March 15, 1948
Dear Mr. Paton:
I hope I can convey to you, at so great a distance, something of the emotion with which I read "Cry, the Beloved Country" and which many Americans must feel now as they read it. For years I've wanted to write something which would state the position and perhaps illuminate the tragedy of our own negroes. Now that I've read your story I think you have said as much as can be said both for your country and ours.
When I read the book I had just finished the second act of a play, 2 a play that I hope to finish later. But the Kumalo story took such hold on me that I decided I'd like to try to arrange it for the stage--and would like to do it now, while the mood was still fresh. The other play can wait. I'm sure that we can get together on the business arrangements, for these things have been done before and your representatives and mine seem to agree that the contracts which are being sent you are usual and fair--but the purpose of this letter is to explain how I would go about making the story ready for the theatre.
My first concern would be to keep as much as possible of the dialogue and the story structure, just as they stand. Your effects are both powerful and delicate--and both the power and the delicacy could be lost in an ordinary dramatization. And to keep the plot and the dialogue in the form you gave them would only be possible if a chorus--a sort of Greek chorus--were used to tie together the great number of scenes, and to comment on the action as you comment in the philosophic and descriptive passages. Of course, I should have to put some of that comment into verse, but some of the lyric prose could