Joe Bell was a celebrity—a popular tour guide at Elmwood Hall, a famous Gilded Age mansion in Rhode Island. But for the last 14 years, Joe has been in jail. The African American guide known for his encyclopedic knowledge and folksy charm was convicted of burning down the historic mansion he once so proudly showed to visitors.

It’s now 1986, and the world has forgotten about Joe Bell. But not Susanna Hatch. The young white law student believes Joe was framed by the FBI as part of its campaign against black militants in the turbulent Civil Rights era. And she’s determined to prove his innocence. Some basic inconsistencies in the case give her grounds for hope. For one thing, Joe’s motivation for the crime was never adequately explained: he had a passionate—and scandalous—affair with the mansion’s wealthy owner, Lindsay Pettigrew, after she hired him as a tour guide. Why would Joe have destroyed something so precious to his lover? There were no eyewitnesses, and the prosecution’s case rested entirely on forensic evidence that could have been manufactured. Moreover, Susanna doesn’t believe Joe is crazy, as his defense lawyer argued in mitigation at his trial.

Susanna goes to interview Joe in the prison psychiatric unit where he’s confined. While she wants justice for Joe, she’s also desperate to learn the truth for personal reasons: Lindsay Pettigrew was her grandmother, and she had always idealized Joe and Lindsay as a pure and perfect love union. Plagued by doubts about her own current romantic relationship, Susanna hopes for confirmation that true love can endure and triumph. As she discovers, the truth is rarely simple—and sometimes shocking.

Hibernian Hall, Boston, MA, 2013
Playwrights’ Forum, Memphis, TN, 2009
Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, LA, 2008
Centre Stage-South Carolina, Greenville, SC, 2007

Reading, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, Boston, MA, 2008
Reading, HRC Showcase Theatre, Hudson, NY 2007
Reading, Centre Stage South Carolina, 2007
Reading, Reverie Productions, New York, NY 2006
Reading, Hinton Battle Theatre Lab, New York, NY 2006

Nominee, Best Original Script, Ostrander Awards, Memphis, TN, 2009
Winner, Best Production of a New Play, Playwrights’ Forum, Ostrander Awards, Memphis, TN, 2009
Winner, Arthur W. Stone New Play Award, Louisiana Tech University, 2007
Finalist, W. Keith Hedrick Award, HRC Showcase Theatre, 2007
Winner, New Play Festival, Centre Stage-South Carolina, 2007
Winner, Stanley Drama Award, Wagner College, Staten Island, NY, 2007
Finalist, Next Generation Playwriting Contest, Reverie Productions, New York, NY, 2006
Finalist, Diverse Voices Playwriting Contest, Hinton Battle Theatre Lab , New York, NY, 2006


Cast: 4
Roles by gender: 1 man, 2 women, 1 gender neutral
Roles by race: 1 Black or African American, 2 White, 1 race-neutral

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  • “… Exuberant … splendid … poetic …”

    – The Beat, South Carolina
  • “An emotional ride”

    Bay State Banner, Boston