By R. Rex Stephenson.
Cast: 10+ actors, gender flexible. The six short plays, each 10 to 20 minutes long, may be presented singly or in any combination. The Blue Ridge Mountain folktales were collected and dramatized by Dr. R. Rex Stephenson at Ferrum College, Virginia, where he toured the plays with a company of his students—usually five men and five women. From 1975 to 1991, the Jack Tale Players performed the stories 1,325 times to more than half a million people of all ages in 34 states and in England. "We have played to audiences as large as 3,000 people and as small as 12," Stephenson said. Jack, the teenage protagonist of most of the tales, is the universal underdog who outwits "upper-dogs" like robbers, giants, witches, devils and big brothers. The tales are: Jack Fear-No-Man. Jack wins a $10,000 reward from the king of Virginia for conquering three giants. Jack and the Witch's Tale. Jack defeats a witch with kindness. Foolish Jack. Jack is outwitted by some sharp traders. Jack and the Robbers. Jack and some runaway animals scare the meanness out of a band of thieves. Jack and Ol' Greasy Beard. Jack outsmarts his older brothers and catches a thief and rescues a girl in distress. Wicked John and the Devil. The meanest man on earth bedevils the devil.These Jack Tales can be played by all women, all men, or any combination. "I've never had anyone worry about whether Jack was a boy or a girl," Stephenson said. "I always use girls to play the little devils in Wicked John." Girls have played kings and devils; boys have played old women and mothers. Although the Ferrum College troupe introduces each performance with mountain music and traditional ballads like "Barbara Allen" and "In the Pines," played on mostly homemade instruments (washboard, washtub bass, wood block, spoons, a jug and a cowbell), no music is required.
Mountain music CD