1839, Talledega, Alabama: slavery is alive and doing quite well in the United States. 1939, Hamburg, Germany: Hitler has called for the extermination of Jews. Jewish children Rifka and Aaron are sent by their parents into hiding with the Westemeier family in rural Germany. Soon they are joined by other Jewish children, Baruch, David and Ledah. The plan is to take them by boat to safety in Denmark. While in hiding, the Jewish children read from a first-person account of a runaway teenage slave named Brave Mary. They learn of the history of slavery in the United States and Brave Mary's story of escaping an Alabama plantation in the 1830s. Brave Mary is joined in her escape by Katie-Mae and a young boy named Kindred. The means of survival for both groups of children is the Underground Railroad. The Westemeier's son, Karl, helps his father smuggle the Jewish children out of Germany. In America, Adelaide, the daughter of an abolitionist banker, gives asylum to runaway slaves on their flight to freedom. Olivia, a slave, puts herself in jeopardy as she uses her owner's boat to ferry blacks across the Ohio River. Trials and tribulations beset both groups of children. However, the Jewish children are inspired by the strength and courage of the black children trying to find their way to Canada, as they make their own way to Denmark. The Underground Railroad is not just a bit of dusty American history: it is still running—worldwide. This play has songs that reflect African-American and Jewish cultures, and small pieces of dialogue are spoken in German, Yiddish and Hebrew.
NotesAll songs in this play are in public domain. The author suggests that you contact an AME church and a synagogue for assistance with the music. This contact was made for the original production and proved to be invaluable to the production and in the community support for the show. Songs from Black culture include: "Steal Away
- Type of Show Full-length Play
- Product Code H48000
- Cast Size 15
- Min. Royalty Rate $80/perf
- Cost $9.95
- Approx. Run Time 75 min
- Target Audience Middle School | High School | College and Adult | Family (all ages)
- Performing Group Middle School | High School | College Theatre | Community Theatre | Professional Theatre
- Genre Drama
- ISBN(13) 9780871298980
- "Play was extremely effective, timely, and moving, and an excellent fit for our actors, though it seems more appropriate for high school than for college. We were very pleased that we chose it. "
- Review by Frank Martignetti, University of Bridgeport, Bridgeport, Conn.
- "It's a wonderful opportunity to present an acting challenge within the context of a history lesson and a music lesson -- a great piece for an arts integrated curriculum."
- Review by David Saygers, Toledo School for the Arts, Toledo, Ohio
- "Mornin' Train is a creative melding of two daring escapes ... Jewish children fleeing the Nazis in 1939 and slave children escaping to the North in 1839. Folk melodies make this play come alive."
- Review by Deidre Wells, H.I.S. Players, Hartford, Wis.
- "This is a wonderful story that seamlessly blends the experiences of African-American slave children and Jewish children who are both escaping to freedom. This play reveals the courage of both groups of children and shows how their struggle for freedom is universal."
- Review by Katrina Lacey, St. Mary's High School, Phoenix, Ariz.
Hints, Tips, and Tricks
- "We included a 5-piece music ensemble that interacted with actors and underscored drama on stage. We are a Caucasian community, but headscarves helped us portray the slaves. We added a 7-person ensemble to portray forest, barn, wagon and river."
- Tip by Deidre Wells, H.I.S. Players, Hartford, Wis.