Underground

 

This four-act play opens as Lenora and her teenage daughter, Emmeline, assist young Alice in childbirth, as all struggle in hiding on the Mormon Underground.Young Alice, like Lenora, is married to a Mormon elder with more than one wife, and if arrested by federal marshals, Lenora and Alice will be forced to provide damning court testimony against their husbands.Lenoraís family and Alice manage narrow escapes during the first half of the play.But despite this good fortune, Lenora faces the resistance of her son Ruston against joining his father on a mission for the Church, and young Emmeline cannot contain her resentment that Zina Mae, the legitimate daughter of her fatherís first and legal wife, is not restricted to life in hiding.

It is in the context of a budding religion in the middle of a remote Idaho territory that Lenora must raise her family alone and find her place in her community.She encourages Emmeline to become a midwife, because trained midwives are rare on the Underground, but when Alice and Emmeline are devastated by the death of Aliceís child, Lenora insists that Emmeline must not disrupt her traditional role by becoming a fully-licensed doctor.Lenora works faithfully to send Ruston on a mission, but despite Rustonís desire to distract her with his newfound industriousness, her single religious focus drives him away to Utah.Emmeline, pushed by her resentment of Zina Mae and pulled by the desire to attend medical school, also abandons her mother to the Underground.Lenora gains some strength when her husband Hyram, also in hiding, manages to visit her and bring news of the Mormon Manifesto to end all polygamous marriages.However, when she and Hyram conclude that the Manifesto forbids only future polygamous marriages, but allows those marriages already in existence to continue, Lenora is abandoned by those in her Idaho community who had previously given her the strongest support.From this lonely position, Lenora must find a place for herself within the legal strictures of the United States and within the Mormon community.

 

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Play Structure:

4 Acts

Cast size:

7

 

Gender:

5 female, 2 male

Period:

1887 - 1890

Location:

Franklin, a Mormon village in Idaho

Set:

One set, sparse furniture to denote separate areas