PLAYS OF AMERICA from AMERICAN FOLKLORE, Vol. 2
Classroom Plays for Social Studies, History, Folklore
* Written by L.E. McCullough, Ph.D.
* ISBN: 1-57525-040-3
* Retail List Price: $14.95 (check online retailers for other prices)
The Plays of America from American Folklore series makes American history come alive!
The Plays of America books offer student and community theatre groups a fresh, entertaining perspective on American folklore and history. These original plays celebrate the full diversity of our American cultural mosaic, with humorous and adventurous dramatizations of folktales from Native American, African-American, Cajun, Hispanic, Irish, Scandinavian, Hawaiian and Asian sources, along with guest appearances by Big-Foot Wallace, Johnny Appleseed, Old Stormalong, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, George Washington, Joe Magarac, John Henry, Annie Christmas, The Yellow Rose of Texas and other legendary and historical figures.
Each play has an introduction with information about its source culture, story genre and historical context, as well as helpful notes for staging, costuming and music.
1. Johnny Appleseed and Willie Crabgrass. A legendary figure in American folklore, Johnny Appleseed (aka Jonathan Chapman, 1775-1847) was a pioneer environmentalist who planted orchards throughout the Midwest and taught settlers how to improve their nutrition and agricultural methods. This play presents biographical highlights culminating in a dramatic showdown with Johnny’s cousin, the unscrupulous Willie Crabgrass, as they battle for the soul of America’s ecological future.
2. The Flames of Hell (Les Flammes d’Enfer). On Mardi Gras Eve, deep in a lonely Louisiana bayou, a young Cajun fisherman longs to become a master musician and win the love of his girl. In a sudden blaze of fire and smoke, a mysterious fast-talking Talent Agent appears to offer a deal the young man can’t refuse — or can he? Joining the ghostly jam session in the swamp are the restless shades of blues master Robert Johnson, jazz virtuoso Bix Beiderbecke, early country stars Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams, Sr. and Cajun accordion wizard Amédée Ardoin.
3. Abe Lincoln for the Defense. Based upon an actual criminal trial in 1858 that saw attorney Abraham Lincoln successfully defend the son of an old friend against murder charges. Armed with his broad frontier humor and hallmark common sense, Honest Abe pulls off a stunning courtroom coup and exposes the guilty party. Guest appearance by an inquiring cub reporter from Iowa, Mr. Sam Clemens.
4. The Splendid Voyage of Kitty Doyle. Fourteen-year-old Jennifer and her Grandma are among a planeful of spring break passengers waiting impatiently for takeoff to Disneyworld and Jennifer is sooooooooo bored. To quiet the fretting teen, Grandma tells the story of how her own grandmother — young orphan Kitty Doyle — came to America from Ireland in 1860. Suddenly the air-conditioned jetliner changes to a musty, creaking sailing ship, the kindly stewardess replaced by a bullying roustabout and the passengers reappearing as their 19th-century counterparts as Kitty and the wee Dutch cabin boy Pieter Zeeman heroically foil a plan by the ship's captain to wreck the vessel for insurance money. At the end of Grandma's tale, Jennifer sees how vain and self-centered her own attitudes are and begins to act less selfishly toward others.
5. Annie Christmas and the Natchez Trace Bandits. Six-foot-eight Annie Christmas was a legendary Mississippi ferry boater who flourished during the early 1800s. In this exciting drama, Annie and her passengers, the Ferguson family from Boston, are captured by Big Jim Girty and his gang — the most notorious river pirates in the whole Natchez Trace. With clever tricks and outrageous yarns, Annie and the Fergusons outwit the pirates and win their freedom.
6. “You’re Live with Big-Foot Wallace!” Ever wonder what happens to old myths and legends when times and fancies change? They don’t just fade away into oblivion — they make guest appearances on television talk shows and spin their ageless yarns for a new generation of eager listeners. Come join the live studio audience of America Blabs!, where today’s topic is “America’s Tall Tales: Where Are They Now?” Guest legends: John Henry, Big-Foot Wallace, Joe Magarac, White Painted Woman, Old Stormalong and Ma-aui who fished up the Great Island of Hawaii, won fire for humankind from Ma-hui’a’s fingernail and fought the Goblin Goddess for the Meat of Immortality.
7. La Caballa Blanca (Greta Nilson’s Magic Mare). In 1852, a stranded emigrant wagon train faces death on the Oregon Trail. Young Greta Nilson disappears from camp in search of Shunka-tonka-Wakan — the moon-white “Ghost Horse” or “Caballa Blanca” of the prairies, whose mysterious arrivals in time of need have saved many lives since the time of the Conquistadors. Together with her Blackfoot friend, Yellow Hawk, Greta beholds the magic mare and discovers a route that saves the settlers. Guest appearances by Francisco Coronado and mountain man Jim Bridger.
8. When People Could Fly. On a Southern plantation before the Civil War, overseers witness slaves sprouting wings, rising from the killing fields and flying away to freedom. Based upon an African-American legend, When People Could Fly is a gripping tale of ordinary men and women harnessing the spiritual knowledge that lies within to transcend their physical limitations.
9. The Seven Chan Brothers of Paiute Pass. En route to the ski resort, Brad and Brittany meet an old prospector and get a guided tour of a Rocky Mountain ghost town not found on any modern map. In this ancient Chinese tale recast in a New World setting, the seven extraordinary Chan brothers fight to save the Widow Flaherty’s gold mine and defeat the anti-foreigner discrimination that flared frequently in the early days of the American frontier.
10. The Most Dangerous Woman in America. An elderly lady dressed in black strolls into a fast food joint and — with the help of a guitar-strumming folk minstrel and some vivid reminiscing about the bloody Kanawha Valley coal strike of 1912 — rallies the teen workers to stand up against their tyrannical boss. Based on true adventures from the life of labor organizer Mary Harris Jones, known popularly as “Mother Jones”, who devoted her life to helping American workers win fair wages and humane working conditions during the early 20th century.