The Diviners

by  Jim Leonard Jr.

Full Length Play, Drama  /  6m, 5f

"A splendid drama by a playwright [...] with poetic as well as human feeling." - Variety

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  • Cast Size

    Cast Size

    6m, 5f
  • Suggested Use

    Suggested Use

    • Cutting Approved for Competition
    • UIL Approved
    • Competition or audition material
  • Audience

    Target Audience

    • Adult
    • Senior

Additional Info

This marvelously theatrical play is the story of a disturbed young man and his friendship with a disenchanted preacher in southern Indiana in the early 1930s. When the boy was young he almost drowned. This trauma, and the loss of his mother in the same accident, has left him deathly afraid of water. The preacher, set on breaking away from a long line of Kentucky family preachers, is determined not to do what he does best. He works as a mechanic for the boy’s father. The town doesn’t have a preacher and the women try to persuade him to preach – while he tries to persuade the child to wash. When the preacher finally gets the boy in the river and is washing him, the townspeople mistake the scene for a baptism. They descend on the event and, in the confusion, the boy drowns.
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"The Diviners, which would be meritorious from anyone, is astounding from so young a writer [...] Renders the humor and horror of the hinterlands with staggering accuracy [...] Compelling." - New York Magazine

"The playwright's warmth, humor and love for humanity permeate the drama, and make it both touching and entertaining." - Variety


Performing Groups

  • College Theatre / Student
  • Professional Theatre
  • Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups

License details

  • Minimum Fee: $100 per performance



  • Time Period: 1930s
  • Setting: The play takes place in the homes, fields, and public gathering places of the mythical southern Indiana town of Zion, population forty.
  • Features / Contains: Period Costumes


6m, 5f

BUDDY LAYMAN – an idiot-boy

JENNIE MAE LAYMAN – his sister

FERRIS LAYMAN – their father, a mechanic

C.C. SHOWERS – a backsliding preacher

NORMA HENSHAW – owner of the Hoosier Dry-Goods, a true believer


GOLDIE SHORT – owner of the Dine-Away-Cafe

BASIL BENNETT – a farmer, the local doctor of sorts

LUELLA BENNET – his wife, a doubter

MELVIN WILDER – a farmhand

DEWEY MAPLES – a young farmhand

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Jim Leonard Jr.

Jim Leonard Jr.

Diviners received its first professional production with the Circle Repertory Company in 1980.

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