‘Who’s Afraid of Sojourner Truth?’ Pitch
Enclosed in this document is a series of scenes that could be included in a new play entitled ‘Who’s Afraid for Sojourner Truth?’. I believe this shall make for a valuable examination of the human condition that will enthral audiences for many years. I request that you send me a reply with your thoughts on these scenes and any advice you have for the piece as a whole.
Anabelle Pierce417Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡapg2Hm6Kuo
Who's Afraid of Sojourner Truth Characters
Margaret (Martha)- Named after Margaret Walkers
James (George)- Named after James Baldwin. A theology professor
Harriet (Honey)- Named after Harriet Powers. Believed to be mulatto (instead of slim-hipped)
Norman (Nick)- Named after Norman Lewis. A biology professor
The scene is the living room of a house on the campus of a small Alabama college
Who's Afraid of Sojourner Truth Possible Scenes
Page 19 (Act 1)-
JAMES: Biology, huh?
[NORMAN does not answer... nods... looks.]
I've read somewhere that folks like you are trying to make the Bible illegal. You're trying to prove something with your.... what are they called? Prokaries?
NORMAN: I believe you mean prokaryotes.
JAMES: I know what I meant. Those strange cells. I saw some diagrams of them. Now how are you planning to make my job illegal with those tiny things? You didn't answer my question about Theology.
NORMAN: This prokaryotes business you're talking about...
JAMES: Oh, that. [Dismisses that with a wave of his hand]. That's very... very frightening... very... foreboding. But Theology is a great deal more... foreboding. I am in the Theology Department.
NORMAN: Yes... you told me. I am old enough to have an adequate memory capacity.
JAMES [Disparagingly]: Now, now. You and your wife have no memories to keep. Life must be too easy... for you to have memories. You know, memories are ultimately irrelevant unless they make your life miserable. But you wouldn't understand. You're probably from the SCLC or something. I bet you have a lot of hope. If that's the case, you clearly have no memories. Be glad you don't run the Theology Department. There's a lot to memorise. Even I do not run the Theology Department.
NORMAN [Uncertain as to how to react]: Well, if it's any consolation, I do not run the Biology Department.
JAMES: You're twenty-one!
JAMES: Perhaps when you're forty-something and look fifty-five, you will run the Theology Department.
JAMES: ... the Biology Department. Personally it is my belief that you have to be old to be in the Theology Department. I almost ran the Theology Department, but... well... during the war I essentially ran it but I wasn't given a title or anything. I wonder what it's like to have a title. I guess I'll never know. I should be glad to be a teacher in the first place. Hm... Your wife doesn't have very dark skin... has she... is she?
JAMES: I don't mean to suggest that I'm against that sort of color... I'm not one of those Deuteronomy men. No-siree... not me. You've got to keep religion in moderation, though that may sound strange coming from me. I was implying that your wife is... pale-skinned.
NORMAN: Yes... she is
JAMES [Looking up at the ceiling]: What are they doing up there? I don't see any point in them powdering their faces. Who's going to look?
NORMAN [false heartiness]: You know women.
JAMES [gives NORMAN a long stare of feigned incredulity... then he turns away and mutters]: Not one single goddamn title. Everyone came back and I was replaced by Professor Shelton. [bluntly] Have any kids?
NORMAN: Uh... no... not yet. [Pause] You?
JAMES [threateningly]: That's for me to know and you to find out. No kids, huh? I thought you'd... make them out of test tubes. You biologists. Does it feel good playing God? Maybe you'd be able to make them... History professors. [he smiles proudly. NORMAN laughs mildly in embarrassment] I would love to play God if I was in the Biology Department. But you are going to have kids.... anyway... in spite of... whether you can make them History professors.
NORMAN [unsure how to respond]: Yes... of course. We want to wait a little, until we're settled.
JAMES: And this... [With a handsweep taking in not only the room, the house, but the entire town] this is your heart's content- Ciudad Blanca, Brahmapura, Hawaiki... You think you're going to be happy here in Alabama, eh?
NORMAN [a little defensively]: I hope we'll stay here.
JAMES: And every definition has its boundaries, eh? Well, it isn't a bad college. It isn't Spelman or Howard, but at least it's small enough to give us a little community. Then again, it would be nice to be as prestigious as those schools. Maybe then I'd have a shot of running the Theology Department.
NORMAN: I don't mean... forever.
JAMES: Well, don't let that get bandied about. The old man wouldn't... groove with that. Is that how you kids speak these days? When you're forty-six you'll be trembling with embarrassment at the memory of using words like that. Well, if I was twenty-one I would...
NORMAN: I said I'm twenty-eight.
JAMES: Yes, yes. As I was saying, Margaret's father has... high expectations of us. We're supposed to stick together, our kind. Like we've got cement between us. We have to stay the same, talk to the same people. I don't remember the last time I looked a white working man in the face. Perhaps that's for the best. Look for too long and you get buried. One time a Latin professor looked a pretty.... lily girl... in the face... [Closes his eyes as if shielding his memories. He opens them and changes the subject] ...So are you planning on using those... prokalytes...
JAMES: Prokaryotes... to prove that the Bible is wrong?
NORMAN [a little testily]: I never thought about doing such a thing.
Page 94 (Act 2)
HARRIET [still with her dream]: I DON'T WANT TO BE... NO!
JAMES: How wonderfully ignorant you are. If only I had your childish naivety. You have no idea what's going on, do you?
HARRIET: NO!... MY SKIN... [Begins to cry] I DON'T WANT... TO LOOK... BLACK... I don't... want... to look... black. I'm afraid! I don't want to be hurt anymore... PLEASE!
JAMES [nodding his head... speaks with a mix or rare compassion and amused disapproval]: I should have known.
HARRIET [snapping awake of her nightmare]: What! What?
JAMES: I should have known the whole business... the headaches... the whining... the...
HARRIET [terrified]: What are you talking about?
JAMES [ugly]: Does he know about this? Did you start doing this to yourself before you met him?
HARRIET: Doing what? Stay away from me!
JAMES: Don't worry, snowflake... I wouldn't... Oh, my God, that would be a joke, wouldn't it? But don't worry, snowflake, HEY! How do you do it? Hunh? How do you distance yourself from the only people who give a damn about you, hunh? Pills? PILLS? You got a secret supply of pills? Or what? Poisonous cream? PRAYER?
HARRIET: I feel sick.
JAMES: You going to throw up again? Curl up on the tile floor in the darkness?
HARRIET [panicked]: Where is he?
JAMES: Where's who? There's nobody here, snowflake.
HARRIET: I want my husband! I want a drink!
JAMES [stifling a laugh]: Do you need me to turn the rest of the lights on? [Harriet obliviously nods with a smile. From off-stage comes the sound of MARGARET's laughter and the crashing of dishes.]
[Yelling] That's right! Go at it!
Page 103 (Act 3)
MARGARET [shouting]: Answer it! [softer] You can be our little servant around here for a while, and you can serve us, the nicest, richest white family in America. Doesn't that sound fun? You can start being a servant right now.
NORMAN: Look, lady, I'm no flunky to you.
MARGARET [cheerfully]: Sure you are! You're ambitious, aren't you? You're probably wishing for a better life as we speak. You didn't chase me around the kitchen and up the goddamn stairs out of mad, driven passion, did you now? You were thinking a little about your career, weren't you? You young ones are always about your career. You hardly focus on what's important. [Lost in her imagination like a child playing dress-up] But since I'm from a white family I know what matters. A nice, big house with a white picket fence, and a happy marriage with at least one child. That's not too hard, is it?
NORMAN: You've gone off your rocker.
[Door Chimes again]
MARGARET [calmly, surely]: No, baby, I haven't. Go answer the door, [NORMAN hesitates.] Look, boy, once you aspire to something higher, you get caught in the clouds and can't escape. I thought young men like yourself were good at learning things like that. Now, git!
NORMAN: Aimless... wanton... pointless...
MARGARET: Now, now, now; just do what you're told like a good boy. Show little old Margaret that there's something you can do. Hunh? Atta boy.
NORMAN [considers, gives in, moves towards the door. Chimes again]: I'm coming, for Christ's sake!
MARGARET [tuts at his blasphemy, then clasps her hands]: HA HA! Wonderful; marvellous.
[NORMAN flings open the door, and a hand thrusts into the opening a great bunch of snapdragons; they stay there for a moment. NORMAN strains his eyes to see who is behind them.]
MARGARET: Oh, how lovely!
JAMES [appearing in the doorway, the snapdragons covering his face: speaks in a patently artificial deep voice]: Flowers; flowers for da butiful lady in dis house. Flowers.
NORMAN: [murderosuly] Very funny.
Extra scene- Epilogue
[NORMAN and HARRIET exit. MARGARET and JAMES are momentarily silent in an atmosphere of quiet intensity.]
MARGARET: We're never going to change, are we?
JAMES: I wouldn't dream of it.
MARGARET [almost in tears but in a soft voice] And the boy?
JAMES: We can always have another one. [changing the subject to NORMAN and HARRIET] Young people are so fascinating, don't you think? They always seem to think they can rule the world, one pro... one little cell at a time.
MARGARET: What would happen if I... did change? If I... was like Norman or Harriet?
JAMES: I'd divorce you. I don't need that attitude in my house. [his voice becoming almost gentle] Now get some sleep or your old man will yell at you.
MARGARET: I want to read for a few minutes.
JAMES: What in the world's name would you want to read? 'Narrative of Sojourner Truth'?
MARGARET: [a little testy] I meant light reading. I... I don't have the courage to read something like that right now.
JAMES: Are you afraid of Sojourner Truth?
MARGARET: I... am... James... I... am....
 JAMES and MARGARET are named after famous Black authors whereas NORMAN and HARRIET are named after Black visual artists. This emphasises the differences between the two couples.
 A historical term for a biracial person
 Sojourner Truth is a civil rights activist and author: http://www.biography.com/people/sojourner-truth-9511284
 Prokaryotes are single-cell organisms that evolved into more complex organisms: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK9841/. JAMES is wary of the existence of these cells as they may prove that evolution is true and creationism is false.
 SCLC stands for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and is an African-American civil rights organisation: http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_southern_christian_leadership_conference_sclc/. The fact that JAMES references this group is regards to youthful naivety highlights the contrasting personalities and beliefs between the two characters, which is also visible in the original play. JAMES has become accustomed to the racism surrounding life in the 1960s and, though he would prefer change, he does not believe such change is possible. NORMAN, on the other hand, is accused of believing he can make a better future. In the original play GEORGE and NICK represent opposing sides in the Cold War, so in this play JAMES and NORMAN represent different experiences for black people during this time.
 Deuteronomy 7:3–4: 'You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. lThen the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.'
 As a symbol of JAMES' defeat, Professor Shelton happens to share the same surname as Robert Shelton, who was a leading force in the United Klans of America (A group within the KKK): http://archive.adl.org/issue_combating_hate/uka/rise.html
 These are all mythological places in or created by countries that have been colonised. They reference the false dreams of the people who have colonised and those been had their land and freedom taken such as slaves from Africa. JAMES is making a joke about the futility of dreams of a better life, as he believes that the situation is always the same for people of colour whether they're in a foreign country or Alabama.
 These are historically black colleges: http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/hbcu
 A euphemism for a 'white girl', as lilies are known for being white.
 Skin whitening pills have the side effect of headaches: https://www.illuminatural6i.com/info/skin-whitening-pills/
 This is a reference to how the American Dream has led to many people, including African-Americans, being willing to perform degrading and menial tasks serving white people. This shows how, despite their antagonistic attitudes towards each other, MARGARET and JAMES have similar beliefs about their situation as African-Americans are unavoidable, highlighting how similar Martha and George in the original play really are. The parallels between the latter couple can be seen in the original play when Martha admits that she loves George due to his ability to understand the nature of her games. The characters both in 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf' and 'Who's Afraid of Sojourner Truth' have stayed together because of their similarities.
 JAMES, in keeping with the differences between him and NORMAN, is resigned to the racism that has affected his life. He is therefore playing up racist stereotypes for a joke.
 MARGARET is showing that she, in contrast to the much younger NORMAN and HARRIET, fears changes- changes JAMES may make to the games they play and changes to her circumstances. Therefore someone as liberal as Sojourner Truth is a frightening figure.