Josephine

by: Stella, Lily, Kenya, Jamara, and Haniya 

(a short play inspired by the book Josephine, from our 2015 Readers' Theater workshop)

NARRATOR 1: Josephine ­ born poor­ out of wedlock in honkey­ tonk town­ rambunctious St. Louis, Missouri. She dreamt of dancing alongside acrobats, magicians, and animals in Vaudeville. Josephine used her experiences as a little black girl living with racism for motivation. She held all of the fear and anger in and let it boil up inside of her like a volcano.

NARRATOR 2: Josephine worked really hard, from backstage to the big stage. Josephine danced like she was on fire. She arched her back and flipped her tail like a rooster.

JOSEPHINE: Seeing everybody looking at me electrified me.

NARRATOR: She made records, starred in a movie, then a second and a third, all cinderella stories like her own. Rags to riches­ from low life to no life to Paris high­ life.

JOSEPHINE: To the whites I looked chocolate, to the blacks, like a pinky.

NARRATOR: Later in life, after performing all over Europe and America, AND after being a spy in World War II for France, the U.S., and their allies, Josephine decided to settle down.

JOSEPHINE: (to audience) I adopted 12 children in all and I loved them very much. (to kids) You are all my rainbow tribe and I love you very much. We’ll show the world that racial hatred is unnatural ... children of different races can grow up together as brothers.

NARRATOR: Josephine spent money faster than she could earn it. She bought more land, she bought lavish gifts for her children, and designer gowns.

JOSEPHINE: (Josephine is directing a moving man to move furniture into her house) Yes, place that there! And hang that over there! Thank you! (To children) Children I have all of these gifts for you! Don’t you just love these gifts from Paris?!

LANDLORD: (knocks on door) Excuse me Miss. Josephine but you behind on rent and if you can't pay it, you are going to be evicted from your house.

JOSEPHINE: Well I don’t have that much money left but I can sell my things to pay you!

(Josephine goes to the pawn shop)

PAWNSHOP GIRL: I can give you $300 dollars for this.

JOSEPHINE: I'm sorry but that isn’t enough and this is all that I have.

PAWN SHOP GIRL: Take it or leave it!

NARRATOR 1: Josephine gave the landlord what she had but it wasn’t enough. Josephine ended up on the street in the rain with her rainbow tribe, but there was no rainbow in sight.

NARRATOR 2: Her tribe became a band of vagabonds­­just like her own childhood. They lived off the generosity of friends. BUT ... then something great happened. At 67, she booked a performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City, the best known theatre anywhere. The audience cheered. She danced. She sang. She strutted.

(The audience claps for Josephine as she comes on stage singing)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: This is not just a comeback. This is an eternal return!

END