The time is 1854 and the place is a cotton plantation in Mississippi. Henry and Jessie Mae are a married couple that are truly in love. In their twenties the two support each other in the midst of being slaves on a plantation. Jessie Mae’s job on the plantation is at the core of their marriage struggles. She is responsible for taking care of the Master in the most private of ways whenever he sends for her. Henry doesn’t like that he has to share his wife with any man let alone the Master who is physically abusive to her. Finally he has had enough and he tells her that he will not allow her to go. She begs and pleads with him to allow her to go or they will both be killed. She breaks down and tells him of a deal that she made with the master that she will willingly do all the things he wants her to do as long as she secures her husbands safety. When she reveals that she is pregnant and is unsure which of the two men are the father Henry decides to wait until the baby is born to make his decision. After the birth Henry knows the baby is not his, he leaves and Jessie Mae does the only thing she knows to do, live.

Duo/ Duet- Beholden

  • (The time is 1854 Deep South Mississippi on a cotton plantation. It is early morning and Henry; a slave in his early twenties looks out of a window at something, waiting for something or someone that doesn’t come. Defeated he goes about his morning rituals. The door creeps open, Jessie Mae tries to sneak into the room not realizing that Henry was always awake and watching her. She turns and catches his eyes.) Henry: Late night? Jessie Mae: (Avoiding) Just business. Henry: Working the field is business. What you doing- Jessie Mae: What I am made to do. If it were up to me I would be here with you every night. I would never allow him to touch me if we were free. (She touches his face, he melts) Henry: One day Jessie Mae, one day you and me are gonna be a free man and woman. Jessie Mae: A free husband and wife. Henry: A free black man and black woman. Jessie Mae: Free. (Beat) You do know how much I love you, don’t you? Henry: No, sorry Ma’am I sure do not. (Laughs) Why don’t you tell me. Jessie Mae: I love you, this much. (She spreads her fingers a little. They both laugh.) Henry: That’s it? Hell I can get more love from a stranger. Come on baby; give me more love than that. Jessie Mae: (She spreads her arms out wide) Better? Henry: A little bit. (They both laugh) Jessie Mae: I love you so much I would walk to the end of the earth, touch the sun and run right back into your arms. That’s how much I love you. Henry: Now that is some good love. Jessie Mae: Great love. (They kiss.) (Henry begins to take off of her nightgown but she pulls away from him after a moment.) Henry: What’s wrong? Jessie Mae: Nothing. I just- it’s early and I’d like to clean myself from last night before I- Henry: Let me see. (Henry goes for her gown again and begins to pull; she avoids him quickly maneuvering away.) Jessie Mae: No Henry it’s nothing I just always feel dirty after a night with him. I- Henry: Let me see your back, what are you hiding?




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