by Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld



Brief Synopsis


When 17-year old Kate moves from New Jersey to a small town outside of Nashville, Tennessee, she thinks life is over.


Kate finds that Redford, Tennessee, is as southern as it gets — the local diner serves grits and sweet tea, country music rules the airwaves, and the Confederate battle flag waves proudly over the courthouse square. Kate meets the handsome and talented Jackson Redford III, scion of the town and the embodiment of everything Dixie. Jack shows her the beauty of his Southern roots and Kate begins to appreciate her new home. But a petition to replace the school’s Confederate flag insignia gains Kate’s support, and soon Kate and Jack — and their families — find themselves pitted against one another. A tragic event forces Kate, Jack and all of Redford to listen to each other in a new light and examine what it means to be an American.



Notes on the play


“A Heart Divided” is not a traditional play. Rather than performing the action of the story, the characters frequently speak directly to that audience and tell them the story. But there is more to it than that — the characters are actually involved in a debate, where the audience is the judge. Each character gives a point of view in a debate over the Confederate battle flag.


Kate, the central character of the story, serves also as an emcee — she introduces each person to the audience. The first person she introduces us to is her drama teacher. Then we meet her parents and sister before she is whisked off to the South. Then we are introduced to the population of Redford, Tennessee: Birdie McKinley, the owner of a local diner; Mrs. Augustus, the town librarian; Sara Fife, high school cheerleader; Nikki Roberts, an African-American student who his leading a petition drive to remove the Confederate flag as part of the school insignia; Mr. McSorley, the school principal; Rev. Roberts, Nikki’s father; Luke Roberts, Nikki’s brother; and others.


As the story is related we find that Kate is uncomfortable with having the Confederate flag as a symbol. She is unfamiliar with Southern culture and is struggling to adapt to her new home. On the other hand, when she meets Jackson Redford (the town is name after his great-grandfather) they are mutually attracted to each other. Kate’s dream is to be a playwright while Jack dreams of being an actor.


While Kate and Jack are busy falling in love, the petition to change the school’s symbol is underway. Jack’s interest in Kate conflicts with his feelings about the flag; supporting the petition for him would be considered dishonoring his family heritage. This conflict that threatens to tear Jack and Kate, and their families, apart reaches a climax at a football game where a tragedy occurs; this terrible event forces everyone to re-examine their beliefs and to struggle with what the Confederate flag means.


The story is no fairy tale; there is no happy ending where everyone gets their wish. While there is a compromise on one issue, no one gets everything that they wanted. The message of the play is summed up by Kate: “I’ve been thinking about a heart divided — how the heart of Redford was so divided by a flag from a war that ended seven generations ago. The funny thing is, I think it’s okay. It’s the people who only want one opinion — their opinion — who we have to worry about.”



Cast Summary

A brief description and analysis of some of the characters in “A Heart Divided.”


Kate Pride (student)

Kate is a bright wannabe playwright. When her family moves from New Jersey to Redford, Tennessee, she falls in love with Jackson Redford. She also struggles with Southern culture and the Confederate battle flag that is used as the high school’s symbol.


Jackson Redford III (student)

The town is named in honor of Jack’s great-grandfather. Jack has always planned (or it has always been planned for him) to attend the Citadel (a military college in South Carolina). Jack wants to be an actor, and is torn between his affection for Kate and the expectations of family and tradition.


Nikki Roberts (student)

When Kate moves to Redford, she quickly becomes friends with Nikki, an African-American girl who is intelligent, energetic and who starts a campaign to remove the Confederate battle flag from the school symbol. She is very much like her father; she chooses to fight injustice through non-violent means.


Luke Roberts (student)

Nikki’s brother, Luke is an extremely intelligent African-American young man who has been made angry and bitter by racism and prejudice. Where Nikki’s role model would be Martin Luther King, Jr., Luke’s role model would be Malcolm X.


Jensen Pride (Kate’s Mom) and Pete Pride (Kate’s Dad)

Jensen is a liberal thinking Northerner; she does free lance writing. Her zeal in life is to help her daughters find a purpose in life.


Sally Redford (40s, Jack’s Mother)

Sally is aristocratic. She values family, tradition and honor above almost anything else. She expects Jack to follow the family tradition and enter the military; when she discovers his interest in acting (and his interest in Kate) she is quite unsupportive.


Jared Boose (student)

The embodiment of everything redneck, Jared is actually the mirror image of Luke in the play’s debate.


Sara Fife (student)

She is the Southern belle to Jack’s Southern beau. At the beginning of the play she is Jack’s girlfriend (she doesn’t react well to Kate intruding and winning Jack; surprise!). She is, in some ways, a younger version of Sally Redford.


Chaz Martin (student)

Jack’s best friend and local football star, Chaz is honest, straight up and in many ways similar to Jack. In the debate, Chaz projects a moderate point-of-view and is willing to accept compromise.


Anne Augustus (local librarian)

Mrs. Augustus loves the Confederate flag. For her it symbolized honor for her ancestors. But the symbolism of the flag has been ruined by the hateful actions of racists who used it as a banner.


Paul McSorley (principal of Redford High)

He thinks of himself as fair-minded, but those who favor changing the school symbol might be less than impressed with his activities.





1.   In the play, the students are divided over the issue of the Confederate flag. What other issues do you see today that divide people along such sharp lines?

2.   One character in the play compares the Confederate flag with the swastika. Do you think that this comparison is fair? Why or why not?

3.   Jack's parents have very specific expectations for him and he struggles with fulfilling his parents’ dreams or fulfilling his own. What have your parents always wanted you to be, and what do you want to be? How are these alike or different?

4.   The petition drive is to change the school symbol (the Confederate flag) and the nickname (the Rebels) because some people felt that these were offensive or did not represent the entire student body. How would you react to a similar petition at your school?





1.   The play presents a debate where the characters are speaking to the audience. What would be different if the play were done in a more traditional fashion, with the actors playing out the action rather than telling the audience happened? Which way do you think is more effective in making the point?

2.   Which characters voice the more extreme positions in the debate? Which characters are more moderate?

3.   Several times during the play two characters will speak a line together or they will have dialogue that intertwines. What mood is created when Jack and Kate speak the same line at the same time? What meaning is conveyed with Jared and Luke speak the line together: “Ain’t that always the way?”

4.   The petition drive is to change the school symbol (the Confederate flag) and the nickname (the Rebels) because some people felt that these were offensive or did not represent the entire student body. How would you react to a similar petition at your school?


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