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Johnny! (Festival Play, cast and chorus)

“Johnny!” was written on commission from the Scranton Cultural Center / Celebration of American Labor 2000, dealing with coal mining and the monopolies of banking, steel and railroads.

J.P. Morgan, the miner’s most powerful adversary, was not always heartlessly all business. Tragedy turned him from a bungling youth to a cold titan of business.

Johnny! (Festival Play, cast and chorus)
Johnny! (Festival Play, cast and chorus)

I joined my father’s banking house at twenty,
A ready sacrifice for the Public Good,
Intent on amassing all the wealth and plenty
That I possibly could.
But I was a bungler, dull, my head empty.
A big disappointment.
Didn’t do what I should.
And did what I shouldn’t.
Wasted what he lent me,
An idiot, a fool, and what’s more, rude.

Our business in London, Morgan and Peabody
Sold stock in England. American luck
Was the draw. To New York he sent me,
Accounts to receive and profits to pluck…

Two lighted CHANDELIERS lowered from above to create “ballroom” LIGHT CHANGE: “Ballroom” lighting.
MUSIC: Waltz
DANCING SOCIALITES waltz across the stage in formal ball costume circa 1860. Continue waltz thru scene.
LIGHT CHANGE: Follow spot for Amelia.
AMELIA STURGES enters alone USR (beautiful in a very fragile, delicate and wild, fairy-like way. She runs toward USC then DS.
MORGAN’s attention is caught by her.

But I got distracted…
I was twenty, after all.

MORGAN rises and follows her.
AMELIA turns and faces MORGAN, as if meeting him at a dance. She offers him her hand.
MORGAN not only takes her hand, but shyly kisses it. Clearly he has fallen in love at first sight.

…I’m usually no good at social functions like this.
But this time I’m glad I came…
May I ask your name?

Amelia Sturges.

John… Pierpont… Morgan…

Johnny! (Festival Play, cast and chorus)
Johnny! (Festival Play, cast and chorus)

MORGAN bows, AMELIA curtseys. Morgan offers her his hand for the dance and Amelia accepts his hand. They waltz thru:


I’ve not seen you before…?


I’m on my way to Paris…

Have you been to Paris?

Fairly often…

City full of light!
Where the air is perfumed with violets…
I haven’t been there yet.

I never noticed violets.
…There on business.

MORGAN and AMELIA at CS, stop dancing and face each other.

What a pity. To have lost the beauty
Of one diamond of a moment!
Each moment’s gone into eternity.

AMELIA turns away from M., reaches up her hand as if grasping a butterfly in flight.

There! Would you like to see it?

See what?

This moment. You and I. Dancing…

SPECIAL LIGHT CUE: AMELIA opens her hand. A Ball of LIGHT seems floating on her palm.

Look… there it is…

This is… the most beautiful moment that I’ve known.
Let me keep it forever!

MORGAN tries to grasp it from her hand.

No! It’s gone…

Amelia turns back to Morgan.

May I …keep you forever?

MORGAN attempts to put his arms around Amelia.

AMELIA X DS of Morgan to CS.

(Smiles roguishly.) No.

MORGAN follows her to CS.

I’m asking, Miss Sturges, very bluntly,
Very wildly, madly, suddenly,
Will you marry me?

AMELIA pauses and coughs.

MORGAN and AMELIA waltz again.

You can’t go where I’m going…

To Paris! We’ll go on our honeymoon!
You’ll show me the violets,
All that is lovely,
All I’ve not seen, that you prize.
Let me see with your eyes…

(WALTZING COUPLES drift off stage.)
I’ll make arrangements at once.
We’ll be married at sea,
With the waves red at sunset.
The evening star as your crown.
Sea-mist for your veil…

…And a bouquet of seaweed?

A bouquet of moments, forever and ever,
Caught in your hair, with the stars
Twinkling there, in your hair.
(MORGAN stops dancing)
Please don’t mind if I stare,
I have never been so happy as I am at this moment…

MORGAN attempts to take Amelia in his arms and kiss her.
AMELIA breaks away from him X slightly DSR

I’m very sorry… but you can’t go with me where I’m going.
(Turns to face Morgan.)
You see, I am to die in three months…

Die! You?! Surely not…
You’re Life itself.

(Turns to R, moves a step.)
I burn with a fire
That lights up my sky.
I burn like a rocket,
A scattering flare
Of stars, falling, falling,
Till the last one winks out
…And all is blackness…

(Turns to Morgan)
I have tuberculosis.

No! Please don’t tease.
(X to Amelia)
You’re not dying.
You’re life itself…

Poor man… Lonely man
You may come with me as far as you can.
We’ll grasp moments of light, rose and gold,
Till that slumber of soft night enfolds…
(LIGHT CHANGE: Lights dim, including Spots.)
Me. You may come,
Yes, do come,
And remember when you’ve grown old…

MORGAN and AMELIA kiss and she dies in his arms.

LIGHTS: Stage is totally dark except for dim, cold SPOT on MORGAN and AMELIA.
MORGAN holds Amelia’s lifeless body, drooping in his arms.