Margaret Blair Young
I Am Jane
I Am Jane produced for The Genesis Group, March 2000; in
Springville, Utah's Villa Theater in Spring 2001, at the AML Writer's
Conference at Utah Valley State College in November, 2000; in Chicago,
Illinois in 2000; and at Brigham Young University, February 2001.
Jane Manning James was one of our most remarkable pioneer ancestors.
She was a woman of tremendous courage and faith, and she survived
personal tragedies that would have destroyed many. And she was black,
a former slave. The fact that she was a convert to Mormonism, a
pioneer and a Saint makes her a compelling subject for drama; the fact
that she was African-American gives her story resonance and power far
beyond the facts of her life history.
Margaret Young, together with her writing partner, Darius Gray, have
begun to explore the sad legacy of LDS race relations in what promises
to be a groundbreaking trilogy of historical novels, "Standing on the
Promises," book one of which, One More River to Cross was recently
published by Deseret Book. Now, with I Am Jane, Young has taken
the same body of research, and created a theatrical event of the first
Using gospel music from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,
and employing a free-flowing theatrical style that moves the story
throughout time and space, I Am Jane is an exciting piece of
theatre. Although the writing is direct and eloquent, Young has made
the difficult choice to mute her own strong, poetic voice, and give us
instead the voice of her subject. The play's title is no accident;
I Am Jane is clearly intended as a tribute to a remarkable
subject, instead of the subjective vision of a masterful artist. And,
as such, the play becomes a vehicle not only for Jane James'
testimony, but also the vehicle through which we also hear the
testimonies of our living brothers and sisters.
The written texts of plays are merely the blueprints for performances,
and a fine play needs to be seen and heard, and not merely read. This
is doubly true for I Am Jane. One cannot mention the power and
impact of this text, and not mention the dedication and commitment of
the members of the LDS theatrical community, black and white, who have
sacrificed to present it in so many venues.
I am Jane is a wonderful play. But by bringing together present
and past, black and white, brothers and sisters, this play becomes
more than a work of art. It becomes an act of goodness.