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Louisiana Anthology

Ava Leavell Haymon.
Music and lyrics by Andre K DuBroc
Tellin’ on the Levee.

© Ava Leavell Haymon.
Used by permission.
All rights reserved.

Currier and Ives. “Bound Down the River.” ca. 1870.
Public domain image.


SETTING: 1890. New Orleans Dock, beside the levee, near the old French Market. A great jumble of activity and racket. Vendors call out their wares, dockworkers boast and fight, folks from all over moving in, carrying their possessions off the boats, sense of the city growing, a great energy. Everybody’s got something to sell, something to say, somewhere to go in a hurry. On the dock are barrels, coils of rope, packing crates, cotton bales, etc., all available to be dragged around by the cast.

French Market, 1910.
Public domain photo at Wikipedia

Scene 1: The New Orleans Dock

SONG: (sung by Praline Lady, Goober, Consuela, Gaston)

Louisiana Tellin’ on the Levee

Louisiana Tellin’ on the levee!

Acadiana Swappin’ on the stoop.

The Mississippi flows with many stories

Float the ol’ man river back to me and you.

Between choruses, a jumble of goodhumored babble:


Gaston: Ya’ll heard dat story about Jean Sot?

Praline Lady: I LOVE that story!

Consuela: About how he carry the cow home!

Chorus repeats: Louisiana Tellin’ on the Levee

Louisiana Tellin’ on the levee!

Acadiana Swappin’ on the stoop.

The Mississippi flows with many stories

Float the ol’ man river back to me and you.

Praline Lady: Well, everybody. BACK TO WORK. (Shouts her wares) PRALINES, BELLES PRALINES.

Gaston: (simultaneously) Oysters. Oysters. Get your fresh oysters here.

Consuela (simultaneously): Calas! Fine Rice Fritters!

Goober (simultaneously): Everybody got somethin to sell. Ever’body got somethin to sell.

Molly (wanders into this gaggle of noise. She is lost and confused. She and her family arrived in New Orleans only today, and Molly is separated from them on the dock. Her one word cuts through all their vendor cries): MAAAMAAAAAA!

Consuela (as she and other vendors and dockworker converge on Molly): Oh, Bambina. What a cute little girl!

Goober: Who’re you?

Gaston (overlapping): Mon Dieu. What’s this little girl doin on the dock?

Praline Lady: Get away from her...She doesn’t have any money. (Fighting clear of vendors with Molly) Leave her alone, she’s with me. Uh (turning to Molly), who ARE you?

Gaston (still trying to sell his wares): Oysters!

Praline Lady: Hold it, Gaston. (to Molly) What’s your name?

Molly: Molly.

Praline Lady: Where’s your Mama?

Molly: She left me right over there (pointing), and she said she’d be right back, and now I can’t find her (about to break into tears).

PL: Don’t you worry none, Child. You gonna be all right, ’cause you’re with the Praline Lady.

Molly: (belligerently) What’s a praline?

PL: What’s a praline??! Why, here. Try one. (Offers praline)

Molly: (looks at it dubiously, doesn’t take it)

Gaston: Well, if you don’t want it, Cher, I’ll take it.

PL (slaps his hand)

PL: It’s CANDY, honey... Where you from, anyway?

Molly: (Cries) I don’t like it here.

PL: Don’t like it where?

Molly: Loo-wees-i-ana.

All except Molly: (can’t believe it) Don’t like Loosiana?

Molly: (nods, crying louder)

PL: Where’d you come from?

Molly: Ever’body talks foreign, the food looks funny (looks at the praline), the land is all flat, except for ...(points at levee) that thing...

All except Molly: Levee. That’s a levee. (They are very surprised that someone wouldn’t know.)

Molly: ...the people are different colors, and the trees have nasty grey stuff hanging on them that looks like ... beards. (wails)

PL: Hmmm. I see. (Unwraps the praline.) We better take things one at th’ time. How about tryin some of this funny Loosiana candy?

Molly: (breaks off tiny corner, reluctantly puts it in her mouth. Everyone watches expectantly. Her expression slowly changes).

PL (points to praline in Molly’s hand): Not so bad, huh?

Molly: It’s good candy.

PL: (Exagerates pronunciation. Like a teacher) Praw-leen.

Molly: (overcomes her resistance to the strangeness of the word) Praw-leen.

PL: Yeah! That’s it (smiles big, knows she’ll win her over). Now, tell me, you got to Louisiana on a boat?

Molly: (nods)

PL: Where’d you come from?

Molly: We been moving since before I can remember. Mama says no more movin’ — we’re stayin in Loosiana. This the first day I been here, and I don’t like it one bit. (But she takes another bite). Nothin’ seems to make no sense at all.

PL (thinks hard for a while): I believe... what you need, honey... is a story!

Molly: A story?

PL: Yeah. A real Loosiana story.

Gaston, Consuela, Goober (in a simultaneous babble): Yeah! /Let’s do./ Right, just the thing.

Molly: (looks around for one) Are there stories here?

All except Molly: Everywhere! / Oh, Glory! / Listen to her! / Why, you bet there are!

PL: Molly, you have come to the LAND of stories!

Molly: (looks around, dubious.) What kind of stories?

PL: All kinds. All kinds. Why, right here on this dock, there are stories.

Molly: (shades her eyes and looks around for one)

All except Molly: (excited, arranging themselves to tell a story to Molly)

Consuela: Oh, oh, oh (as if she’s saying, let it be my turn first). I know a story to tell.

PL: Good! Tell us a story, Consuela.

Scene 2: The Tar Baby

 (Flows straight out of Scene 1, no break)

Consuela (to Molly): Did you ever hear of the story of Compair Lapin?

Molly: (shakes head no)

Praline Lady: Hold it! This story’s from up the river?, ain’t it?

Consuela: (nods head yes) Laura Plantation.

PL: Then, let’s GO north. Let’s take a paddlewheel steamer. (Music begins. Paddle Boat motion with forearms rotating around each other) (To Molly) Know what a paddlewheel steamer is?

Molly: Sure. It’s what we came here in (Begins to "paddle" with her forearms.)

PL: (to audience) A big boat on the the river. (Encourages wheel motion in audience) Huge wheel behind it pushes it along.

Song: Louisiana Tellin’ on the Levee

Louisiana Tellin’ on the levee!

Acadiana Swappin’ on the stoop.

The Mississippi flows with many stories

Float the ol’ man river back to me and you.

Paddle boat a’turn us to an ol’ plantation farm

Where tales as old as Moses are told with biting charm

In fields of cotton, story’s told again by former slaves

Of ol’ Compair Lapin, Renar, and Bouki

and how they misbehaved.

(During song, and between chorus and verse, in lots of commotion, Gaston, Consuela, and Goober pick up miscellanous junk from the dock and improvise costumes. Gaston will become Compair Lapin, Consuela becomes Compair Renar, Goober becomes Compair Bouki. Compair Renar chases Compair Bouki around with a bat. PL and Molly continue the paddle wheel throughout.)

PL (shading her eyes and looking around): Wide flat fields. The folks that live here brought their stories from Africa.

Molly: LOOK!

PL: Oh, it’s good ole Compair Bouki himself, come to show us what happens.

Compair Bouki (shambles along, til he comes to where Compair Renar is just setting up the Tar baby, moving it around with sticks, so as not to get stuck in it himself): Duh, Howdy, Compair Renar. What you got there?

Compair Renar: Howdy, Compair Bouki. What I got me here is my own amazing invention.

Compair Bouki: Duh, what you call that invenshun, Compair Renar?

Compair Renar: I calls it the Wonderful Tar Baby.

Compair Bouki: A Tar Baby? What’s it do?

Compair Renar: A Tar Baby don’t do nothin, don’t say nothin, it just sets there.

Compair Bouki: Duh, if it don’t do nothin, and it don’t say nuthin, why you want one, Compair Renar.

Compair Renar: I wants one, Compair Bouki, so I can catch that fool Compair Lapin. That Lapin fool me one time too many.

Compair Bouki: Duh, if the Tar Baby don’t do nothin, and don’t say nothin, duh, how it gonna catch Compair Lapin?

Compair Renar: It gonna catch Compair Lapin, because Compair Lapin he jist can’t stop talkin.

Compair Bouki: (scratches his head) What you make it out of, Compair Renar?

Compair Renar: Outta tar and turpentine.

Compair Bouki: Not too good to hug.

Compair Renar: (snickers) Mighty sticky, Compair Bouki, Mighty sticky. Gonna set it up right here beside this road, where Compair Lapin comes along pretty soon... (The Tar Baby is a dark brown gunny sack made like a robe open all the way down the back, a hood for the head with nothing but Molly’s face showing. Compair Renar is trying to set it upright, but it keeps falling over.)

Compair Bouki: Duh. Looks like a pool of cane syrup to me, Compair Renar.

Compair Renar: This hot ol Loosiana sun jus keep it too limp. What we got around here to plump it up solid-like?

Compair Bouki: Duh. (Looks around behind him. Sees Molly.) Here’s something.

Compair Renar: (Grabs her by the arm): Just the right size! (puts the costume on Molly).

Molly: Wait a minute! Don’t! Yuck!

PL: I’ll be over here, Molly. It’ll be all right...

Compair Bouki: (pointing at Lapin coming up in the distance) Duuuuh...

Compair Renar: Quick, Here he come now, let’s us get up behind this bush, Compair Bouki, and let’s us lie low.

Compair Lapin: (skipping along the road) Lippety-clippety. Lippety-clippety. (comes to Tar Baby, and goes past) Lippety-Clippety. Whoooa! (Exaggerated double-take back to where Tar Baby is)

What’s this? (pulls off his hat)

Mawnin. (Pauses for Tar-baby to answer)


Compair Lapin: I SAID, HÉ, cher. Comment ça va?


Compair Lapin: Say, you don’t speak French, too?


Compair Lapin: Well, all right, cher. How you doin, then?


Compair Lapin: (to audience) Ya’ll... I think it might be deaf. Maybe if we all say Hé together, it would hear us... one two three

Audience: HÉ!


Compair Lapin: Can’t be THAT deaf. I b’lieve you muss be stuck up. Don’t you know you s’pose to say Hé when somebody say Hé to you?


Compair Lapin: Didn’t your Mama teach you any manners at your house?


Compair Lapin: I believe I oughta teach you some manners myself.


Compair Lapin: Here’s the way it works: I’ll say Hé, and then you say Hé right after me. Here we go: Hé.


Compair Lapin: Mais jamais. You ARE stuck up. I may need to use a little persuasion on you.


Compair Lapin: Yesser. I’ll use a little persuasion — like maybe a blap up side the head with my paw.


Compair Lapin: How ja like that?


Compair Lapin: Smart aleck, huh? I’m giving you one last chance. I’m going to tell you Hé real nice like and you are gonna tell me Hé right back. Understand?


Compair Lapin: I said UNDERSTAND?


Compair Lapin (jumping up and down in frustration): I SAY HÉ AND THEN YOU SAY HÉ RIGHT BACK.


Compair Lapin: Here’s my paw! (shows his fist) You see that, don’t you?


Compair Lapin: All right, you asked for it: H É ! (Blap. Hits the Tar Baby with his right fist. Sticks.) (Trying to pull fist away)


(Compair Bouki and Compair Renar are laughing in the bushes, and Compair Renar puts his hand over Compair Bouki’s mouth to make him be quiet.)

Compair Lapin: (through his teeth) Let... go.... my... paw.


Compair Lapin: If you don’t let go my paw, I’m gonna blap you up side the head.


Compair Lapin: Too late for you, cher. (Blap. Second paw sticks)


Compair Lapin: Let... go... my... other... paw.


Compair Lapin: If you don’t... I’m gonna kick you with my strong right foot.


Compair Lapin: Too late. (Blap. Foot sticks) Let... go.. my... foot.




Compair Lapin: (Blap. Second foot sticks) Let... go... of... IF YOU DON’T LET GO MY FOOT THIS INSTANT, I’M GONNA BUTT YOU CRANKSIDED.


Compair Lapin: (BLAP, butts her with his head. It sticks) AARRGH. (Pulls and pulls)

Compair Renar: (pretends to saunter up by accident) Mawnin, Compair Lapin. You’re lookin sorter stuck up this morning (and he falls on the ground and laughs and laughs and laughs). Come on over, Compair Bouki, and look how stuck up Compair Lapin is this mornin.

Compair Bouki: Duh, Howdy, Compair Lapin. You lookin kinda slow this morning.

Compair Lapin: Git away from me.

Compair Renar: Just wait til we get us a brushfire, Compair Bouki, and we’ll roast us a Rabbit, and have fresh Rabbit fajitas for supper!

Compair Lapin: (in a pitiful voice) Oh, cher. I must admit that sounds like a good idea, Compair Renar. But whatever you do, PLEASE don’t throw me in that brier patch.

Compair Renar: Well, it’s so much trouble to kindle a fire. I guess we’ll have to drown him.

Compair Lapin: Oh, that’s a fine idea, too. Just PLEASE don’t go throwin me in that brier patch. Compair Bouki, please don’t let Compair Renar throw me in that Brier patch.

Compair Bouki: Duh, Compair Renar, he’s pleadin’ hard.

Compair Renar: Ain’t no water near. I guess we’ll have to skin him.

Compair Lapin: Skin me all you want! Tear out my ears by the roots. That’s the best idea you’ve had yet. Nothing, I mean nothing, could be worse than throwin me in that brier patch.

Compair Renar: Compair Bouki, I think we might do that very thing. This ole Loosiana sun has that tar mighty soft now, let’s just pull him off this Tar Baby he’s so fond of, and carry him right over to that Brier Patch.

(They pull him off the Tar Baby and carry him by the arms and legs — Molly takes off the Tar Baby Costume so she can watch — and they give him a big toss, and pat each other on the back.)

Compair Lapin: (Lands, somersaults, and dances away, and laughs at them loud as he can): Oh, cher. I was born and bred in a briar patch!

Song: Born and Bred in a Brier Patch.

Compair Lapin: Born and bred in a brier patch

Dats why I’m so hard to catch.

So po’ Compair Renar and dat Compair Bouki

Will never catch dis sly Compair Lapin.

All: Never catch dat sly Compair Lapin (4 times)

Compair Renar: Dat dad blame Lapin he T’ink he smart.

Just wait I’ll tear his ears apart.

I’ll tear de fur right from his tail.

Compair Bouki: We try but Gosh we always fail.

All: Dey try but Gosh dey always fail (4 times)

All: Born and bred in a brier patch

Dats why he’s so hard to catch.

So po’ Compair Renar and dat Compair Bouki

Will never catch dis sly Compair Lapin.

All: Never catch dat sly Compair Lapin (4 times)

(Lots of commotion during song. Renar and Bouki chase Lapin around with bat. PL and Molly are clapping for story, audience will clap too, entire group breaks out of parts, pulling off costumes, and they congratulate each other on the successful story.)

Molly: (moves out of group and begins to get worried again) My Mama should be back by now.

PL: (quickly) She’ll be coming pretty soon, honey. Who’s got another story to tell us right quick?

Gaston: I got me a story. Let me tell you, I got me a story RIGHT HERE (points to his temple).

PL: (mimicking him) Gaston has a story RIGHT HERE (pointing to her temple)!

Gaston: I got me a good story, me.

PL: What’s your story about, Gaston?

Scene 3: Chitimacha Indian: Gray Moss in Green Trees

 (No stop — straight through from last scene)

Gaston (to Molly): Would you like to hear the story about how we got Spanish Moss?

Molly: What’s Spanish moss?

PL: That grey stuff hanging on the trees.

Gaston: This story’s told by the Chitimacha Indians, and they were here before anyone else. To go where they live, we have to travel in a canoe. (Teaches Molly and audience the oar motion).

(When oar motion is established, SONG begins):

Song: Louisiana Tellin’ on the Levee

Louisiana Tellin’ on the levee!

Acadiana Swappin’ on the stoop.

The Mississippi flows with many stories

Floatin’ Ole Man River back to me and you.

(Molly and PL are paddling, others dig around for costumes and begin to go into Native American dance as music changes to a Tom Tom sound. Verse is spoken, with underscoring.)

Verse: Indian travellers make canoes

to paddle over water.

Make baskets, too, by weaving pine,

as mother teaches daughter.

There’s folklore here to add to our storytelling trail.

Spanish moss creation is a famous Indian tale.

(All dance to the tom-tom music and get into costumes. For this scene, Gaston will be the Indian Storyteller/Moon, and Consuela and Goober will dance the scene, being Wind, Water, etc. PL will be the Indian Mother, Molly the Elder Child. There is a doll for the younger child). (Music underscores all the dance and pantomime).

Indian Storyteller: Once upon a time, long long ago, there were no long gray strands of beautiful moss hanging from the trees along the Gulf. The People lived in harmony with the Great River. The river flooded its banks every year in early spring. High ground stuck up out of the water like tiny islands, and there the great live oak trees grew, their branches stretching low and heavy across the brown water.

(While Indian Storyteller is saying this, PL and Molly leave the canoe and become the Chitimacha Mother and her Elder Child, and pantomime the story)

Indian Storyteller: One spring, before the river flooded, a Chitimacha Mother was working in the fields near the river. Her two children were nearby, playing with bows and arrows, and picking the blue and purple flowers. (pause, while this is acted out)

Indian Storyteller: Suddenly, Cold Wind came racing in the air through the trees, bringing Sharp Rain, running in all directions. Black and grey clouds blew all across the sky.

(Wind is trailing black and gray clouds — long fabric on sticks, that later can be torn and woven into the Cloud Cloth). (Morrocco noises for rain)

Indian Storyteller: WATER rose, high and cold.

Water: (trails a long blue length of light fabric)

(Now, without narration, the Mother runs over to her children, and picks up the doll, grabs the Elder child by the hand. They run one way — chased by the Wind and the Water — run another way. Water pulls down on their feet, slows them down. They finally make it to the branches of a live oak tree and begin to climb)

Indian Storyteller: The mother climbed up a thick oak tree, high enough so Water could not reach them. But Wind kept on howling and Water kept on rising.

Elder Child (begins to cry): Mother, I’m cold. My feet are so cold.

(Wind howls even louder)

Elder Child: Mother, my hands are cold. I can’t hold onto the branches.

Storyteller: Moon came out over the black, flying clouds. Its light was sharp and bright. (Storyteller becomes Moon — Hula hoop covered with Mylar, a round shield. Or, the round hand drum is round and silver like a moon.)

Elder Child: Mother — I’m so cold!

Mother (who is very cold, also, and afraid): Close your eyes and hold on as tight as you can. (She begins to pray to Moon): Moon in the Sky! Hear my prayer! My children are cold and they will die. I am cold and I can’t keep them warm. I don’t want my children to die from the cold. Take pity on them, they are young. Take pity on me, so I can be with them. Be kind to us, and don’t let us die.

(DANCED to Moon Music: Invoked by the prayer, Moon becomes more powerful, and gestures Wind to calm. Wind calms. Then, Moon shines a spell on the Mother and children, and puts them to sleep. For a long slow time, representing all through the night, Moon weaves and weaves and weaves — Moon takes the clouds and shreds them up and hangs them all around the Mother and her children, and through the branches of the tree. Moon completes its job, and becomes Storyteller again.)

Storyteller: The Moon set in the west, and Morning came. The sky was clear and warm, and Water had gone down. The Mother and her children awoke and looked around. They saw something they had never seen before. All over the branches, and all around them, was a thick green-gray blanket that covered them and kept them warm.

Elder Child: Mother! Moon heard you pray and tore up the clouds to make a blanket for us.

Mother: The sky is clear and now the clouds are on the trees.

Storyteller: Cloud-cloth, that’s the name the Indians gave Spanish Moss. It’s been on the trees in Louisiana ever since.

Molly: (taking off Chitimacha headband, or whatever, and making the transition back to being the Molly:) Cloud cloth. So that’s where that grey stuff comes from.

PL: Yes, we call it Spanish moss now.

Molly: I think I like it better now, too.

All (taking off Chitimacha costumes, congratulating each other on the story well told).

Goober: All right, Miss Antoinee. It’s your turn to tell us a story now.

Scene 4: Jean Sot

 (runs straight through from Scene 3)

Goober: All right, Miss Antoinee. It’s your turn to tell us a story now.

PL: Honey, I don’t know any stories. Everything I know is the absolute truth.

Gaston: Tell us one of your true stories, cher.

PL: Well, if you gonna twist my arm... Cajun folks tell about Jean Sot. We need one of their boats — a pirogue.

Molly: What’s that?

PL: Small boat, that you push along with a paddle or a pole. Here, let me show you. (teaches Molly and audience how to pole a pirogue).

Song: Loosiana Tellin’ on the Levee with a Cajun Accent

All: A pirogue’s what is needed in Atchafalaya bays

The Cajun folk within these swamps have many clever ways.

Their stories stay! Lagniappe’s preserved! in tales that they have got

So let’s go down this ba-you, an’ visit poor Jean Sot.

Louisiana tellin’ on the Levee

Acadiana swappin’ on the stoop

The Mississippi flows with many stories

Float the Ole Man River back to me and you.

(PL and Molly pole boat along. During Jean Sot story, Consuela, Gaston, and Goober become characters as they occur — the cow, the grocer, the neighbor, Cousin Mathilde, the kitten. When they are not particular characters, they are to be members of the close-knit society, watching and gossipping about the foibles of Jean Sot.)

PL: (pointing over the side of imaginary pirogue) Don’t mess with that snake, cher. Here is the story of Jean Sot and the Errands. You be Jean (hands Molly a round cap) and I’ll be your MawMaw (puts on an apron or a bonnet).

Gaston (as MawMaw and Jean Sot come up): That Jean Sot! Quel imbecile! Did you hear what he did the other day? (whispers)

Consuela: Pa’ encore! His poor Mawmaw! (They see Molly/Jean Sot and PL/MawMaw coming up in the pirogue): Look! there they come now!

PL (MawMaw): Jean, Jean, Come here vite.

Molly (Jean): (doesn’t hear or understand)

Mawmaw: Jean. Vite, vite!! I need you to go somewhere.

Molly (Jean): (catches on) Oh yes, Mawmaw. I’ll run an errand for you.

Mawmaw: I want you to go to Tante Flo’s, and carry the cow home.

Jean: Carry the cow home?

Mawmaw: Vite, vite, vite!

Song: Oh Me Oh My / My Cher Jean Sot

Mawmaw: Oh me oh my

Mah cher Jean Sot

A milkin’ cow

Yo’ Ma done got!

Now go down to Tante Flo’s bayou,

Her son Boudreaux’s gon’ wait for you,

Git dat cow. Be back by two

And don’ fo’git I’m trus’in yo’

Me Yo My

Ma Cher Jean Sot!

Jean: Yes, Mawmaw. Uhhh, which way’s the cow?

Mawmaw: (exasperated. Points)

Cow: La Mooooooo

Jean: (still can’t find it, consults audience, which will point)

Jean: Oh yeah. Here I go.

(He run off in the direction of the pointing arms, and the music to Me Oh My Mah Cher Jean Sot comes up)

Cow: (sees him coming) La Mooooo. Here come that dumb Jean Sot. He will get somethin’ wrong for sure.

Jean: (He comes up on Cow) Come on, sweet Cow. (Shrugs at audience, feels really silly)

Cow: (to audience) Aaaanh! I’m supposed to go with this idiot?

Jean: (Looks in the direction of home and Mawmaw, but can’t seem to see that far, Mawmaw is busy about something else) (Jean tries to get the cow to jump up on his back, Cow turns and goes other direction. Jean tries several times, then remembers): MaMere says to carry you home! (Gets under cow, grunts and groans)

Cow (incensed at the indignity) Some Cow I am, to be carried by a stupid boy.

Jean (does at last get her all the way home. Calls out): Ma Mere, Ma Mere, here is the cow, but she is a heavy load.

Mawmaw (sees him coming): Jean! NO NO NO!

(Sings) Me Yo My

Ma Cher Jean Sot.

Too much brains

Yo sho’ ain got!

Das’ not how yo’ lead a cow.

Move! Ma cher, I’ll sho’ yo’ how!

Yo’ pull her wit’ a big long rope!

I swear dat yo’ beyond all hope!

Me Yo my

Ma Cher Jean Sot.

Mawmaw (exactly at end of song): Poor Jean, when I send you after the cow, you don’t carry her home on your back! You tie a rope around her neck and lead her home. (Demonstrates on Cow, then slaps her on the rump so she shambles off.)

Cow: La Mooo. Jean Sot, you so stupid you make a cow look smart!

Jean: (slumps, looks dumb)

Mama: I need you to make another errand for me.

Jean: Yes, Ma Mere. I’ll do better this time.

Mama: Go to the grocery and bring me a good round loaf of bread for our supper. Here’s money for it. Be sure to say Bonjour to the grocer. Now hurry up and Mon Dieu! don’t do anything stupid!!! (And she turns back to her work)

(Grocer puts on grocer’s apron, etc, has set up cans, counter on other side of stage area.)

Jean: (To audience) Which way’s the grocery???? (Follows their pointing fingers)

Grocer: Oh Yi Yi. Here come that imbecile Jean Sot. He’ll get something wrong, I know.

Jean: Bonjour, Monsieur Grocer. See my Mawmaw’s money, and she would like a nice round bread.

Grocer: Here one is, Jean Sot, a pain de menage. Can you get it home?

Jean: Yes, MawMaw told me how just today. But I need a rope.

Grocer: A rope?

Jean: Yes, a rope, please.

Grocer: (looking about the store) Will some string do?

Jean: Bon, bon. Some string will be fine. Merci. Thank you very much.

(They wave good bye, and Jean goes outside store, sits on ground, and carefully ties the string around the bread. Now he begins to “lead” the bread home, pulling the string over his shoulder.)

Jean: Ma mere, Ma mere. See how I lead the bread home!

Mama: (Sees the dusty ruined bread at end of the string) Oh NO NO NO

(Sings) Oh Me Oh My,

Ma Cher Jean Sot

Wa’s in yo head?

Sho not a lot!

I send you for a loaf o’ bread,

yo’ pull it wit a rope instead!

You put bread in your hat to keep,

Yo’ sho’ do make yo’ MawMaw weep!

Me Yo My,

Ma Cher Jean Sot!

Mama: Ma pauvre Jean. When I send you for a round bread, and you want your hands free to play, put the bread in the nice round cap I made for you. It will fit nicely and you can carry it on your head.

Jean: (Takes off hat and looks in it. This seems a novel idea to him)

Mama: Now I want you to run for me another errand.

Jean: (Looks at audience — Shows alarm!) Oui, Ma Mere.

Mama: Since the bread is ruined, I will bake a brioche for your supper. Go to the neighbor’s and buy me some butter. You know how much you like butter melting all over your brioche!

(Neighbor sets up on her porch, knitting, with a sign “Fresh Butter” in front of her, and a cold pail beside her with the butter in it.)

Jean: (rubs his stomach)

Mama: (goes back to her work.)

Jean: (to audience) Which way??? (Follows their point.)

Neighbor: Oh Yi Yi. Here come that Foolish Jean. He’ll get something wrong for sure. (Jean comes close) Bonjour, Jean Sot. What you want, what you need, hunh?

Jean: Bonjour, Ma Tante. I come for some butter for my MawMaw.

Neighbor: Well, that sounds not too dangerous. Here is a nice round pound of butter, just churned this morning. Mais ça fait chaud! Do you know how to get it home on a hot day like this?

Jean: Why certainly I do. Ma Mere told me how just today.

(She gives him the butter, He says Merci bien, they part, he remembers his Mawmaw’s instructions: puts the butter inside his round cap and puts it on his head. Now he walks along home, swinging both his arms. It is quite a long way.)

Jean: What a hot day it is today. (He fans himself with his hands.) I’m glad Ma Mere told me how to carry a round thing, so I can have both hands free to fan myself. (The butter begins to melt) Oh cher, I feel the sweat begin to run down my forehead. What a hot sun we have today! (more and more butter runs down his forehead. He puts his fingers to it and sucks on his fingers.) The sun is so yellow and hot today, my sweat tastes just like yellow butter. (He comes close to home, calls out): Ma Mere. Ma Mere, come and see. I’ve walked so far in the sun, I’ve learned to sweat butter!!!!

Mawmaw: Oh NO NO NO

(Sings) Oh Me Oh My,

Ma Cher Jean Sot

Blessed wit’ smarts,

Yo’ sho’ wuz not.

Yo melted butter on yo face,

Yo keep yo MawMaw in disgrace,

Yo carry dis to de bayou

Yo dip it in so it keep cool

Me Yo My,

Ma Cher Jean Sot.

Mawmaw: Ma pauvre Jean Sot. When you get butter, wrap it up tight in straw and hurry to the bayou and put it in the water to cool it. Then it won’t have a chance to melt before you get home.

Jean: (feels terrible)

Mama: Your supper will be dry tonight without the butter, but come here now, I want you to run for me another errand.

Jean: Yes, Ma Mere. I’ll do it right this time.

Mama: My Cousin Mathilde sends me word that she has a nice fat kitten for us. Be my good Jean and hurry to Cousin Mathilde’s house and come straight home with the kitten.

(Cousin Mathilde and Kitten establish themselves to wait for Jean Sot.)

Jean: I’ll do it, Ma Mere. I’ll do it right this time.

(Audience might point without prompting)

Cousin Mathilde: Oh Yi Yi. Here comes that Foolish Jean. He’s sure to do something wrong today. (To Jean) Bonjour, Jean Sot. I bet you came for the kitten.

Jean: Bonjour, Cousin Mathilde. Oui, Ma Mere say merci and you can trust me to bring it straight home to her (he puffs out chest).

Cousin Mathilde: (Laughs, handing him the Kitten) Take good care, Jean. You know how to take a kitten home?

Jean: Oh oui, for sure. Ma Mere told me how just today.

(They wave good bye, Jean goes outside, petting the Kitten. Kitten says La Meow, and purrs with a French gargle-R sound.)

Jean: So sweet, petite kitty-cat, I really hate to wrap you in straw. (But he does) So sweet, petite minou. I really hate to put you in the bayou!

Kitten (wrestles him to stay out of the water)

Mawmaw (hears the ruckus and comes running out toward him): NO NO NO

(Sings) Oh Me Oh My,

Ma Cher Jean Sot

Now yo done made yo MawMaw hot.

Butter! Bread! Now Kitty Chat,

Mon Cher I’m gonna fetch ma bat!

Don’ go away I’ll be right back!

Jean Sot, I’m gonna smash yo’ flat!

Me Yo My,

Ma Cher Jean Sot.

Mawmaw: (takes big red bat and chases Jean all through the audience, while)

All except Jean and Mawmaw SING:

Das de tale of po’ Jean Sot,

An how he made his MawMaw hot.

He always tries to do t’ings right,

De problem is he ain’ too bright!

Me yo my,

Ma Cher Jean Sot.

(PL and Molly come back to stage in front, taking off costumes, and laughing. PL gives Molly a big hug, because she’s been in so much trouble.)

Scene 5: Don’t Drop into My Soup

  (runs straight through from previous scene)       

Goober: Hey, I got me a story now.

Consuela: You don’t know any stories, Goo-behr.

Goober: That’s what you think, Miss Consuela. I got me a whole bag full of stories.

Gaston: (scornfully) HaHaHa

PL: Don’t you laugh at him!

Goober: Have you ever heard the one called “Don’t Drop Into My Soup”?

All: Tell it, Goober / Go on, tell us. / Go ahead, let’s hear it.

Goober: It’s a ghost story!

PL: We need to go up the Red River a ways, west into red dirt country.

Molly: Oh goodie. What kind of boat?

PL: Let’s use the Paddlewheel again. (Audience begins to paddle.)

Song: Louisiana Tellin’ on the Levee

All: Now let’s look at stories from the Irish and the Scots,

Who settled in the red dirt land far North from poor Jean Sot

Their stories come from Europe with chilling tales of ghosts

which live in empty houses. At least that’s what they boast.

Molly: (screams)

Others: Shhhhhhhhh

(Underscoring is more and more ghostly)

PL: Here we are. Folks in these parts came from Ireland and Scotland. They tell lots of ghost stories. Ya’ll ready to be real scared?

Molly: (shivers) Can I be in it?

(Barrels and crates are being arranged to be the haunted wooden house. Painted sign is hung around Goober’s neck — “Anybody who’ll stay in this here house by theirself all night kin have it and all that’s in it.” He holds his arms out like he’s the door of the house.)

Goober: Once upon a time there was a haunted house, and nobody — I mean NOBODY — wanted to live in it.

Gaston / Hobo: (Door BANGS, Hobo comes running out) I’m giving up. Kept me awake ALL NIGHT. I’m not stayin’ here no more. (Runs off)

Consuela / Vagrant Walking by (Reads aloud sign on front of house): “Anybody who’ll stay in this here house by theirself all night kin have it and all that’s in it.” You can HAVE it!

Molly / Ragged Girl (Walks up, looking tired and hungry. She has all her possessions in a bandana tied on a stick) (Reads sign): I don’t have nothin’ to lose, and nowhere else to go. Hants or no hants, it’s still a house, and I need a place to sleep! (She goes in door.)

Gaston / Kid from Nearby Town (wandering in woods. Reads sign) OOO, I wouldn’t stay in this ol house for nothin’! My Daddy came by here one night Coon huntin, and saw a man without a head...

(For the rest of the haunted house scene, Consuela, Gaston, PL, and Goober make the house magic and spooky — they are the “fire,” the andirons, they move furniture around, they fulfill the Ragged Girl’s wishes, they make the scarey sound effects, they handle the ghost.)

Ragged Girl (walking in house, on tiptoe, looks around,): There’s no lights in here. (Walks around some more) Sure is gettin dark! (Kind of sets up shop in the living room) Here’s the fireplace. I better build a fire before it’s slap dark in here. (She bustles around, building a fire.) I’ll make me some soup.

Consuela (hands her a pot as though it appeared by magic).

Ragged Girl (doesn’t know what to do, decides to say in a tiny voice) Thank you... (Makes soup, stirring carefully, beginning to feel at home, not scared. Warms hands, etc., sits back, tastes soup) Yum. This ain’t half bad. I think I like it here. My feet sure do hurt, though. I wish I could sit down. (Consuela moves packing crate behind her)

Ragged Girl (looks back and sees it, says in tiny voice): Thank you. (Sits).

(An awful racket in the chimney, someone shouting.)

Ragged Girl: That’s yellin’ to beat Jerusalem!. (Looks up chimney) (more exasperated than afraid) I see ... TWO LEGS hanging down!

Ghost Voice:(screams) I’m gonna drop down! I’m gonna drop down!

Ragged Girl: (going back to soup) That don’t matter. Drop on down! But have a care not to drop in my soup.

(Two separate legs drop into the house-space with a loud thump.)

Ragged Girl: (begins eating again)

Ghost (louder howling): I’m gonna drop down. I’m gonna drop.

Ragged Girl: (Goes over the chimney) I see ... Two arms hangin’ down.

Ghost: I’m gonna drop.

Ragged Girl: That don’t matter. Drop! But have a care not to drop into my soup.

(Two arms fall down into the house space. Girl goes back to eating)

Ghost: (even louder howls and ruckus)

Ragged Girl: (goes over and looks up chimney): I see ... a hulk of a body hanging down.

Ghost: I’m gonna drop. I’m gonna drop.

Ragged Girl: That don’t matter. Drop! But have a care not to drop into my soup.

(Trunk of a body flumps down into house space.)

Ragged Girl (looks at it mildly, goes back to eating): Only the head’s missin’ to make a man!

Ghost: (Loudest yelling of all.) I’m gonna drop, I’m gonna drop, I’m gonna drop, I’m gonna drop, I’m gonna drop...

Ragged Girl (hands over ears, finally screams to interrupt the voice): Drop and stop the hollerin’, only don’t drop into my soup!

(Head comes down with a crash, right near the body. The pieces assemble, and a man sits up!)

(Note: one way to do this, is to have the parts on string, and have each of them dragged noisily across the floor and behind the house-wall right after they land — Ghost parts do this sometimes — and have the assembled Ghost walk out from behind the wall. Another way: Consuela picks up the parts as they appear and assembles them on a tall stand, and then Goober, in an identical costume, walks out.)

Ragged Girl: (Looks at him and takes bite after bite of soup. Then): Howdy.

Ghost: (makes exagerated howling noise)

Ragged Girl: Howdy.

Ghost: (tries again to scare her)

Ragged Girl: Howdy.

Ghost: (howls but is losing confidence)

Ragged Girl: You sure ain’t got much manners, mister, though I was civil.

Ghost: (whimpers)

Ragged Girl: What’s the matter? Do you want some of my soup? It’s good soup.

Ghost: (whimpers harder, doesn’t answer)

Ragged Girl: If ye don’t want soup, what is it ye do want?

Ghost: Your supposed to be scared!

Ragged Girl: (after getting over her surprise that he has spoken) But I’m NOT scared.

Ghost: (begins to cry) Oh Boo hoo hoo.

Ragged Girl: Well, I’ll ACT scared, if it’d make you happy.

Ghost: No, no, no. It’s just that I’m supposed to scare anyone who comes here.

Ragged Girl: Who are you?

Ghost: Folks call me a hant and say I’m awful. Well, I ain’t. I jist cain’t rest. You was polite to me and asked me to share your soup. For all that, I’m gonna reward ye for it. I’ll give ye the treasure that goes with this house. Come on...

Ghost (shows Girl a chest, and says): Open this.

Ragged Girl: (opens it)

Ghost: (getting more and more excited) Dig down to the bottom.

Ragged Girl (opens the chest): Gold.

Ghost (slaps his knees in glee): Gold, and ye can have it. Now I kin rest in my grave and don’t have to watch that blame treasure no more.

Song: The Irish Jig

All: Rickety-tickety-tin-tin-tin




Ghost: Gosh and Begorrah and Mither Macree.

The spell has been broken and now I am free.

Never, I thought, I’d find such a brave soul,

But I have and so now you are laden with gold.

All: Rickety-tickety-tin-tin-tin




Ragged Girl: Mother MacDuffy and Heavenly Saints!

Afraid of old spirits they were, but I ain’t.

The night is all over, I stayed in this shack

And a chest full o’ gold’s what I get to take back.

All: Rickety-tickety-tin-tin-tin




PL: (applauding) Wow! Look at the gold!

Molly (dancing, swinging mardi gras beads and gold coins in her hands)

PL: Ready to go find your Mama now?

Molly: Oh, yeah. To find my Mama.

PL: Back to New Orleans... Back where everything runs together, all the water, all the stories.

Molly: All of Loosiana.

PL: Turn that old paddle wheel and we’ll just coast along. It’s all downriver from here.

Finale: Louisiana Tellin’ on the Levee (When it’s established that they’re on the boat moving downriver to New Orleans, All begin to sing).

Louisiana, Tellin on the levee

Acadiana, Swappin’ on the stoop

The Mississippi flows with many stories

Float the Ole Man River back to me and you!




  1. Compair Lapin. Comrade Rabbit.
  2. Compair Renar. Comrade Fox.
  3. Compair Bouki. Comrade Hyena.

Text prepared by:


Haymon, Ava Leavell. Tellin’ on the Levee. Music and lyrics by Andre K. DuBroc. Baton Rouge: Playmakers of Baton Rouge, 1991. © Ava Leavell Haymon. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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