Cheryl’s Song is a half-hour television program set in the late 1970s with a heavy emphasis on Greek fraternity and sorority life in the African-American community. Issues are Blacks on a predominately White campus, the conflict between men and women (non-ethnic, universal), college/life decisions, Christian beliefs, and college sexuality.
EXT. MARYLAND STATE UNIVERSITY CAMPUS – DAY
– Overview of MARYLAND STATE UNIVERSITY.
– CHERYL FIELDS 20, attractive, bright eyes, boyish dress, girlish figure, searching for her class looks up at building name: Perkins Hall.
– Mostly White Students bustling about inside Perkins Hallway. Cheryl keeps looking at a class schedule in her hand, then finds the right class.
EXT. WASHINGTON, D.C. – MORNING
– WASHINGTON, D.C., Jefferson Memorial, Tourists going about their day.
– Smoke rising from tents of the homeless in Lafayette Park. Homeless mill about during rush hour intermingling with traffic, business people and tourists.
– Down the street from Lafayette Park, MIKE JOHNSON, 24, rugged handsome, streetwise, reads a calculus textbook as he walks slowly, out of step among rush hour crowd and down the FARRAGUT WEST SUBWAY escalator.
INT. CLASSROOM PERKINS HALL – DAY
Cheryl is seated in the back row of classroom.
Hi, you wouldn’t believe
how I got here.
Cheryl turns in her seat and speaks to us.
I half-believe it myself.
EXT. CHERYL’S CHICAGO BACKYARD – DAY
YOUNG CHERYL FIELDS, 8, tomboyish clothes and demeanor, is with SAMUEL FIELDS, 33, short stature, handsome, noticeable limp. Sam is in immaculate Navy whites. CHERYL’S NOTEBOOK appears SUPER, then becomes less visible as the characters interact.
I grew up with my Dad after
Mom passed away.
Hey, Dad. You wanna
see me swing?
Cheryl plops into the swing set chair. Sam stumbles toward her, still drunk from the events that left fresh cuts on his face and neck. As he wobbles behind her, Cheryl, worried, gets out of the swing to help.
His only vices were women and wine;
unfortunately, that’s enough to
ruin a Navy career.
YOUNG CHERYL (CONT.)
Here, Dad. You sit down.
I’ll push you.
Sam hugs her. Sits her back in the chair of the swing. The yard is in disarray in a group of immaculately-kept homes. Sam transforms, adjusts his clothes, snaps on the disciplined soldier face and gently pushes Cheryl. She’s delighted.
Sit back, baby girl.
Weee. Weee. Thanks,
Cheryl swings happily.
It turns out the military
takes care of its own when
you’re killed in service.
That includes educational
benefits that pay for my
EXT. CARIBBEAN SEA OFF THE COAST OF CUBA – NIGHT
Stormy weather as a naval vessel is completing an underway replenishment exercise. As the Navy vessel comes closer, Sam Fields maneuvers in the hold to help secure the line coming in to the ship to transport supplies.
My Dad was lost at sea during a
dangerous exercise to transfer
supplies to his ship.
As Sam leans out to catch and secure the cable, he is pushed out into the water. Alarms go off as the sailors on deck realizes he’s overboard.
At least that what they said. ’s
No way my Dad would just
fall into the water. No way.
As alarms go off and sailors scramble to find Sam in the ocean waves, a sailor in Navy whites transfers out of the uniform of an ordinary sailor and into an officer’s uniform. He radioes someone.
INT. CLASSROOM – CONTINUOUS
Here we have an example of earliest
Cheryl, haltingly, correctly spells “paleontological”.
– studies have shown that early man,
Australopithecus, and Homo Erectus, our
direct ancestor, mastered his domain
relying on his…
Cheryl’s gaze wanders to the basketball game being played on the court outside.
EXT. BASKETBALL COURT – CONTINUOUS
Mike Johnson dominates his white, would-be defenders in their two-on-two game. Cheryl becomes fascinated with Mike.
superior brain to carve a dominant…
Mike feints with one hand as if shooting a jump shot, and when the defender jumps to block, runs around and dunks.
PROFESSOR (V.O.) (CONT)
…presence among physically, if not
psychologically, superior inhabitants.
The taller, football player-size defenders run into one another trying to catch up to Mike before he dunks. They fall, look at one another, then Mike, and laugh. Mike and his teammate help them rise.
EXT. MSU CAMPUS – LATER
Cheryl walks across campus, a handful of books and room supplies. She enters her dormitory.
INT. CHERYL’S DORM ROOM – Evening
Cheryl watches Mike and other basketball players from her dorm window while she writes in the NOTEBOOK that was superimposed. The notebook is large and ornate with pink pages inside. One side of the bedroom is all red while Cheryl’s is a contrast in normality, typical students’ adornments: high school trophies and certificates, stuffed animals, calendar of Chaka Khan and Rufus and posters of Earth, Wind, and Fire and Donna Summer.
I did not come here and win this
financial aid for some guy to get
me pregnant and leave.
Cheryl turns the page and looks out the window at Mike who is laughing and scoring at will over his defenders. She writes her poem titled, “Song for You.”
Why can’t I be alone?
Why must I always see
Me with you.
INTERCUT – CHERYL’S DORM ROOM/BASKETBALL COURT
– Mike sits on the sideline, drinking juice, telling jokes and making the other players on the court laugh.
– Cheryl continues to write poem,
CHERYL (V.O.) (CONT)
Us two being One.
Son, you better step up your game
before I come back in.
A soft, jazz tune begins to play.
CHERYL (V.O.) (CONT)
The trophy words come into view: First Place, track, 100-Yard Dash; 1st Place Track – 220-Yard Dash; 1st Place 100 Yard Hurdle – Chicago High School State Championships. Spelling Bee – Eighth Grade – Cheryl Fields – First Place, and HONOR ROLL Blue Ribbon draped over the Spelling Bee Trophy with inscription HYDE PARK ACADEMY H.S. Chicago, Illinois – National Honor Society. Cheryl continues writing.
CHERYL (V.O.) (CONT)
If you had me.
That won’t be.
As Cheryl writes the comma, forming its tail into a drawn rocket, SUSAN RHOADES, 20, coarse, close-cropped afro, freckles, bursts in.
Cheryl, you won’t believe what they’re
doing to those boys.
Susan flings her books onto her desk top, constant motion, pacing about as she formulates a plot. She absentmindedly grabs a handful of the mixed nuts Cheryl has on her bed in a plastic baggie from the Food Coop.
There has to be a way. I know
I can-Thanks-get on the Court
if I let them have my
phone number, but then they’ll
be calling all hours of the night, and-
ntoo salty-ou don’t mind do you, Cheryl?
(closes Song Book)
You already ate them.
Silly goose. You’re always so serious.
Susan plops onto Cheryl’s bed, instantly notices Mike.
Susan sees the desire in Cheryl’s eyes for Mike and tries to change the focus. Realizing the conflict Cheryl will experience, Susan hides her disgust at the hazing she knows Mike is enduring.
Hey, (kisses Cheryl) Snookums,
I gotta go.
Cheryl is not easily fooled and grabs the back of Susan’s shirt, leaning almost off the bed to pull Susan step-by-step back from her near-escape.
Whoa, Nelly. Lucy (Ricky Ricardo
accent), you got suh splaining to do.
Susan sits on bed. Won’t look at Cheryl.
They play a short game of make/avoid eye contact until Susan makes Cheryl laugh.
I can’t. People get killed.
Cheryl is transformed from play to dogged determination, realizing Susan is not joking and Mike may be in trouble.
Sue? What are you into?
Susan is silent.
(turns Susan around)
Who is “they”?
I need you to trust me.
No matter what happens.
Susan gives Cheryl a short embrace.
Trust me. OK, sister?
Cheryl starts to argue, but Susan gets up to leave. As Susan is gathering her books, Cheryl opens the door, but stands in the opening, determined to talk Susan out of whatever might harm her. Susan turns to leave, sees Cheryl’s determination, and points toward Cheryl’s R.A. (Resident Assistant) sign on the now-opened door.
I won’t cost you your job…
Susan gently touches Cheryl’s arm. Cheryl doesn’t break her pose,one hand on the door knob, the other on her hip. She allows Susan’s touch, but doesn’t respond, still waiting for an answer, but respecting her roomie.
I really believe you’re the sister
I never had. If you’re in trouble…
Susan begins to yield to the temptation to come clean with Cheryl, but looks out at Mike and regains her resolve. She points outside.
I swore to keep his secret safe.
If people knew…Bye, Cheryl.
[Soft music as if ending show] Cheryl moves to allow Susan to leave. She heads to her bed and picks up the Song Book, and clutches it to her chest. Susan takes a step out the door, but hesitates, uneasy about the way things ended between she and Cheryl. A commotion outside turns violent.
EXT. BASKETBALL COURT – CONTINUOUS
STEVE has FRESH, 21, Morris-Day type, collared and lifted off the ground, perhaps to throw him across the court. Mike is waving his arms wildly, at first appearing about to fight, but slowly convincing STEVE to calm down and release Fresh.
This ain’t right. Come on, Mike.
You can’t tell me you let him
slap you like that. I take him out.
Say it. Say it, Mike. Say, take
Mike manages to un-claw Fresh from Steve’s grasp. George, older, more passive, wiser fraternity brother, stands at a distance, shaking his head at the nonsense of it all. Neither fraternity brother is wearing paraphernalia.
I got this. It’s cool, Steve.
INT. CHERYL’S DORM ROOM – Continuous
Cheryl and Susan have run to the window to view the melee. Cheryl notices Mike’s pledge jacket and combat boots on the ground as he picks them up and follows the Brothers.
EXT. BASKETBALL COURT – Continuous
As Mike dons his pledge gear, Fresh is yelling and shouting, out of control with rage at his treatment by Mike’s friend. George notices Cheryl, then others watching, and calms Fresh down with only a slight nudge to his chest. As Mike marches behind the two fraternity brothers to leave, he sings a pledge song.
Here we come in red and white.
(Beats) Marching to that Kappa light.
Pledges, pledges, yes are we.
(Beats) Kappas, Kappas, hope to be.
Steve and his buddy are incredulous, furious.
INT. CHERYL’S DORM ROOM – CONTINUOUS
I told you, baby girl. This
ain’t no joke.
Susan kisses Cheryl on the cheek and leaves. Cheryl looks out the window as Mike marches off into the distance. She goes back to writing in her book.
END ACT 1