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Jericho Can't Die Yet [early draft musical--TAKEN]

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Offline crow

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First Draft of Jericho Can't Die Yet, Act I

[The numbers below are to index scenes. You can ignore them. I still have scenes 1 and 4b to write. The
rest is a finished initial draft. There's a lot still to do, but I hope the draft makes some kind of sense as-is.]

003 00 Prelude

013 01 Love Knows No Bounty

[To be added:]

[An expository scene, showing Jericho, his wife Elizabeth ("Bet"), and Cora, their daughter and only child, being happy together, and explaining their livelihoods and situations as follows:

[Jericho and Bet are elderly escaped slaves. They have joined their family north of the Mason--Dixon Line in a freedman's agricultural community. Cora, 15, has yet to find a husband, but her beauty is such that there's no doubt she will. Bet performs household chores and hosts family and friends at meager but well-attended Sunday suppers where Jericho heads the table and prays grace.

[They are supported by community gifts of food and labor.

[At the end of the scene, Omar Greene, 44, a fugitive-slave bountyman, enters with two henchmen, Go Not So Far Ye Grayson (a so-called "hortatory" name), 20, and Jim Rose, 18.

[Jericho and Bet are holding hands on their front porch.]


[Omar looks on, menacingly. He crosses to Jericho and levels a Smith & Wesson Volcano revolver at his head. Jericho does not react as the henchmen subdue first Bet, who proudly refuses to resist, and then Cora, upon her entrance, who struggles mightily.]

Cora, be easy. I don't want you hurt, now.

[At Bet's urging, Cora stops fighting. Instead, she hangs her head in avoidant confusion and fear. Bet and Cora are gagged.]

013 02 Dig Deep.

[Omar Greene stands over Jericho in a graveyard. Jericho's wife, Elizabeth, called "Bet," and daughter, Cora, are bound together, staring in horror. Grayson stands dutifully. Rose looks on with vigilance.

[Jericho is digging a pit. He collapses wearily.]

--Dig Deep--
[Greene sings Verses A; Jericho sings Verses B]

[Verse A]
Dig deep,
You that "the dogs refused to chase."
Dig deep,

See, Go Not So Far Ye Grayson,
No cause to be afraid.
This man, called Jericho,
Is just another slave.

Rose, no storm
To light the coward's labor.
Witness God's Great Hand
Does not condescend to save them.

[Verse A, Greene continues, to Jericho]
Dig deep.
Or the dogs will drag you away
Come morning.
Dig deep your grave.

[Verse B, Jericho]
My kindred rest nearby the blade.
It's a joyful death to lay beside them.
[Change this line, add another: If God waits to intercede,]

Dig deep,
Jericho will.
This shovel is the prayer I'm praying.

Bet, Cora,
Do not be afraid.
Maybe end my struggles here,
But Heaven waits,
And God will save you.

[Jericho's strength fails, finally. Greene empties the Volcano into Jericho's chest.]

Cover him up?

Leave it be. The hole's too shallow to hide him from the beasts. And we've a river to gain within the week.

003 03 I Ain't Don' Need a Grave, Jes' Yet

[Notes on meaning, as the language here might be unfamiliar.

[Verse 1 tells the story of Cora's difficult childbirth, during which Bet nearly died on two occasions. Verse 2 rehearses Jericho's sinless nature and recounts the kidnapping. Verse 3 poses Jericho's dilemma: to die while Bet and Cora remain captive would be a sin. He asks God's help, therefore, to save them.

[During Verse 3, the ghosts of Jericho's kinsmen appear to lend their aid, and Jericho's age is regressed to his younger self. Throughout the play, they will act as an onstage choir, called the "Kin Chorus."]

--I Ain't Don' Need a Grave Just Yet--

[Verse 1]
I was a man to death:
Shot no jib-headed boy the eye,
Carried my weight on the bone,
Made no fortune, played no guise.

Rued 'em days she cried out--
Troublin' business birth!
Through them pale and tremblin', tho',
Lord, I sticked wi' her.

  • Oh, she

Crossed 'cross the horizon
A couple times or so,
But she came back aside me,
Lord, now I ain't 'bout to go.

[Chorus x2]
I ain't don' need a grave, jes' yet.
I ain't don' need a grave, jes' yet.
Crackin' clay and wheezy'nin' breath,
But I gotta more to stay for Bet.

Never seemed no sailor;
Never seemed no saint.
But I'd take my own confession:
I ain't no God' mistake.

Idn't death that fears me,
I've seen Your brighter woods,
Hushed and vacant, dreamed me--
  • I'd go, but

Lord, I ain't my man.

Betty took by troubled,
Low-eyed, blackish men.
And she could be their victory now, but
Devil if it stands!

[Chorus x2]

[Verse 3]
So, say I ain't no sinner, but
If I let me break,
Ain't I broke my promises?
And dirtsy I can 't pray.

From your doubled splinter,
Pardon me: I cry.
But, Lord, another winter, now,
Then I'm good to die.


[Chorus x2]

[Scene 4b, to be added and renumbered later.

[Jericho is forced to commit his first act of violence.]

013 04 Oh, The Pain Is True


013 05 Who Is This Jericho Man?

--Who is This Jericho Man?--

If my name is Jericho
Let me
Stomp a horn around the terror,
Train it to crumble,
By the drumbeat.

If my name is Jericho
Can't I march a week--
Must the world see
Death in my eyes, must I
Cradle death in me?

Won't I love You better, Lord, God, if You

Relieve me?
Relieve me?
I am nothing.
Relieve me?

[Kin Chorus]

[Verse, Cont'd]
Absalom loved her, and "Absalom" stayed.
Saul trod Damascus and changed.
If You love me, let me be
Somebody different--
Let me change my name? Please,

Relieve me.

No more Jericho.
Oh, can it be?
You would

Relieve me?
Relieve me?

What a' man is Jericho,
Now that the birds still sing?
Am I the terrible?
Who answered me?

Oh, who must this Jericho be?

Why take Abraham
To the brink?
But, like Abraham,

Won't you

Relieve me?
Relieve me?

God, make a better way--
Change my portion or change my name!

Relieve me!

[Kin Chorus]

[Verse, Cont'd]
Relieve me?

I am not Jericho!
The good man my mother made!

[Kin Chorus]

[Bridge, Cont 'd]
Give me another name!

[Kin Chorus]

[Bridge, Cont'd]
Give me another name!

[Kin Chorus]

Who is this Jericho man?
The face in the rill isn't me.
I am not Jericho!
Oh, I am trouble!

[Segue into 003 5 Call Me Stagger Lee]

You can call me . . .
Can't they call me . . .

003 5 Call Me Stagger Lee

[Jericho kicks through the doors of a saloon, sees the men he's after, stands at ready, guns holstered.]

--Call Me Stagger Lee--

If you ain't heard my name said yet,
Call me Stagger Lee!

[Main Chorus]
Throw your burdens on the ground,
Oh, my pretty pennies.
I'm your burden as of now.
They'll repeat your story.

No more wishing for you now.
Pray the Lord have mercy?
You ain't walking out this house.
I'm your eyes unsearching.

[Segue Chorus, Villain 1]
No man, no man, no man, I got nothin' for you.

[Verse, Jericho]
I'll make your mother cry over your graves.
I'll make your children go hungry.
I need a word from you, tell me his name,
The Bad Man from Alabama, passed by last week?

[Kin Chorus]
Tell us his name!

[Segue Chorus, Villain 2]
Who now? What man? I can't help now . . .

[Verse, Jericho]
The man with the runaway slaves. Came through here in the past seven days.

[Verse, Villain 1]
We ain't know the man,
And we ain't seen nothing.
Why should we tell you a thing?

[Chorus, Jericho]
I know what it means to have one more day
With your loved ones safe.
And I know what it means to be brave--
It don't mean a thing.

In your last moments, you'll whisper my name
Or put one to this face

[Jericho produces and shows a hand-drawn sketch to the Villains.]

 And walk away.

[Segue Chorus, Villain 1]
Whoa, whoa, whoa, say goodbye!

[Villain 1 draws his gun from its holster, but barely gets it leveled before Jericho shoots him, dead in the spot. He rises again as a ghost. The Kin Chorus offers him a path to redemption:]

[Kin Chorus]
Join us, now?

Mercy, mercy, mercy!

We will take you home again!

[Orange and red lights flare after  Villain 1's Ghost flees to exit.]

[Verse, Villain 2]
I never wanted this for you, Martha, my lovely girl.

[Verse, Jericho]
I won't betray you,
I give you my word,
I'll take the Black Man
Before he brings hurt
Back here.

[Verse, Villain 2]
He said he'd reward me if I shot you down,
You took my brother, why shouldn't I now?

[Bridge, Jericho]
I was born in the blacklands
In a little ol' town.
One church on the Main Street,
Carved out of a mountain.

And I started walking when I turned seventeen,
The boots of Abaddon
Clocked away from the screams.

If anyone cottoned,
They kept it deep down--
Fear took their livers
When the chapel burned down!

Men rocking cradles
Are honeyed ice-tea
To bait the boots of the crowfish,
The Man, they call me . . .

Call me Stagger Lee!

Anything fears you,
Always it was me.
I am,
I am,
I am,
Stagger Lee!

Behold, the Wicked!,
The Boogeyman?
The darkness was me!

I am Stagger Lee!

You've been so many men
I'm just one thing--
O!, the Wicked, I
Am Stagger Lee!

[Verse, Villain 2]
I'll loose the burden
Of the name. If you'd
Take him dead.
His name is Omar Greene.

[Verse, Jericho]
Stand up with virtue,
And I'll go my way
You're safe, and I thank you.

[Kin Chorus]
Oooo . . .

[Outro, Jericho]
Tell them to be fearful of me,
Every one you meet.
I am the demon.
I am
Stagger Lee.


Villain 2.
Sir? Mister Lee? [Jericho turns.] They're on horses. [Beat.] How . . . How will you . . . ?

I don't sleep, I don't stop running, and I can see in the dark. Got me?

[Villain 2 nods. Jericho exits.]

03 016 Make Camp

[Enters Greene, leading Rose and Grayson.]

Omar Greene
Make camp here. I tend the mammee and her whelp.


--Make Camp--

Tell the boy his limits,
Like to lickin' unpeeled grapes:
Ain't no sweetness
For the tongue,
Ain't no sticky juice
For a man [who] wants gravy . . .

What did I do wrong
To be shy of shelter
With this deranged mouth
Of a man?

[Intro, Grayson, (cont'd til noted otherwise)]
Chawed rosin?
Chawed rosin?

[Beat, Grayson Waiting]
Chawed rosin?


Chaaawed rosin?


[Chorus. Grayson (Cont'd til noted)]
Whaaaat did it mean
When you cried to me last night?


Called me the loveliest creature on the fjord?

What's a fjord?

Love me!
Love me!
By the fjord, he says, love me, and
He don't know what a fjord is.


A fjord is where . . .


A fjord is where your dreams come true at night.
A little nibblin' becomes a little biting.
A fjord is where!

Shut up, you stupid--

A fjord is where your baby loves you still.
A fjord!
Is a land of wonder where you can can still feel your children sleeping next to you.
Do you have children?


Then a fjord is where a hundred city girls line up to say can we play with you?

A fjord!

On a fjord, in a jungle, where the eider cat waits, you are the hunter, and you are not afraid!

Pose in the thicket! Then you hear a twig give way! And you know that old eider cat is about to regret the mistake he just made!

You are an idiot.

On the fjord, in the ju-ju-jungle, you turn with your pistol drawn! Then you throw your pistol down and say,
"Come on, Eider Cat,
"Come on!,"

With your monkey paws and your fish's face,
Show me your thunder!
I am not afraid!

[Rose, singing half-heartedly]
And . . .

And the cat and its viper spring from their hiding places,
And you drop them both, with a gesture,
As the children sing your name!
And the women are suddenly blushing,
As they whisper your name, again!

[Rose joins.]
On the fjord, you are the champion!
On the fjord, you are the infamous king!
On the fjord, your cape and scepter reign!

[Verse, Rose]
Here on the fjord, I am mighty!

Here on the fjord, I am your destiny!

Here on the fjord, you are tiny!
And we crush your tiny head!

On the fjord! On the fjord!
Our camp is spectacular!
On the fjord, on the fjord!
We sleep in fortresses
Filled with maidens!

On the fjord! On the fjord!
You are immortal!
Behind your . . .

Cloak of death!

But it's a cape of dread!

The kite shield of destiny!

On the fjord! On the fjord!


[Omar Greene, enters. Quietly].
Next you make a sound, I'll kill.

[Exits. Quietly, both]

[Shots ring out. Both dive for cover. Trembling, they begin to set camp.]

 013 07 Why Shouldn't I Cry?

[Omar Greene speaks dismissively, cruelly to Bet and Cora. Cora begins to cry. Bet holds her and sobs responsively.]

Sometimes you cry. Sometimes you're told not to, so you stop. When Omar wants you crying: then. Now you'll hold it. Else . . .

I won't grave you. I'll let the ants teach you how they feed their babbits. Salty tears to bait the quill-pig clean your face. Razor birds jerking heads to mess your guts. Some tyrant dog upon your writhing elbow til the joint gives way.

Ain't time for crying, and I want easy sleep.

I satisfy my bounty with one. You're two for my bonus. Wake me wailing, and the one will suffer that the other's noise.

[To Cora, who becomes still and chokes back tears.]

You cry again, I'll corset your mother to the ridge there, and tied she'll wait for the cowards of the wide to take her slowly, hungry eyes thankless as they drag her pieces away.

So, hush it.


[No beat.]

No, sir. You'll have no say in this.

Scared of tears? Cora, cry.

Boy, leave me here, I'll wriggle free. Or tie the courses right, and let 'em throat me.

I'm with God tomorrow.

You'd bait my curtsey, next? [Laughs.] I won't do anything for you, sir. [Begins again to cry.] No, sir. You hate a young girl's tears? Have mine. You took us from our home, sent my love before me? And, oh, you'd have us quiet? [Shouting:] This is quiet for me!

Quiet, now. You'd hazard yourself and your babbit for womens relish?

Womens relish? Like it's easy to be cold and ripped out and to feel it and to . . . Let it . . . You don't know anything, child.

--Why Shouldn't I Cry?--

I'm about to break wide open.
Look at me.
I haven't smiled for days,
And I've got no new reason to let you see me
In my sorrows so afraid!

I could spill a keg of tears!
Touch me, and I will.
Go on touch me.

Oh, but you won't because you're afraid.
Little child,
You should be afraid!

So I'll ask you, do you know why?
[Verse 1]
You ask me why I’m crying,
As if a cry ain’t right.
Go, offer me some prairie boulder?
Like it could hold me tight.

Look over at me.
Here’s my face, and these my eyes . . .
Ask me why I’m crying?

 Look, my daughter smiles.
[Greene steps backward and rummages in a satchel.]

[Segue 1]
So that’s how you go on, afraid of women's sighs?
So, tell me, my friend,

Tell me

 [Greene produces ammunition, pulls his revolver from it's holster, and begins to load it distractedly, attempting to seem cold. His growing hatred of Bet becomes evident.]

[Chorus 1]
Why shouldn’t I cry?
Well, I feel like crying.
Take away my freedom?
But I'll cry if I've the mind.
Why shouldn’t I cry?
When I have no reason to smile?
I’ll lose it all to catterwalling
If I like.
[Verse 2]
Go ask me why I’m crying?
I won’t know what to say
I’ll take that boulder if it’s open.
Would it make you feel more brave?
Or, catch the tears you're causing,
And hang your head in shame.
[Segue 2]
Come on and hold me
While I hang my head and sigh . . .
Or tell me,

[Chorus 2]
Why shouldn’t I cry?
Go ask her why she smiles.
Oh, maybe you can ease my troubles in the night?
Why shouldn’t I cry—
You never laughed and played?
I’ll dance and call and wail and bawl, and if I like,
I'll cry!
[Chorus 3]
Why shouldn’t I cry . . .
Why won't you dry my tears?
If I wanted to, I'd tear you into
A hundred pieces. I could fly . . .

But instead I'll keep myself and cry.
So, go on.

Threaten me.

[Greene leads her off stage hastily. Twenty seconds pass. A shot is heard. (Note: he hasn't killed her.) Greene reenters and stares at Cora, her face frozen in pain and disbelief. After staring confrontationally, he shrugs, exits. Cora begins to weep quietly.]

013 08 Home

[Jericho, Greene, Cora, Grayson, Rose, and Bet sing about home. (For convenience, recital language, primarily the speaker designations, is indicated by "--Speaker--". The Kin Chorus accompanies, where appropriate, but only ever on the word "home."]


Manna was a memory
Of home.
Every night, they'd dream
Of Israel,
And in the morning, they would eat.

Passengers on God's hand,
Facing backward,
Flying forward,

All of us, oh, Israel.
Are trying to go home,
Sustained by hope. I believe


--Jericho and Cora--

I am singing, can you hear me, baby? I am singing you to sleep.
Dream, for me, of

--Cora and Bet--

I never needed no

--Rose and Cora--

Was the tree.
Home was the swing.
How my father drew me back
And made me fly again and again.


--Cora and Rose--

I never needed me no

--Rose and Grayson--

Where my dog is buried.

--Grayson and Greene--

Where I learned to love the cane.

--Greene and Jericho--

I'll never see it again, our

--Jericho, Bet, Cora--
Seems so far away
To be the only thing
Sustaining me.

Home takes you back
But you never leave

--Jericho, Bet, Cora--
You never leave

As long as you know what home means
Close your eyes, and you'll be right back

Home is a someday thing.
Someday I will make someone my

--Rose and Cora--

Where my brothers left me


--Jericho and Omar--
I will bring them back

I will lead her back

I am not alone

I still dream about

I keep dreaming about


013 09 The Grass Grows

[Greene enters and approaches the bound Cora with a bowl of water. He loosens her restraints such that she has slightly more freedom of movement.]

--The Grass Grows--

You're dirty.
A man don't think of dirty.
Clean is a woman's fiction,
But I'll let it be.

We don't have much water,
But here's enough to splash your cheeks.

You must be a low down thing.
Mammee gone away,
Sickening the man
Who aims to phip your starling flame.

You must be a low down thing.

But I ain't graved you yet,
So I must love you, sweet Corinne.
Otherwise, I would have smiled
Your throat tonight already.

I am your first and only friend,
If you weren't young and intemperate,
You would thank me.

[Cora is silent, motionless.]

Surrender yourself to silence,
All the old Indians say,
The earth is still
But the buffalo is patient.

[Who Knows]
Life makes the crooked straight again,
You were born to please,
I will straighten your way back,
Or I will break it if it pleases me

In a thousand places.

I love you dearer
Than your daddy did.
I love you more than your mame

So you suffer
Because I learned your name
You will suffer more
Next you make me say, "Corinne."

Think you low down now.
You are a low down thing.

003 0110 Sometimes I Dream So Loud, at the Close of Act I.

[Omar Greene's song of despair and menace is interrupted when Cora suddenly grabs a knife and holds it to her neck, defiantly.]

--Sometimes I Dream So Loud--

[Intro 1]
I ain't never been no Corrine,
And I ain't never gonna be.

My name is Cora,
And you, my friend,
Are the low down thing.

[New melody builds, bittersweet, defiant.]
[Intro 2]
Between things that kill me
And things that matter at all,
Don't think you're either--

You're nothing but a chimney ghost.
And I am not afraid.

Sometimes, it feels good
To let go of all your hope,
And bend toward the butcher
With a naked throat,

And after years at sea,
Aching to disembark,
To let an open wound
Arouse the mercy of the sharks.

And though I can't sing myself straight into Heaven,
I don't have to look you in the eye.

But, then again, I might.

You are
A winsome reason to fly on--
Redden my collar bone immodestly
And pray myself to God.

But on a lonely wind,
My mother is still singing
That every word you say to me
Is wrong.

Hear my voice.
Watch my eyes.
What happens next
Must come as no surprise.

[Points the knife at him.]

Sometimes I dream so loud,
I can't hear you.

[Returns the knife to her throat.]

Wouldn't I
Make a lovely ghost?
Wake you every night
To remind you how I died?

But if I
Want to pain you most
All I need to do
Is stay alive.

And though I can't keep my tremblin' steady,
When you speak I need not to reply.

But then again I might.

And though I can't break these chains that hold me.
I don't need to stay alive.

But then again I might!

You don't love me.
You don't scare me.
You will not break me;
You will break yourself to try!

I hear laughter!
I hear singing!
My mother is with me!
I can hear her in my heart!

She's with me!

Every word you say I'll listen, just to tear your soul apart!

Sometimes I dream so loud!
I can't hear you!

[She hands him the knife. He turns it over and begins beating her with the hilt. Curtain Act I.]


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