- African male, 18-25 (doubles as Quobna/Kofi and voice of Godwin)
- African male, 18-25 (Elias/First Captive)
- African male, 18-25 (doubles as Bilal/Nago)
- 2 additional African males, 17-25 (Captors 1 and 2)
- African male, 35 or older (Baba)
- White male, 35 or older (doubles as Captain James/Governor)
- 2 white males 18-35 (Billy and Franco)
- 1 male, 18 or younger, (Django)
- African female, 15-20 (Amma)
- African female, 30-35 (doubles as Şeéwo and Efua Asanté)
- African female, 35-45 (doubles Betty Moaning Woman and Mary Baptist)
- 4 African females, 14-20 (Marietou/Iya, Peaches, Johanna, Sissi)
(7 females, 10 men)
An African American writer and lecturer, Şeéwo (pronounced Shay-wo) has physical symptoms of a strange illness which cannot be explained. She has gone to Africa seeking the answers to lifelong questions and to find forms of treatment that use traditional African healing practices. Instead of finding answers, she finds more questions, and she establishes a friendship with a young African man, Godwin Otchie, who has questions of his own. She discovers a way to move backward in time, and finds herself among her symbolic ancestors in the distant African past.
A young drafting student from coastal Ghana, West Africa, Godwin wants to be an architect. He lives in a town near the ruins of the ancient fortress where millions were shipped as living cargo to the New World. Godwin wants to know what has happened to these Terra Nova cousins, many generations removed. He asks Şeéwo to answer his questions, and to help him find his way to America. We do not see Godwin Otchie; his letters to Şeéwo are read by the voice of Quobna.
A well-built young West African of the Fantee people, Quobna, the son of a chief, has lived a life of privilege and has learned to lead. Proud and self-confident despite the long forced march to the mythic and unnamed “factory” where Africans are made into slaves, Quobna also displays compassion, especially for Amma.
A maturing Ashantee girl, Amma creates a community of care among the captives in the fortress dungeon. She loses her mindfulness after becoming dehydrated during her voyage on the slaveship Lark.
Amma&rsdquo;s mother, a dignified and well-formed Ashantee woman, is the wife of a warrior/hunter, and herself a skilled fighter. Like Kofi, she lives solely in Amma’s memory/rememory; we see her actions and hear her singing in the past. Şeéwo, in her movement backward through time, becomes Efua.
Kofi, the young hunter that Amma had expected to marry, was killed with Amma’s parents; he survives solely in Amma’s delusional memory/re-memory. (He can be doubled with another actor for a mimed wrestling match in the Second Movement; he can also be cut completely, at the discretion of the director, without any change to Amma’s lines.)
Betty Moaning Woman
Part priestess, part diva, Betty Moaning Woman sings, screams, sighs and moans to transcend pain and to create ritual or “sanctified” space so that healing can occur. Also doubles as Mary Baptist, a Christian penitent.
A Dutchman of medium size but commanding manner. Doubles as Captain W. James, captain of the Liverpool slaveship, Lark. Each is a man of contradictions. Once robust, Captain James has been worn down by years of slaving, slavery melting down his bones.
A strong man, he is the “enforcer” onboard the Lark. Born in Nigeria, and a slave for many years, he deliberately mistranslates the languages of the Africans aboard the Lark to deceive the Europeans, wearing a mask of “grins and lies.” Doubles as Bilal.
A Muslim Wolof man, he offers traditional prayers in Arabic.
A captive Wolof speaking girl, she calls out to her mother for food and comfort. Doubles as Iya, another captive.
Peaches and Johanna
Mixed race young women engaged in the slave trade for profit; they think of themselves as Europeans. Also play African children.
Django, a cabin boy
An orphan from Liverpool, plays a wooden fife. Django has been abused sexually by one of the ship’s officers. Because of his own experience, he does what he can to shield African women from the sailors. His moods are changeable and volatile.
Sailor/slaver from Liverpool.
Sailor/slaver from Lisbon.
African Women’s Chorus
(Includes these women who “survive” as healers to greet New World arrivants in the closing movement.)
- Efua Asante/Şeéwo
- Sissi (pronounced See-See)/Second Captive
- Mary Baptist/Betty Moaning Woman
An African priest or Babalorixa, 35 years old or older, Baba is the spiritual leader of Africans in “Limbo.” He teaches Quobna a ritual of remembrance for those who did not survive the Middle Passage from Africa. He doubles as the hooded figure who carries the cross in the opening scene, and reads some of the Limbo! lines introducing the third movement.