30 - 60 minutes
The play begins November 5, 1831, at the trial and sentencing of Nat Turner, leader of the Slave Insurrection of Southampton County, Virginia. After the sentence is carried out, we enter another world or maybe just the mind of Nat Turner as he tries to make sense of his life and actions before the lights go out.
NAT TURNER . . . an adult black male, a slave in 19th Century America
JEREMIAH COBB . . . a voice over of the chief magistrate of the
Notes on the Material
This piece is an adaptation of the confessions of Nat Turner taken in his jail cell by Thomas R. Gray. The confessions were read to the court at his trial and Turner admitted to the confessions when asked by the magistrate. Most scholars today agree that the most direct route into the mind of Nat Turner is though the confessions written down by Gray.
In Nat’s Last Struggle, much of the confessions are adhered to, but in dramatizing them, the author has used folk lore, legend and her own imaginings. She makes no claim that this is a scholarly piece or biography, just a writer’s exploration of an important and fascinating historical character.
The piece is perfect for intimate settings and requires a minimal set. Appropriate lighting and sound is required. A cd with recordings of the voice overs, music and sound cues is available.
From the Play:
Lights rise on NAT TURNER, seated at trial. A voice over of Jeremiah Cobb, Chairman of the County Court of Southampton County, Virginia can be heard. The date is November 5, 1831.
Nat Turner! Stand up. Have you anything to say why the sentence of death should not be pronounced against you?
I have not, I have made a full confession to Mr. Gray, and I have nothing more to say.
Attend then to the sentence of the court. You have been arraigned and tried before this court, and convicted of one of the highest crimes in criminal code. Your only justification is that you were led away by fanaticism. If this be true I pity you, you have my deepest sympathies. I am nevertheless called upon to pass the sentence of the court, that you be taken hence from the jail from where you came, thence to the place of execution, and on Friday next, between the hours of 10 AM and 2 PM be hung by the neck until you are dead! dead! dead and may the Lord have mercy on your soul . . . your only hope must be in another world.
A Concise Christmas Carol by D.D. Delaney: Ebenezer Scrooge in a nutshell. The roles are typically performed by one actor; the play may, however, have a larger cast.
NARRATOR: Once upon a time—of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve—old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather--foggy withal. The city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already, and candles were flaring in the windows of the neighboring offices, like ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air.
FRED: A Merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!
NARRATOR: It was the voice of Scrooge's nephew.
SCROOGE: Bah! Humbug!
FRED: Christmas a humbug, uncle! You don't mean that, I'm sure.
SCROOGE: I do! Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough!
FRED: Come, then. What right have you to be dismal? What reason to be morose? You're rich enough.
SCROOGE: Bah! Humbug!
FRED: Don't be cross, uncle.
SCROOGE: What else can I be, when I live in such a world of fools as this! Merry Christmas! Out upon Merry Christmas! What’s Christmas to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ‘em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? Merry Christmas! If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled in his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!
A Cold Day in Hell by Jan Quackenbush: a man videos his struggle with allowing his wife to die. CHARLEY is behind a video camera set on a tripod; he's adjusting the focus lense to bring into clear view the spot on the sofa where he'll sit. His apartment is messy, hasn't been cleaned or tidied for a long time. He steps back, surveys the scene, then crosses to the sofa and sits, sighing like a bear.
Beside him is the camera's remote gadget which he'll use to start and stop the camera as he pleases.
Ok, so why am I doing this. I know that's gonna be your first question. Yeah. Why am I doing this. Right? I'll tell you. 'Cause of what they're gonna say about me. The reporters and all of them. Yeah. The cops, the lawyers, the doctors, my friends . . . maybe even you. Maybe even the government.
But what I'm saying here is this: I'm not stupid. Remember that. Charley ain't stupid. I'm not dumb. And you're gonna get it straight from the horse's mouth here. Remember that. No matter who says what about me, they don't know about it better than I know about it. So what I'm doing here is giving it to you straight off the shoulder.I'm shooting straight off the shoulder. Today it is March 16th and it is the last day for us on this earth. (Checking his watch)
It is exactly ten seventeen . . . plus . . . twenty two seconds in the morning.
(To the camera) Friday. End of the week. Time to check out. Yeah.It's
all over. By one o'clock this afternoon we're both gonna be dead. What I'm doing is, I'm gonna finish this up and get on over to the hospital and go into her room and disconnect the goddamn machine on her and then I'm closing shop -- I'm gonna finish myself off with the pistol I got . . . Smith and Wesson 38 caliber . . . here it is . . .
A Stagetale by D.D. Delaney
The Time Winter, 1978 The Place, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
You know, madness is a strange thing. People don't really know what it is. And that makes it kind of scary.
But here's an interesting fact. I'm sorry if it's a bit grim. Did you know that Hitler borrowed the whole idea of exterminating the Jews from the German psychiatric profession? Those shrinks were killing off mental patients in Germany when Hitler was still hanging wallpaper!
I read that in a newspaper called the Madness Network Newsletter. It"s a small publication that advocates madness liberation. They don't publish it any more. They haven=t published it for years.
Actually, though, I"m very much in favor of mad lib.
Bertha was a friend of mine. She used to ride in my van.I drove a van that took people home in the evenings from a psychiatric day-care center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, my home town. It was a part-time, it helped keep body and soul together while I was working as a volunteer editor at the Lancaster Independent Press—or LIP, as we called it, for short.
Bertha lived in a nursing home run by a couple, a pair of Pennsylvania Dutch fundamentalists. Martin, was their name. They had a big, old, converted farm house that sat by itself on top of a hill north of the small town of Ephrata. You couldn't see it from the road. In the winter when it snowed, you couldn't even get up the driveway.
I used to play the radio all the time in the van. Top forty. It was a distraction for our minds. Most of my clients didn't like silence. I didn=t really like it either. Silence isn=t so enjoyable for people with disturbed thoughts. There was this one song that was popular at the time. Maybe some of you remember it. It had a chorus that repeated itself over and over. "Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself."
Bertha questioned me about it.
"What is that song saying?"
"It's saying, "Enjoy yourself. Enjoy yourself."
But the next time the song came on, she asked me the same thing.
"What is that song saying?"
"It's saying, "Enjoy yourself."
"It's saying, "Poppa's dead."
What am I to make of this? I let it go. I'm only the driver. All I'm supposed to do is get these people home in the evening. Just deliver their bodies.
But one day soon after that Bertha asked me another curious question.
"Where do they get the things they play on the radio?"
I started to explain to her about radio stations, recording studios, big cities, money. But Bertha wasn't interested in those things. When I looked in the rear view mirror I saw that she was just staring out the window.
There was another song that was popular at the time.
"Torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool." Remember that one?
"Where is he?"
"Where's who, Bertha?"
"My brother! They say my brother is dying, but I don't know where he is."
"Do you mean they're saying that on the radio, Bertha?"
"Yes. They're singing a song about it."
"Actually, Bertha, if you listen I think you'll realize that this song is about how the woman loves two men and just can't...."
But Bertha wasn't listening.