Can you imagine yourself as a slave in the 18th or 19th century? Can you imagine yourself on the struggling end of a 300-year civil rights’ movement? In My Shoes examines these questions with ruling class and minority class roles reversed.
Length: One-act stageplay
Cast: 22 male, 2 female
Awards: Semi-finals, 2003 Moondance International Film Festival
Behind the translucent curtain there are silhouettes of slaves working in the field. Two black men, both plantation owners, walk out to center stage.
Mr. Helms: How does your harvest go, Colonel Lloyd?
Col. Lloyd: Slow and steady, Mr. Helms, slow and steady. I employed 92 slaves last year and barely finished by November. This year I have 114 and still there is a fear of not completing the work.
Mr. Helms: I share your concerns. We start at first light and don’t end until all traces of the sun have dissipated.
Col. Lloyd: I’ve heard of parts of the world where the sun shines for the entire day. Ah, to be blessed with that gift of nature!
Mr. Helms: It certainly would boost productivity and solve the problem of idleness of the workers.
Col. Lloyd: Indeed! Sleep seems to do them no good, anyway. They must be enticed to step lively throughout the entire day whether by harsh word, whip or at the tooth of the hound.
Slave Narrative: We were worked in all weathers. It was never too hot or too cold; it could never rain, blow, hail, or snow, too hard for us to work in the field. Work, work, work, was scarcely more the order of the day than of the night. The longest days were too short for him, and the shortest nights too long for him. I was somewhat unmanageable when I first went there, but a few months of this discipline tamed me. I was broken in body, soul, and spirit. My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute!
Sunday was my only leisure time. I spent this in a sort of beast-like stupor, between sleep and wake, under some large tree. At times I would rise up, a flash of energetic freedom would dart through my soul, accompanied with a faint beam of hope, that flickered for a moment, and then vanished.
Mr. Helms: Take notice, Colonel, there have been many runaways this season. Some have made their way clear into town and lodged complaints against their master.
Col. Lloyd: Have any complaints been with merit?
Mr. Helms: Usually of the same discourse; too much work, too little food…
Col. Lloyd: Why, my own family, then, would have reason to cast dispersions against me. We eat no more often than the slaves, we clothe them, house them…
Mr. Helms: Point taken, Colonel, but I bring up this situation simply that you may want to attend to this issue and avoid any official inquiries that might hamper production. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.