Holding the Torch for Liberty

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Holding the Torch for Liberty is our second title from The Jazz Drama Program.

Holding the Torch for Liberty tells the story of the culmination of the women's suffrage movement in the United States, circa 1920.  Through ragtime, classic blues, New Orleans and Cuban infused original music, Holding the Torch for Liberty traces how courageous working women joined forces to fight for and win final passage of the 19th Amendment.  Combining actual historical events with magical realism, the Statue of Liberty comes to life, goes dancing in a Harlem nightclub, and later meets a determined group of suffragists, Ms. Liberty's torch becomes a window to the future, as the roles for women in the country grow - women doctors, lawyers, engineers and even the president.  With the country openly divided, a lone congressman from Tennessee gets and inspirational letter from his mother reminding him that standing up for justice and doing what is right comes easily when you follow your heart. 

See the Holding the Torch for Liberty promo video.

The Jazz Drama Program creates original jazz musicals for young people to perform for their peers. It was founded in 2003 as a non-profit arts organization in New York City by jazz musician Eli Yamin, and teacher Clifford Carlson to advance the appreciation of jazz and musical theatre among youth.

Jazz Drama Program musicals reflect the many styles of jazz.The original music is evocative of the sound and spirit of great jazz masters like John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Sun Ra, Mary Lou Williams, Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. Although Jazz Drama Program musicals are written for Middle School students to perform, they have been performed by both younger and older students. Each musical features a large cast (30+ speaking roles), five ensemble musical numbers, a jazz underscore, and an accompaniment CD. The running time for each show will be about an hour.


The story...

Sarah, a seamstress at the Liberty Pants Factory and fellow suffragettes fight for the right to vote. They enlist the spirit of women to fight the forces of inequality. They are provoked by Wild Boars; a boisterous group of male chauvinists. But with the help of The Statute of Liberty overcome the obstacles against them.


Author's Notes

Notes to Director

Holding the Torch for Liberty is a fast-paced musical.  Although serious in nature (the battle for women’s suffrage), the show is also interspersed with many comedic elements.  The characterizations of some of the stereotypical “New Yorkers” is fun to exploit for laughs as well, and acts as a counter-balance for some of the harsh treatment the suffragists receive from the actors portraying the more chauvinist segments of the population.  The most significant relationship is the one between Sally and Alice.  It is Alice’s guidance which helps bring out the fighter in Sally.  Ms. Liberty is also an important catalyst in that it is her spirit which ultimately strengthens the women to see the struggle through to the end.  Although Ms. Liberty is played in the style of a young, whimsical French woman, she also symbolizes the notion of equal rights under the law for all and therefore deserving of courtesy and respect.  We never see Ms. Liberty stressed or strained, even in prison.  She is merely delighted to be made human and enjoys herself immensely.

Notes to Musical Director

“Newsgirl Rag” appears in 3 versions.  The words are rich with the story and delivered in ragtime style.  Newsgirls/boys should be energetic young voices with ranges C# to C# above mid-C.  One young soloist, “Little Sister” gets to hold E above that.  “Wild Boar Theme” occurs several times and is a playful, mocking-hootenanie-kind-of-number.  No special vocal demands other then good old boys ready to have a good time and willing to make loud, raucous noise.  “It’s the Way That You Talk” is sung by the Suffragists with solos for Alice, Susan and Sally.  It has a New Orleans flavor a la W.C. Handy meets Dr. John and has a range mostly from C to C with a couple of reaches up to D and E and one final brief encounter with an F as part of an eighth note phrase.  “Don’t Go Back On Your Raisin’” is a jazz ballad sung expressively by Mrs. Murdock, your most mature singer. This song holds a terrifically sentimental/emotional punch.  The range is Db to Db above mid-C.  “Wildcat Strut” is a Classic Blues style song performed by your featured jazz singer.  Think Ethel Waters meets Ruth Brown.  The range goes down to an A below mid-C.  Much of it can be talk-sung in the style.  For a great model of this style, listen to Ruth Brown in Black and Blue.  “What Is America?” finale begins as a simple patriotic theme introduced by Little Sister and grows into a full company number that reprises “Don’t Go Back On Your Raisin’.”  There is 2-part harmony and unison singing.  It is the emotional climax of the show.

Author Info

Eli Yamin(Book, Music and Lyrics)

Eli Yamin is Artistic Director of The Jazz Drama Program and head of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Middle School Jazz Academy. He is a jazz and blues pianist, composer, singer, educator, broadcaster, and Steinway artist. After participating last spring in the first White House Jazz Studio hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama, Eli was invited back three times to perform music from his latest CD, You Can’t Buy Swing, in the East Room.

Eli has also performed at top concert halls and festivals in Western Europe and the United States and in Brazil, Chile, Mali, India, China and the Balkans as a cultural ambassador touring on behalf of the U.S. Department of State. Eli teaches jazz worldwide to business leaders, middle school students, K-12 teachers, college professors and performing artists. He is a consultant for the National Endowment for the Arts, Fordham University Graduate School of Business and WBGO Radio.

In the early 1990′s, Eli Yamin was musical director for the 10th Anniversary tour of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies. Working with director/choreographer Mercedes Ellington sparked what has become a driving force in Eli’s work as a composer and educator - the marriage of jazz and theatre. Since 1998, Eli Yamin has co-written with
Clifford Carlson, five jazz musicals for children. This work led Yamin and Carlson to start The Jazz Drama Program.

Eli’s jazz musicals for children have been performed for thousands by hundreds of young people. They include Message From Saturn, a space odyssey about the healing power of the blues and Nora’s Ark, a modern retelling of the biblical tale. The CD of Nora’s Ark, the jazz musical, by Eli Yamin and Clifford Carlson, is a collaboration between The Jazz Drama Program and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy of New York City.

Eli has played and taught with Barry Harris, Walter Perkins, Illinois Jacquet, Wynton Marsalis, Perry Robinson, Kate McGarry, Claire Daly, Ari Roland, Chris Byars, Evan Christopher and Bob Stewart. Eli holds a Master’s Degree in Music Education from Lehman College, City University of New York, and lives (with his wife and young daughter) in New York City.

Clifford Carlson(Book and Lyrics)

Clifford Carlson is a middle school teacher.  In college he was mentored by author Virginia Hamilton and later studied under playwright, Tina Howe.  Early in his teaching career he collaborated with Touchstone Center for Poetry founder Richard Lewis, and for ten years studied at The Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts in Education.  In 1990, he was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Children’s Theatre, which was spent in residence with The British American Youth Festival Theater under the direction of actor/director Robert Shampain.  In 2002, he won a NYC Department of Education Teacher of the Year Award.


He and jazz composer and educator, Eli Yamin co-founded The Jazz Drama Program (JDP).  The JDP is a non-profit arts education program that combines jazz music and theater to create lasting, formative experiences for young people.  In the process of creating five original jazz musicals, (Nora’s Ark, Holding the Torch for Liberty, Hear My Voice, Message from Saturn and When Malindy Swings) Clifford and Eli have developed new pedagogical practices in the field of jazz education.  By combining jazz music and storytelling, the duo have brought their groundbreaking new concepts in arts education to thousands of children.


Clifford lives in New York City with his wife and son, and is delighted to be represented by the Theatrical Rights Worldwide family.

Billing Credits

Music, Book and Lyrics by ELI YAMIN
Book and Lyrics by CLIFFORD CARLSON

Casting Information


Holding The Torch For Liberty may be played with a flexible cast of as small as 12 actors or as many as 40 or more.  Doubling may occur throughout.  Likewise, some lines may be distributed to other characters to reduce the cast size.  Just be aware of dialogue that is significant to a particular character.


NEWSGIRLS - young newspaper sellers, girls dressed as boys
LITTLE SISTER - youngest Newsgirl
SALLY - a helpful young woman, factory worker/suffragist
SUSAN - leader of the Suffragists
ALICE - a mover and a shaker, has a magical quality
MS. LIBERTY - The Statue of Liberty, French, whimsical/strong
ANNA - factory worker/suffragist
LUCY - factory worker/suffragist
INEZ - factory worker/suffragist
MARY - factory worker/suffragist, in love with Jason
CARRIE - factory worker/suffragist
ELIZABETH - factory worker/suffragist, religious tone
ROSE - factory worker/suffragist
ROSALI - factory worker/suffragist
RUTH - factory worker/suffragist
JASON - factory worker, Mr. Murdock’s handyman, in love with Mary
MR. MURDOCK - Liberty Pants Factory owner, capitalist
GRACE MURDOCK - wife of Mr. Murdock, mother of Sonny, supporter of women’s suffrage
SONNY MURDOCK - obedient son of Mr. Murdock and Grace Murdock, Tennessee legislator who casts final vote
LOU ANN WATERS - featured jazz singer
HEAD BOAR - leader of the male chauvinist lodge members
BROTHER THEO - male chauvinist lodge members
BROTHER ROSCOE - male chauvinist lodge members
BROTHER EDGAR - male chauvinist lodge members
BROTHER WALLACE - male chauvinist lodge members
BROTHER CLARK - male chauvinist lodge members
BROTHER CLARENCE - male chauvinist lodge members
BROTHER GUS - male chauvinist lodge members
CARLA - young hip woman, New York style dialect, dancer
JAILER - runs the jail, tough
SECRETARY - Sonny Murdock’s secretary in Tennessee
HOBO - man down on his luck, comedic
STATUE SELLER/PEANUTS & POPCORN SELLER - Statue of Liberty seller (subway), comedic; food seller (Yankee Stadium)
SAM - Yankee Stadium fan, interacts with Ms. Liberty
GUISEPPE - very young boy 8 years old, Italian dialect
GRANDMA/GRANDPA - Guiseppe’s grandmother or grandfather, Italian dialect
PATRICK/PATRICIA - young man or woman, Irish dialect
SHAWN/SHAINA - young man or woman, Irish dialect
RACHEL - Sara’s Mother, Sol’s wife, nagging, Jewish dialect
SOL - Sara’s father, Rachel’s husband, nagged, Jewish dialect
SARA - very young girl 8 years old, Jewish dialect
JACK - subway rider
POLICE OFFICER #1 - New York cop
POLICE OFFICER #2 - New York cop
TRAIN OPERATOR (V.O.) - subway announcer
MR. SPEAKER - Tennessee speaker of the State House
SOUTHERN GENTLEMAN - Tennessee citizen
TENNESSEE RESIDENT - Male, conservative anti-suffrage citizen 

Chorus Roles:

FLAME DANCERS - dancers, invoke the spirit of women and freedom
BAND LEADER- Master of Ceremonies at Eubie’s Club


Orchestral Info

Accompaniment CD

Piano-Vocal Score

Scores are also available for a Quintet:

Tenor Saxophone/Flute


One Act


Upcoming Shows

Coming Soon!