left, panting, and slams the front door. OLYMPIA runs in from right) OLYMPIA: What’s the matter? Is something wrong? ALEC: Nothing’s happening yet. Toni wanted me to get the largest pan we’ve got. OLYMPIA: I know the one she means. ALEC: Phone fixed yet? (OLYMPIA, ALEC exit right) (Doorbell rings. OLYMPIA runs... (From :

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TAPED NARRATOR: Strangers became friends, formerly hostile enemies became allies tied by bonds of common projects, formerly warring tribes were drawn together in a federation of kinsmen, brothers and sisters. If the initial suspicion and hostility still survived, it was only a diminishing residue. (An easel and a crib are placed near the typesetting machine) (BEN, MATTIE with ROSE ANNE in her arms, enter from right, sit) MATTIE: Your kish was wonderful, Ben. Dan sometimes succeeds with a pie, but whenever I try making something with a crust it somehow never comes out right. Were you always a good cook? BEN: (rolls joint; smoking continues during the scene) Before I came here I knew how to cook instant coffee, and that was all. MATTIE: You’re kidding! No, you look like you mean it. Come to think of it, I co... (From :

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TAPED NARRATOR: At last the isolated fragments were unified into a community, a federation, a union — but the unity was still fragile. Generations of isolated growth had left their scars; outwardly unified, the community still bristled with resistance toward the launching and implementation of common projects. (DAN enters from left, begins typesetting. Door opens at left) VOICES (from left): Come on Grover. A little sunshine won’t hurt you. GROVER (to left): Me and flowers is like icicles and ice cream. Tell me when you get to the poppies. Closes door) Hey, my man, how’s business? DAN: I’m trying to finish that paper on “Non-hierarchic demythologized forms of subversion.” It’s as boring as anything I typed at the bank. GROVER: I thought you looked them over before taking them on. DA... (From :

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TAPED NARRATOR: The scars left by the environment of hostile and split individuals became open sores. The community closed in on itself, discouraged and demoralized. The fragile unity almost fell to pieces. Inertia set in as the resistance to common projects hardened; creative breakthroughs were no longer made; the period of the commune’s growth seemed to be over. (From right enter SHARON, DONNA & LEON, now 7 or 8, carrying the components of a puppet stage which they assemble during the scene) LEON: It ought to go here. DONNA: Then here it goes. It’s your show. SHARON: The greatest thrill is being involved in every part of it. Imagine having to just learn lines, or just paint scenery. That would take all the fun out of it. DONNA: I can see why everyone’s so eager to show you things, Sharon; you’re so full of enthusiasm. (From :

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TAPED NARRATOR: On the very night when the lowest point was reached and the commune was on the verge of disintegrating altogether, a new spark of life was injected into it, and it came from the larger community. (Action unfreezes) GROVER (at door): Well come on in. I’ll introduce you to my friends. VOICE OF ANASTASIA: I see we didn’t wear the right clothes. GROVER: Don’t worry about that. These people won’t even see what you’re wearing so long as it’s not a priest’s smock or a nun’s habit. (LYMAN & ANASTASIA enter, wearing nightclub clothes) BARRY: What do we do now? OLYMPIA: Let’s carry the whole thing out. (BARRY & OLYMPIA raise the blanket) BARRY: We’d... (From :

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TAPED NARRATOR: The larger community became increasingly involved in the activities of the commune, giving rise to new projects and enlarged perspectives, while old members, whose participation was ever more marginal, resisted the changes with a growing ferocity. Something like a fight to the death began between the dynamism of the new people intent on pushing the commune in new directions and the stultifying negativism of the freeloaders intent on bringing all activity to a dead halt. This was one of the historical instances when the living were not crushed under the weight of the dead. (OLYMPIA enters from right, removes a plant from the picture window. DONNA enters from right) DONNA: Please be careful with that one! (Donna takes down another) PHILIP (enters from right, removes a plant): This is the greatest move we’ve made in years. OLYMPIA:... (From :

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TAPED NARRATOR: It took most of a year to get together all the elements required by the commune’s first and most memorable exposition. The continuing indifference, and even outright hostility, of the numerous passive onlookers who had nothing better to do with their time than cripple our commune’s project, did not help expedite the various tasks. That the event took place at all is almost a miracle, and is entirely due to the profound involvement of the larger community and its devotion to the commune’s continuing development. (DAN enters from left, typesets. TONI enters from right) TONI: Well, it’s Dan. DAN: Hi, Toni. (They embrace) TONI: You’re almost a stranger. Find new friends? DAN: No I haven’t, Toni. But I have felt like a stranger. I couldn’t take Olympia or Philip greeting me with another Politic... (From :

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TAPED NARRATOR: (Sound of rewinding tape. Then:) ...expedite the various tasks. That the event took place at all is almost a miracle, and is entirely due to the profound involvement of the larger community and its (Stop) (OLYMPIA, PHILIP, BARRY, LYMAN, ANASTASIA, EARL, LAMA enter from right, laughing and chatting) LYMAN: You really ought to attend that fair; I’m sure you’ll get some marvelous ideas for your next exposition. OLYMPIA: Philip and I are seriously considering it. BARRY: I’ll be sorry to miss it, but I’ve already got plane tickets for next week. (MATTIE enters from left) MATTIE: Oh gee, don’t stop. I didn’t mean to put an end to the conversation. (Silence) PHILIP: Those people are always late. MATTIE: I tho... (From :

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TAPED NARRATOR: (Sound of rewinding tape. Then:) ...hostility still survived, it was only a diminishing residue. At last the isolated fragments were unified into a community, a (Stop) (Phone rings. TONI enters from right) TONI (on phone): Yes — Yes, I’m her sister — What hospital? — Oh my god! — Wait while I get a pencil. Could you tell me the wing and room number again? I’ll be right there. (hangs up. Shouts to right) Olympia! VOICE OF OLYMPIA: Telephone for me? TONI: No, it’s Donna. She’s in the hospital. She was hit by a car. VOICE OF OLYMPIA: Really? TONI: She tried to commit suicide! VOICE OF OLYMPIA: I’ll tell Philip. Maybe he’ll be interested. (TONI throws pencil at picture window and exits... (From :

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TAPED NARRATOR: (Sound of tape rewinding. Theme) bees to flowers. The ice was broken. Two members of the community joined us, then a — (Stop) (MATTIE enters from right with a tray full of ceramic houses and some plates. She dusts them and slowly places them in the shelves) (TONI enters from right, arranges a blanket and eight pillows in the center of the room. DAN enters from right with trays of vegetables, which he places on the blanket) MATTIE: I can’t get over it. How can someone build all that and then smash it — all those friendships, all those dreams, all that work? DAN: I read about this monarch who had his eye cut out, his collar bone fractured, his hand and leg mutilated — TONI: I heard about a woman who did everything for her kid until he started to become indep... (From :

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TAPED NARRATOR (sound of rewinding, somewhat lengthy. Stop. Then): It began with isolated strangers in the big city, hostile and suspicious individuals surrounded by — (LYMAN turns off the tape recorder on his desk after the lights go on) (Same room. The shelves contain sandals, plates, pottery and packaged commodities. The desk no longer contains a typesetting machine. In the place of the picture window there is a wall. A large portrait occupies the center of the wall — a portrait of Philip, somewhat older and in a suit. The remainder of the wall contains the following statements:) ILLYRIA STREET COMMUNE, INC. COMMUNITY ARTS FOR EVERY HOUSEHOLD RESURRECT THE PAST WITH ISC AM = ALTERNATIVE MEDIA EXPERIENCE A GREAT LEAP FORWARD WITH COMMU... (From :


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Illyria Street Commune — Publication.

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April 26, 2020; 11:56:15 AM (America/Los_Angeles)
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October 11, 2021; 5:28:14 PM (America/Los_Angeles)
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