STEAL AWAY

AN ORIGINAL PLAY BASED ON THE NOVEL BY JENNIFER ARMSTRONG

Main Characters (part I):

Young Susannah: A slightly awkward teenaged girl. She is an orphan and is sent to live with her uncle on his plantation. She is confused by slavery and tries to make friends with Bethlehem against her will. She is lonely and persistent.

Young Bethlehem: A teenaged slave, thin and strong, very respectful yet stern.

Fidelia Reid: Susannah's cousin. She is bossy and prim, and very jealous of the time her brother spends with others.

Byron Reid: Fidelia's brother. He dotes on his sister, and is sweet to his cousin. He flirts with Bethlehem and is not very nice to her.

Uncle Reid: A stern, unloving man. He is a preacher.

Susannah: A loving grandmother. She regards Bethlehem as one of the finest women in the world.

Bethlehem: An elderly, sick woman who knows she does not have much time left. A kind teacher.

Mary: A young girl who is concerned with her appearance and loves her grandmother very much. She tries to understand her story.

Free: A young black girl who is devoted to Bethlehem. She pushes away any friendship, and is very harsh in her ways.

The lights rise on a wide stage. In the middle of the stage is a set of wooden stairs, with an ax lying across the top step. Bales of hay are scattered around the room. On one are two small child's dolls. On another is an apron and a man's work hat. Dresses hang from hooks on the side of the steps. They are worn and sliced at the bottom. Aprons are crumpled on the floor underneath. Baskets with remnants of cotton in them are lined up against the back wall. We begin to hear the opening of STEAL AWAY.

MEN (Singing) - Steal away, steal away!
Steal away to Jesus!
Steal away, steal away home!
I ain't got long to stay here!

Two young slaves, a girl and a boy, chase each other onto the stage. They giggle and chatter inaudibly. The girl picks up the dolls and begins to play as the boy attempts to jump over the bale of hay where she is playing. The push and shove each other as he knocks the dolls from her hand. The girl pulls him to the dolls and they begin to play together.

ALL (singing)- My Lord calls me!
He calls me by the thunder!
The trumpet sounds in my soul!
I ain't got long to stay here!

As they sing, slaves begin to enter. The women are wearing grey and brown dresses, with no shoes. The men are wearing overalls, or long pants. Some women have kerchiefs. No one has shoes. The women begin to tie on their aprons, and MONDAY puts on the hat. One woman sits on the bale of hay and begins to wrap cloth around her bare feet. Another man picks up the boy to the top step. The boy passes him the ax, which the man swings over his shoulder.

ALL (singing) -My Lord, he calls me!
He calls me by the lightning!
The trumpet sounds it ina my soul!
I ain't got long to stay here!

The slaves line up. The boy is still on the slave man's shoulders. The girl is holding her dolls in one hand and a cotton basket with the other, limply. The women are all holding baskets. A few men have tools.

ALL (singing) – Steal Away!

Steal Away! My Lord he calls me true! Oh, my lord! By the thunder he calls!

They break into groups, each singing different lines.

MEN -Oh, My Lord. My Lord, he calls me now! Oh, My Lord! My Lord is calling to me! Oh, My Lord! Oh, My Lord, sweet Jesus, Oh, My Lord! My Lord he calls me now!

At the same time.

WOMAN- My Lord calls me!
He calls me by the thunder!
The trumpet sounds in my soul!
I ain't got long to stay here!

ALL- I ain't got long to stay here!

Quietly, now breaking off, still preparing for the work day. The children run off around the stage with each other.

ALL- Steal away, steal away!
Steal away to Jesus!
Steal away, steal away home!
I ain't got long to stay here!

Quieter, almost a whisper.

I ain't got long to stay here. Steal away, Steal away. Steal away to Jesus.