Dark of the Moon (play)

Dark of the Moon (play)

Dark of the Moon is a dramatic stage play by Howard Richardson and William Berney which had a ten-month run on Broadway in 1945, followed by numerous college and high-school productions.[1]

Set in the Appalachian Mountains and written in an Appalachian dialect, the play centers around the character of John, a witch boy who seeks to become human after falling in love with a human girl, Barbara Allen. Originally written by Howard Richardson in 1939 as a dramatization of the centuries old European folk song "The Ballad of Barbara Allen", it was first performed at the University of Iowa in 1942 under the title Barbara Allen.[1]


After a rewrite by Richardson's cousin, William Berney, it was presented at the 46th Street Theatre in New York City on March 14, 1945, directed by Robert E. Perry. Although Dark of the Moon is not a musical, it was originally billed as a "legend with music" and characters do sing in most productions.[1] Paul Newman and Richard Hart once played the role of John.

Characters and story

The witch boy John approaches the Conjur Man and says he will pay any amount and agree to any terms if he can become a human. Only as a human can he be with his mortal love, the beautiful Barbara Allen. When Conjur Man denies his request, John goes to Conjur Woman. She agrees, as long as he will marry Barbara Allen. If Barbara is faithful to him for a year, then John can remain a human. Conjur Woman reveals that she knows Barbara is already pregnant with John's child. As a human, John runs off to join the humans of Buck Creek. Secretly, however, the Fair Witch and the Dark Witch hope that John fails and that Barbara Allen will pay for stealing John away from Baldy Mountain.

At Buck Creek, John approaches Barbara at a dance while she is accompanied by Marvin Hudgens. John tries to dance with Barbara, but Marvin attacks John. A lightning bolt strikes; John wins the wrestling match by using his witch powers. He is then welcomed into the town by the unsuspecting townsfolk, who believe he was simply strong. John marries Barbara in a general store, unable to enter a church even as a human, and Barbara's parents are so desperate to have her married, they agree.

As the year progresses, John has more encounters with Marvin. He uses his witch powers to defeat Marvin, though it is not so quick and subtle this time, and he is suspected of being a witch by the Buck Creek townspeople. Barbara births a stillborn witch baby. Rumors fly, and there is a public disapproval of John. The people of Buck Creek take it upon themselves to right Barbara's sin of consorting with a witch by taking her to a church revival. Marvin claims God spoke to him during the revival and told him that his lust for Barbara Allen is not a sin at all. The congregation looks on approvingly as he rapes her on the floor of the church, proclaiming that she is "saved."

Violated and scared, Barbara desperately goes searching for John on Baldy Mountain where she meets the witches. The witches have secretly made a bargain with the Conjur Man that they may take the life of Barbara Allen if John asks to remain a human despite her infidelity. They tell Barbara that John has left her forever. Elsewhere on the Mountain, the witches convince Conjur Man and Conjur Woman that John has failed. John has lost and must become a witch boy once again. He searches the Mountain and finds Barbara to spend his last minutes with her as she dies on the rocks. John turns back into a witch and rejoins the triumphant witches.



  • John: a witch boy turned human, in love with Barbara Allen
  • Barbara Allen: a beautiful, lusty mortal girl who falls in love with John

Supporting (in order of appearance):

  • Conjur Man
  • Dark Witch
  • Fair Witch
  • Conjur Woman
  • Miss Metcalf
  • Uncle Smelicue
  • Floyd Allen
  • Marvin Hudgens
  • Mrs. Allen
  • Mr. Allen
  • Preacher Haggler
  • Mr. Summey
  • Mrs. Summey
  • Miss Atkins
  • Hank Gudger
  • Edna Summey
  • Burt Dinwitty
  • Greeny Gorman
  • Hattie Heffner
  • Mrs. Bergen
  • Mr. Bergen
  • Ella Bergen
  • Miss Jenkins

"The Ballad of Barbara Allen"

A witch boy from the mountain came,
A-pinin' to be human,
Fer he had seen the fairest gal...
A gal named Barbara Allen.

O Conjur Man, O Conjur Man,
Please do this thing I'm wantin'
Please change me to a human man,
Fer Barbara I'll be courtin'.

Now Barbara had a red, red dress,
And one she had of blue,
And many men did Barbara love,
But never was she true.

Oh, you can be a man, a man,
If Barbara will not grieve you,
If she be faithful fer a year,
Yer Eagle, he will leave you.

O Barbara will you marry me,
And will you leave me never,
Oh yes, my love, I'll marry you,
And live with you ferever.

Three other alternate verses were used in the 1953 production of "Dark of the Moon" at the Totem Pole Playhouse:

I'll sing a song from down our way
From the mountains where I'm dwellin'
'bout a witch boy almost got a soul
Fer the love of Barbry Allen

Was in the merry month of May
The greenbuds they was swellin'
A witch boy saw a mountain gal
And wished that he was human.

Oh can you hear, how loud and clear
The church bells are a-ringin'
The valley folk from round about
Have come to git religion.

Other songs in the show

  • "Down in the Valley", sung by Floyd Allen.
  • "Give Me That Old Time Religion" and "Lonesome Valley", sung at the church.


Dark of the Moon is a controversial drama and is not recommended for young children. It challenges an audience's comfort level regarding ideas of tolerance and justice in a situation of two star-crossed lovers fighting to just live simply and happily against pressures from two diametrically opposed worlds. The play has been both praised and slammed by critics.

In the late 1990s, the town of Honey Grove, Texas launched a campaign to halt the production at the local high school, citing protection of the underage against inappropriate and lewd material. The small-town Texans continued their rampage all the way to the Texas UIL One Act Play State Meet where there were two productions of Dark of the Moon, with one of the plays placing third at the 1998 State Meet.

Production history


Theatre in the Round of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota (1964-65).


Wilton Playshop in Wilton, Connecticut (1968-69).


The Lion's Pause, St. Olaf College


Gateway Playhouse, New Buffalo, MI


William J. Palmer High School, Colorado Springs, CO (November)

Richmond High School, Richmond, British Columbia, Canada

Escanaba Area Public High School, Escanaba, MI

Grossmont College Stagehouse Theater, San Diego, CA, directed by Martin F. Gerrish


Pangbourne College and Cranford House School


  • Little Theatre Production-Senior Class Play (Patrick Henry High School, MPLS, MN)
  • Spring-Ford High School, Royersford, PA (Two productions, Spring and Summer)
  • Mount Isa Theatrical Society Mount Isa Qld. Australia (Mt. Isa Civic Center)
  • San Rafael High School, San Rafael, CA - Directed by Barbara Jay
  • Cranston High School East Drama Club, Cranston, RI - Directed by Mr Donald Babbitt


  • New York City, off-off-Broadway production starring Claudia Jennings (late 1970s).
  • Agoura High School; Agoura Hills, CA (October, 1978).
  • Circle Theater Acting Company, Indio High School; Indio, CA (1978).


Goodman School of Drama at DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois (November, 1980).


Melbourne Church of England Boys Grammar School. Melbourne, Australia.


A Contemporary Theatre Southwest, Scottsdale, Arizona (October, 1987).


Richmond Upon Thames College, London


St. Mary's Senior High School; Calgary, Alberta (December, 1998)


The Kalamazoo Civic Theatre in Kalamazoo, Michigan

Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill, CA


Quantum Theatre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania[2]


  • Jewel Box Theatre in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Logansport High School in Logansport, Indiana


  • Lodestar Theater in New York on 9th Avenue (March, 2007).
  • Fremont High School in Fremont MI (April, 2007)
  • George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology through the Carver Theatre Company (November, 2007).


  • Little Theater of Mechanicsburg in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania (January 18 - February 3).
  • Walden Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky (February - March, 2008).
  • Harlem Road Community Center by the Amherst Players in Buffalo New York (February 21 - March 1, 2008).
  • The Phoenix Theatres @ The University of Victoria in Victoria, BC, Canada (November 2008)
  • Nashville School of the Arts, Nashville, TN (November 2008).


  • Beloit Memorial High School Theatre in Beloit, Wisconsin.
  • Classen School of Advanced Studies in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
  • ConVal Regional High School in Peterborough, New Hampshire
  • ArtsWest Theatre Conservatory in Seattle, Washington.



  • Boswell Highschool (Fort Worth, Texas) UIL One Act
  • Flagler College (St. Augustine, Florida).
  • Bridge Drama (Wexford, Ireland)
  • Zyber Theatre Productions (Tralee, Ireland)
  • Collegiate School (Richmond, Virginia)
  • Tar Heel Productions (Melbourne, Australia)
  • Washington High School(Fremont,CA)
  • Vestavia Hills High School (Vestavia Hills, Alabama)http://vestaviadrama.com/
  • Joliet Junior College (Joliet, Illinois)
  • O'Neill St. Mary's High School (O'Neill, NE)
  • DeKalb School of the Arts (Avondale Estates, GA)
  • Chattanooga Theatre Centre (Chattanooga, TN)
  • Green Stag Youth Theatre (UK, Edinburgh)
  • Mount de Sales Academy (Macon, GA)
  • Joliet Junior College (Joliet, IL)


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