Character Descriptions

Male Characters H = Historical Character F = Fictional

Jacob Branson (H) Free-state settler. A serious fellow, he is opposed to slavery but also shuns violence. This is the male lead in the show, and requires strong acting and singing skills. Several duets with Melinda and possible solo ballad. Young adult through middle-age (depending somewhat on Melinda’s age).

Charles Dow (H) Free-state settler, farming partner of Branson, who is killed by a pro-slavery neighbor at the end of Act 1. Has two song & dance numbers requiring good singing voice, basic choreography and a big smile. Young adult through middle-age (depending somewhat on Branson character’s age).

Capt. Abbott (H) Local free-state militia leader. Has a serious side and a fun side. Major supporting role. Sings several “character” songs. Adult.

John Brown (H) The fiery abolitionist zealot who is summoned to Douglas County by his sons to fight the pro-slavery faction. Central character in Act 2. Middle-age to older, tall, imposing figure, beard, booming voice. If a singer is cast, may have solo ballad.

Gov. Robinson (H) The free-state governor of Kansas Territory. Popular political leader. Distinguished-looking middle-age to older.

Sheriff Jones (H) The pro-slavery sheriff of Douglas County, and nemesis of the free-state settlers. Portrayed as a loud-mouthed, unpleasant oaf. Adult.

Franklin Coleman (H) Pro-slavery neighbor of Branson & Dow. An unsavory character, bearded and unkempt. Adult.

Zeke (F) Supporting comedy role. A simple-minded but likeable “hayseed” who becomes Hepatica’s boyfriend. Character voice. Young adult.

Rev. More (H) Free-state preacher who is a serious man of the cloth, but is forced to drink whiskey by pro-slavers and has a comedy drunk scene. Adult.

Col. Sumner (H) Commander of federal troops at Ft. Leavenworth who has two scenes in Act 2. Middle-age to older.

Owen Brown (H) Sons of John Brown, unwilling participants with their father in
Salmon Brown (H) the Pottawatomie Massacre. Teen to young adult. Probably also dancers.

Oliver Brown (H) Younger son of John Brown, friend of Ephraim. Age 12-17.

Ephraim (F) Melinda’s little brother. Leading children’s role. Leads a song with the other kids. Age 10-15.

Marshal Fain (H) Deputy U.S. Marshal sent to serve arrest warrant on John Brown in final scene. Likely a male chorus member in different costume. Adult.

Lane, Harris, Pearson, Minor speaking roles cast from adult chorus members.
Dr. Graham (H)

Female Characters

Mrs. Werther (F) Presumably a widow, mother of Melinda, Lucy and Ephraim. Tries to help her free-state family adjust to frontier life. Middle-age to older.

Melinda (F) Mrs. Werther’s more serious daughter, who falls in love with Branson. This is the female lead in the show, and requires strong acting and singing skills. Sings several solos and duets. Young adult to middle-age (depending somewhat on Branson character’s age).

Lucy (F) Melinda’s little sister, more impish and headstrong. Sings backup on a Branson & Dow song and a duet with Melinda. Probably a dancer. Young adult.

Mrs. Grimm (F) Widow, mother of Hepatica and Liza. Loud-mouthed “battle-axe” comedy character. Middle age to older.

Hepatica (F) Spunky, fun-loving daughter of Mrs. Grimm. Zeke’s girlfriend. Most likely will be a dancer. Young adult.

Liza (F) Mrs. Grimm’s more serious, sultry and “catty” daughter, who is interested in Branson (but he’s not interested in her). Likely will be a dancer. Young adult, could be a little older than Hepatica.

Laura (F) Fearful runaway slave sheltered by the free-state settlers. Sings backup with two others on a Branson & Dow song. Black teen to middle age.

Gloomy Aggie (F) A strange, brooding, mysterious woman who portends the impending violence through song. Could be played by a black or white actress. Strong singer with solos. Middle-age to older.

Sarah Robinson (H) Optional role – may or may not be used this year. Wife of Gov. Charles Robinson. Middle age to older. Few lines.

Chorus (H)(F) Men and women of all ages who portray settlers in all the crowd scenes and sing all the big chorus numbers.

Junior Chorus (F) Cast includes several children age 6 – 14 who participate in the crowd scenes and sing a couple of their own songs.

Note: All players (except for John Brown, Coleman, Jones and Sumner) also are in the chorus and crowd scenes.

“The Ballad of Black Jack” is produced by Ballad of Black Jack, Inc., a Kansas non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation governed by a volunteer board of directors for the sole purpose of staging this production.

Contact us: website:
phone: Steve Absher, pres., 785-640-0196, or Bob Newton, vice-pres., 785-331-5787