The first act of Scott Joplin deals with his adventures as an itinerate musician beginning when he was fifteen. In the last scene of Act One Joplin meets his future publisher by chance in a tavern/brothel, The Maple Leaf Club. The second act follows his life on the Variety Circuit promoting his published music. He quits the circuit and the drama shifts to his great accomplishment, Treemonisha, the first opera written by an African American. His attempts to get a rehearsal performance of the opera occupied his life until he is hospitalized for syphilis.
Excerpts from WFMT broadcast of Joplin: Act I
Scene I - Vaudeville song followed by Joplin describing music of the 1880s’.
Scene II - Joplin and Mama at a “big house” followed by Original Rags, his first piano composition.
Scene IV-V - Joplin listens to church music.
Joplin leaves home.