In The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, Rita Joe is tried for vagrancy and prostitution in court by the Magistrate, who pretends to be committed to justice and fairness, but who in fact draws on his prejudiced perception of Indigenous peoples in order to condemn Rita for her ability to change her situation. Despite this, Rita and the Magistrate connect on a human level as Rita tells him some of her story. As Rita is tried in court, she remembers scenes with loved ones from her life and has visions of other scenes that she was not privy to. Rita loved her sister, father, and Jaimie Paul, and she fights to be reunited with them in her memory.
Rita is tasked with finding herself character witnesses in eight hours. The people who come, including her childhood teacher, do nothing to help her situation. Rita is sentenced to 30 days in prison. When she is released, Jaimie helps Rita ease back into life. They go to Mr. Homer's shelter but have a struggle with him that leads to her arrest. The Magistrate condemns Rita as unhelpable and foreshadows her death. Rita is released from prison once again, but it is too late. The Murderers kill Jaimie when he tries to protect her from them. Then they rape and kill Rita Joe. The last scene of the play is Rita and Jaimie's joint funeral.