Stage Manager- Victoria Middleton
Tom Buchanan- Josh Deblon
Frederick Douglass- Shane Ham
Janie Taylor- Maria Malik
Jim- Tess Lueders
(Setting is a mid 19th century courthouse there is a judges podium at middle stage next to the witness chair. There are two tables facing the podium with papers on them, it is afternoon in Louisiana and IT’S HOT. There’s people talking in low voices, and they are fanning themselves, the stage manager enters)
Stage Mgr: Evenin’ folks. Today we are about to witness history being made. The day is August 12th, 1842, and our defendant Jim has been charged with theft and tensions are high as slavery itself also hangs in the balance. The fate of Jim as a runaway and the fate of all slaves in America will be decided by this trial as we watch.
Someone: All Rise (firmly)
(The audience, jury, and lawyers all rise to their feet)
Judge: Be Seated (they sit)
Judge: the court recognizes Mr. Buchanan
Tom: Thank You, your honor (sure of himself), ladies and gentlemen of the supposed Jury, I come before you to represent all that is right in this country. A man’s right to his property is the most sacred among these and the defendant. Jim…. who doesn’t even have a last name, mind you, has stolen nearly 800 million dollars worth of property from his owner. (Tom paces back and forth as he says this, pauses in front of the jury for a moment and returns to his seat) This property is the “person” you see before you, 800 dollars stolen from little ol’ Mrs. Watson, now ask yourselves; do you really want to steal from an elderly woman? I’m frankly amazed that we even let him into this courtroom much less let him be tried for his despicable crimes.
Judge: The court recognizes Free-drick Doog-less
Fred D: Dug-less, your honor (puts on glasses)
Judge: are you sassin me in MY courtroom, boy?
Fred D: An insult from a man who isn’t a gentleman is not an insult, and a gentleman would never insult me.(after a moments pause) my fellow Americans, is this no the land of the free? (Takes off his glasses) Should a man not be able to drink when parched? Nor eat when starved? These civil liberties that the white man takes for granted every day are a regular struggle for people like my client and when he but attempted to take control of himself, he was put on trial in this great nation of tolerance.
Tom: I object! Big words don’t change the fact that he’s a Negro! (Stands up abruptly knocking over his chair)
Judge: Sustained, Keep it simple Freddy
Fred D: Frederick, your honor
Tom: The state of Louisiana calls Jim Whateverhislastnameis to the stand
(Jim walks in shackles and tattered clothing and sits in the witness box. Jim acts defeated and responds slowly)
Tom: Are you willing to acquiesce the veracity of your testimony?
Jim: Naw, I ain’t had no fancy lernin like yuhself.. ‘ma have tuh ask yeh to slow down. < superstition of Jim’s here>
Tom: Where were you on the night of July 23rd of this year?
Jim: Why, I can’t be fer certin but ah do b’lieve that I was in de fine state of Illinois but Ah’m not so certain
Tom: And, what were you doing there when you should have been with your master?
Jim: I ain’t got but one massa, suh. Thas lil ol Jim hisself. Mah best fren’ Huck Finn done esplained it tuh me; I’s a free man.
Tom: but if you are free, as you claim, then why would you be on trial?
Jim: Well, I ‘spect it wuz them darn ghosts fin’ly catchin’ up to me from befo’
Tom: Ghosts? Like… what kind of ghosts?
Jim: Like de ghosts (creepily) dat creep up up on yeh in de middle o’ de nite an’ steal yo’ skin cleen from yo’ back, suh!
Tom: Ghosts? You expect this court to believe you are a free man because of appritions? (quizically)
Jim: No, suh its not wut I-
Tom: Clearly, he intends to mock this court by blaming figments of his imagination exactly like a negro would!
Fred D: Objection your honor, badgering the witness
Tom: This is why they don’t let your kind go on trial, (he mutters), what a load of horse shit, Ghosts….Prosecution rests (after a tense pause)
Fred D: Jim, where did you say you were, the night Mr. Buchanan mentioned earlier?
Jim: in de good ol’ state of Illinois like I sed. Huck told me dat I’d be free tuh do whatevuh theyuh.
Fred: This Huck fellow, tell me about him
Jim: He’s da best thing to evuh happin to Jim. He’s younguh den me ‘n white the boot, but he’s de frenliest boy you did evuh see. Helped me mo’ den muh own mudduh.
Fred: Let the record shoe that a child can exercise basic human decency.
(Frederick Douglass pauses in-between these questions.)
Fred: and this state is free state or slave?
Jim: Free, Suh
Fred: and are you a man?
Jim: well, last time ah checked… Ah certainly ain’t no cow o’ no cat! No Frenchman nuther! Yup, Ah’m a man!
Fred: and you live in the United States of America, home of the brave, land of the free?
Jim: De one an’ de same,
Fred: so let me reiterate; you were in a free state of a free country when you were caught?
Fred: no further questions
Tom: no further witnesses, your honor
(Everyone freezes and the stage manager speaks)
Stage Manager: (Manager steps down from podium) Hi there, folks, if you’ll pardon the interruption, I gotta make a few things clear for this next part: Firstly is that Janie Taylor, of the late Tea Cake is going to testify in Jim’s favor, they met, fell in love, and then here we are! Secondly I’d like to take this time to remind ya’ll that you play a vital role in this trial! Y’all are the jury of this trial. Jim’s fate really lies in your hands! Now, back to the trial. (manager goes back to podium)
Fred: Defense calls Janie Taylor to the stand
(Janie walks in and sits in the witness box gracefully, and with a swagger)
Fred: Thank you kindly madam, for your time
Janie: any’ting for you, suh
Fred: now, Ms. Taylor, do you know my client?
Janie: yessuh, Ah Knowd ‘im a good two yea’s now!
Fred: and in these two years, has Jim made any mention of being a slave?
Janie: no, suh! As fa as ah know, he been a fee man his entiyuh life, In truth, suh, ah even wonder if dis man heeyah (points at Tom) even has de right fella… Jim is as free as a mule in de fiel’, last ah checked.
Fred: Then why if this is true, would they be accusing your—-this man of being an escaped slave?
Janie: As mah late husbin’ sed once; white people dat knows ya sees yuh as good niggers, but every other white person sees yuh as low down and dirty
Fred: So, you’re saying in this court under oath, that this man is not the escaped slave that they were searching for?
Janie: yes (after pausing)
Fred: I have no further questions!
(Tom Stands up and smirks as he walks toward her)
Tom: So you say you were married?
Janie: Yessuh, ah wuz, three times even!
Tom: and you’re a widow now?
Janie: Yes…. (contemplating)
(Tom meanders between the jury and the witness)
Tom: and there’s no new man in your life here?
Tom: Might I remind you, that you are under oath?
Janie: yessuh, no new man
(the questions beging to be more rapid in succession)
Tom: how old ar eyou?
Tom: Where do you live?
Janie: in Oakville, Ill-
Tom: how many eggs in a dozen?
Tom: for how long have you loved Jim?
Janie: Since I met him – (gasps)
(Everyone gasps) _____Janie admits that’s the truth
Tom: (points at Janie) perjurer! You love this man.. Your honor, this woman has a bias against the state and I ask that her testimony be stricken from the record. Judge: sustained (dramatically) (pauses and ruffles some paper) the jury will now retire and come to a decision.
Stage Manager: Okay folks, your time to shine! < method of taking vote here)
– paper vote
-heads down thumbs up
Option One: Innocence
Judge: on the count of theft of $800 the jury finds Jim,……… (dramatic pause) NOT guilty
(Jim, Janie, Frederick all form a three way hug and jump a little while yelling whooo! Tom looks crestfallen, and sinks back in his chair with head down. One tear drips off the end of his nose)
Fred: Congratulations, sir! This is a monumental day for the African Ameirican. Congratualtions inDEED
Janie: Oh ah’m so releeved, Jimmy. The tension wuz so great, a thousan dollars a throw in madison Square Garden couldenta got a bigga response.
Jim: Dem dere ghost decided to let ‘ol Jim be fo’ de time bein’…. Thankeee Spirits. (Looks off into the distance)
(Janie and Jim hug again)
Stage Manager: Well folks, there you have it. Our boy Tom went on to get out of the laywer business and settled down in Manhattan. Frederick Douglass went on to be a civil rights activist, and Janie and Jim lived happily ever after.
Judge: on the count of theft of $800, the court finds Jim (dramatic pause)…guilty as charged and is hereby sentenced to immediate return to his rightful owner, Mrs. Watson.
Janie: Come on Jimmy! We uh gettin’ outta here! (Janie grabs Jim’s hand and pulls him out of the door)
Tom: (bellows) STOP THEM!
(Tom runs out after them)
Frederick Douglass: He who runeth away when innocent shall prosper, and he who chaseth the innocent shall dance with the devil. Excuse me, sirs, I have some business to which needs attending.
Stage Manager: Well folks, there you have i! Jim and Janie are off on their own to find another adventure, and Frederick Douglass is on his way to actively participate in the civil rights movement (winks)
Until next time, folks!