Readers Theater Script: Johnny Tremain

Students develop a script for Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes, the story of an apprentice who becomes involved with Revolutionary War intrigues.
Grades:
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8
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Johnny Tremain
Esther Forbes

This suggested script is taken from chapter 4, "The Rising Eye," in which Johnny desperately decides to present himself to Mr. Lyte.

SUGGESTED STAGING:
The narrator stands at a lectern, Johnny sits on a low stool. Mr. Lyte, Lavinia, Aunt Best, and Sewall sit on chairs.

NARRATOR'S OPENING LINES:
We shall present a scene from Esther Forbes's Johnny Tremain. The characters are a silversmith's young apprentice, Johnny Tremain, read by ________; a wealthy Boston merchant, Mr. Lyte, read by ________; Mr. Lyte's clerk, read by ________; Mr. Lyte's daughter, Lavinia, read by ________; and a visiting relative, Aunt Best, read by ________. I, ________,am the narrator.

Johnny's dead mother had told him to tell the story of his beloved silver cup only if he had hit bottom and had no other choice. Now is the time. A promising apprentice to a leading silversmith, Johnny has been injured; his hand burned by molten silver. Maimed as he is, Johnny remains proud as he searches unsuccessfully for work to which he is suited and which is acceptable to him. Turned out at last by the family he once served, Johnny dreams of revealing his secret as a way of retaliating. At the office of Mr. Lyte. who is loyal to neither the Whig nor Tory cause, Johnny waits to sneak in as Mr. Lyte's visitors are leaving.

SCRIPTING SUGGESTIONS:

    1. Begin the scene with Mr. Lyte's asking who Johnny is.

    2. Throughout the script include instructions to tell the readers what voice or facial expressions to use, such as proudly, sneering, suspiciously.

    3. Have Mr. Lyte pause as written after Johnny introduces himself, but only very briefly.

    4. Leave out Mr. Lyte's sneezing.

    5. After Mr. Lyte asks Johnny to describe the cup, have Johnny describe it.

    6. When Sewall starts to speak, have Mr. Lyte say, "Hush," to him before speaking to Johnny.

    7. Leave out Mr. Lyte's sneezing.

    8. After Mr. Lyte says that Johnny has a cup, have the narrator say that before going to Mr. Lyte's home, Johnny visits his new friend Rab who works in a Whig print shop. Rab listens to Johnny's story and then warns him that Mr. Lyte is not to be trusted. Before Johnny leaves, Rab lends him his outgrown shirt and coat. When Johnny arrives at the Lyte home and is shown into the drawing room, he finds a small gathering of Lyte's friends and relatives.

    9. Continue with Mr. Lyte's saying that it is a little party.

    10. When Mr. Lyte asks how his friends like Johnny's looks, leave out Cousin Talbot's name.

    11. Have Aunt Best say that he looks just as bad as she expected he would.

    12. After Mr. Lyte talks about Johnny's clothes, have him say that he has been expecting some such person since last August. Despite his efforts to keep certain things private, he believes some things are known, even among the lower classes. Continue as he asks Johnny if he has the cup.

    13. After Mr. Lyte asks everyone into the dining room, pause very briefly and then have Johnny say proudly, "Here is my cup, Mr. Lyte."

    14. After Mr. Lyte says the cup is one of the set, let him continue with his question about how it was separated and his answer about thieves.

    15. After Mr. Lyte says that thieves broke into his home, leave out his talking to the sheriff and continue with Johnny's saying that it isn't true. Have Mr. Lyte, rather than the sheriff, say that he can explain to the judge.

    16. When Johnny says he will explain to the judge, direct the reader to say it cooly and calmly.

    17. After Johnny's saying he will explain, have Aunt Best comment that he is a cool young criminal. She hopes she lives long enough to see him hang. Then have her continue by remarking on his silver buttons.

    18. After Johnny says that it is true that he borrowed the coat, omit the sheriff and end the scene with Mr. Lyte's saying he sent Sewall to the Laphams to inquire.

NARRATOR'S CLOSING LINES:
Johnny is led off to jail and his future seems even darker than before. However, luck has been with him in leading him to a friendship with the Whig printer's boy, Rab. When news of Johnny's arrest reaches Rab, he calls on friends who are eager to see the treacherous Mr. Lyte discredited. These friends turn out to be leaders of the Whig; men like John Hancock and Sam Adams. For the first time in his life Johnny questions the political system that allows men like Mr. Lyte to grow richer and richer while he and his friends suffer injustices at their hands.

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