Theater

Sleep in the Stables

a/k/a "Slaves." Song Group (Thirteen Songs). Music by H. Leslie Adams. Lyrics by Sidney Goldberg.

Prologue Blue's descendent living today finds old letters from his ancestors. These documents trigger a long and profound reflection on his predecessors - their lives, sacrifices, joys and tragedies. He shares his thoughts with the audience as a lengthy flashback on these events takes place.

Scene 1 1831, Virginia, Beulah's kitchen, with a large brick fireplace. Billey [tenor] is a 37-year-old slave, President Madison's butler, and Beulah [soprano, mezzo soprano or contralto] is a 32-year-old slave, who is a cook for the President Madison's household. Although they were sweethearts since they were teenagers in Africa, they have never married. Beulah sings, "I'm Tired," professing her annoyance that Billey has it so much better, because she sleeps in the stable and he lives in the mansion. Billey constantly boasts how smart he is and that he'll teach her to read; he flirts with her and sings, "Nothin' a Man Can't Do." Blue [baritone] 38-years-old and strong, enters, tattered and beaten. Beulah gets rags and medicine and dresses Blue's back. Billey's unusually knowledgeable, telling and preaching about things historical. This always amazes Beulah and Blue. They both sing a rousing and humorous duet about Billey, "Preacher Man". Blue, Billey's best friend, is annoyed that Billey thinks he's so smart, and Blue says he's in fact smarter and better because he has a wife and three daughters, and all Billey has is brains. Blue complains how he's always getting whipped by the master, and how he hates slavery. Beulah serves a special homemade brew and as they drink Billey tells them historically depressing incidents about slavery. To uplift their spirits, Blue and Billey tease and kid each other.

Scene 2 A month later, Beulah's kitchen. Beulah is cooking as Billey enters with flowers. Lovingly, he asks her whether she still loves him and is still his woman. Knowing that she can't tell Billey about the President's forcing her to sleep with him, she sings a ballad, "I Can't". To become more relaxed they again savor some of Beulah's special brewed drink. As the scene ends, they sing a duet, "The First Thing I Do".

Scene 3 Two months later, Beulah's kitchen. Beulah is pregnant and noticeably a little heavier. Billey enters; although he notices she is heavier, he remarks how beautiful she looks. Coyly, she calls him, "master." He explains he's still the President's butler, and that he has just been put in charge of the house servants. Billey sings a love song to Beulah, "When I See You". Blue bursts in, obviously severely beaten. As Beulah dresses his wounds, Blue, in tears, relates that his wife, Emma, and their daughters, have been stolen by white slavers and shipped to Liberia. The scene ends with Blue singing a prayerful lament about his missing family, "Sure Could Use Some Help". Billey and Beulah try to comfort him.

Scene 4 Seven months later (Beulah's kitchen). Beulah is cuddling her baby. Billey bursts in and tells her that, according to the sheriff, Blue killed his master, Jethro. They then try to figure out how to save their best friend by smuggling him to Liberia to be with his family. Blue enters, greatly agitated, denying that he killed Jethro, and that he's going to ask the President for help, because he has heard rumors that Beulah is President Madison's slave mistress! Billey then leaves the room, emotionally distraught. Sadly, Beulah sings a song explaining that she had no choice in the matter, "Nothin' I Could Do". Billey, overhearing her lament, returns saying that he loves her and that her son will become his son.

Scene 5 Four years later, Blue's ornate living room Liberia. When Blue arrived in Liberia, he was given 20 acres of land, on which he grew tobacco. His success allowed him to acquire 10,000 acres, and now has thousands of works on his land. He is also toying with the idea of running for president. In a jubilant mood, he sings a rousing song, "Rich as a Sonofarich".

Scene 6 Beulah's kitchen, Virginia. Beulah and Billey have gotten married and are now free. They read a letter from Blue, with whom they have been corresponding for 20 years, and are astounded by how rich and successful he has become. They decide to visit their best and oldest friend. Beulah and Billey sing "At Last We Are a Family", in which they reminisce and realize how much they miss him.

Scene 7 15 years later, Beulah's kitchen. Having just finished reading a letter from Blue, which confirms that he's now a millionaire and might run for president, Billey and Beulah sing a rousing song, "King Hutu's Dead".

Scene 8 Blue's living room overlooking the ocean, Liberia. Beulah and Billey show up, much to Blue's surprise, and sing "It's Got to Be".

Scene 9 Time, the Present, U. S. Blue's descendant, also named Blue, and his wife, Carrie, are seen in an updated version of ancestor Blue's living room, as they finish reading recently the discovered family letters that were written many years ago. They sing a song which traces their family heritage, "Our History", as the curtain falls.

Song Titles
"I'm Tired"
"Nothin' a Man Can't Do"
"Preacher Man"
"I Can't"
"The First Thing I Do"
"When I See You"
"Sure Could Use Some Help"
"Nothin' I Could Do"
"Blue's Rich!"
"At Last We Are a Family"
"King Hutu's Dead"
"It's Got to Be"
"Our History
"

Music © by H. Leslie Adams. (Suggested by a story of Sidney Goldberg; text used by permission.) 

H. Leslie Adams

American Composers Alliance

PO Box 1108, New York, NY