A Play For Young Audiences in One-Act By John Hardy

Production Details

JOHN HENRY runs approximately forty five minutes and can be performed with as few as six actors and as many as Twenty. Props, sets and costumes are minimal. Surprisingly, the casting can include actors of any ethnicity or a single ethnicity. Black, white, yellow, red, blue, it doesn't matter.

About the Play

The young John Henry is given a task: to travel the country "...lookin' to do good for folks who needed good to be done." True to his word, he sets out on his journey and his superior strength enables him to accomplish his task. He comes, finally, to a place that requires not only the use of his massive strength but his head and his heart as well. A showdown with a steam engine ends in a triumph of the human spirit over that which would keep it down.

"...There ain't nothing in this world made of iron and steel that can beat a good man with glory in his heart. Blacksmith! Forge me two hammer heads, thirty pounds apiece. Cut me two hickory handles, strong and nimble. Come tomorrow I'm gonna' drive me some steel!"

Throughout the play music underscores and narrates the action including the traditional John Henry folk song. The play confronts and dismantles racial stereotypes without preaching to its audience. The themes of JOHN HENRY are deeply imbedded in the action of the play.

Royalty Fees

  • First two performances: $50 each
  • Subsequent performances: $30 each


Approx. 45 minutes
6-20 actors


"...the most important and compelling 40 pages ever written for children's theatre."

"...knocked its audiences into rapt silence..."

"It is an adult children's play. It is a play that celebrates the best of all the possibilities of mankind, and it does it in a way that draws the audience, children and adults alike, through the mundane, literally, and into the sublime." — Laura McBride, The Bristol Herald Courier