FROM BIRMINGHAM JAIL
by D. M. Larson
(using selections from Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Copyright © 2002
All Rights Reserved*
Cast of Characters
PRISONERS (parts can be doubled), GIRL, POLICE OFFICER, and DR. KING
(Lights come up on jail. Several criminals are in
their cells. They are scattered around the stage,
all in despair)
SONG: reflecting unhappy jail setting such as DEEP RIVER
(Piano still plays during following movement:
Enter police officer and DR. KING. One prison
sees them enter and watches as KING is placed in
solitary confinement. Prisoner 2113 is shocked at
seeing KING in jail. In pantomime, KING asked
OFFICER for pen and paper. OFFICER reluctantly
nods and exits. KING is alone and sits.)
[Note: each prisoner’s character has a number and
not a name]
(Turns to other prisoner)
You know who I saw?
I saw Dr. King.
You saw who?
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
No way. You're crazy. Dr. King wouldn't be here.
But I saw him.
I think you've been in here a little too long.
But I swear I did.
Give it a rest, will you.
He's here. I'd know that man anywhere. So tall and proud. At least in pictures. He looks kind of sad now.
I would be too if I were in jail.
Go ahead and laugh. I know what I saw. Laugh all you want. I'm not talking to you all anymore.
(2113 goes off alone)
(Piano still plays while OFFICER bring KING pen
and paper. Music fades when KING begins to write)
"My dear fellow Clergymen, while confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I [remembered] your recent statement calling our present activities 'unwise and untimely.' Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas...But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will...I would like to answer your statement..."
(KING goes silent. 2113 and 6322 are watching)
What's he doing?
Writing a letter I think.
KING"I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham...Several months ago our local affiliate here in Birmingham invited us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program...So I am here, along with several members of my staff, because we were invited here. Beyond this, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here...I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again shall we afford to live with the narrow, provincial `outsider agitator' idea. Anyone who lives in the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere in this country.
Read the full play script at: http://freedrama.net/jail.html