Six black minstrel players in a Pullman porter railroad car on a cold winter's afternoon in February, 1895, outside the rural town of Hannibal, Missouri, wait for showtime to arrive. The chilly wind blows outside as they pass the time with stories and memories. Suddenly one member, Percy, so far absent, bursts in and collapses on the floor. When the troupe realizes their friend has been chased by a white mob, they must find a way to protect him and themselves. Fear, anxiety and deep honesty surface as these black men blacken their faces with burnt cork, trying to allow their friend to avoid detection. The white mob realizes where Percy is and shows up at the train where Percy goes out to face them, hoping to save the others.
Successfully presented by the Negro Ensemble Company, this thoughtful play examines the lives of a troupe of black minstrels, touring the United States in 1895. The writing captures the spirit of hope that propels the troupe through the pain and struggle of survival, knowing that every performance may be followed by exclusion and prejudice. "Abundant talent—derailed and forgotten in its time—is recalled with ruefulness in Mr. Brown's observant new play." —NY Times. "…a glorious play…" —The New Yorker. "The pleasure of the language so beautifully pieced together in this play by Carlyle Brown, the clarity and simple theatricality of the presentation and the deep evocation of what nineteenth-century life was like for blacks in the theatre touched this white viewer to the core." —TheaterWeek.