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Which Show is Right for My Students?
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Written by Philip Dawkins
Directed by Will Davis
Cargill Stage

You’ve read the story of the 1985 Hormel strike in Austin, Minnesota. But this is what wasn’t printed in the newspapers; the families, the kids, and the idealized town where everything was fine...but was it? A moving portrait of families divided, where confrontation was the new normal, and where children’s dreams of fashion school, tennis competitions, and science projects were interrupted by arguments and ethical questions. This is the story of the hurt that comes when you’re forced to take sides, the hope that comes in surprising alliances, and the laugh-out-loud humor that makes everything possible.

Performance Description

CTC’s Spamtown, USA is a non-musical production performed by a small group of adult and student actors. This production is a world premiere—meaning this is the first time it’s ever been performed in the entire world. This show was commissioned, developed, and originally produced through CTC’s new play development lab. Additionally, the playwright traveled to Austin, MN and interviewed many adults and kids about their real-life experience living through these events and their aftermath. This production shows the impact of the Hormel strike on local Minnesota families.

This production takes place on our Cargill Stage and seats up to 298 people per performance.

We know that teachers are the best judge to determine the right fit for their unique group of students. We recommend Spamtown, USA for students in grades 6-12 due to the length, content, and themes of this performance. Check out the synopsis and content advisories for full information. 

Approximate run time: 2 hours including intermission.

Run time and other details are subject to change during rehearsal process.

Plot Synopsis

Caution: this is a complete synopsis of the play, so it is full of spoilers. This script is still in development. Content is subject to change until script is solidified.

The residents of Austin, MN introduce the audience to the landmarks of the town including Austin High School, Ellis Middle School, Pacelli Catholic Academy, the little league team, Galloway Park, the train tracks through the middle of the town, and of course the Hormel Meat Packing Factory. We hear a train whistle. It is empty but will return with salt and hogs ready for slaughter.

1983- It is spirit week at Austin High School and Cathy is running around getting the kids ready to leave for school. Jude rushes around the house trying to find her tennis racket for try outs and Travis is drinking milk straight out of the carton while their mother urges everyone to get dressed. Mom hands Jude a BLT sandwich when Jude announces that she is now a vegetarian. Mom explains that it is Hormel bacon which means Jude should eat it and be proud. As mom rushes them out the door, Jude bemoans being forced to drive with her brother. Travis calls Jude a dingus which prompts scolding from his mother. Travis explains that dingus is not a bad word, it is French. Jude pokes fun at Travis’ crush on Amy who is in Honors French. Mom hands the kids ATV helmets to wear while Travis drives them both to school. Travis begs for higher allowance which would allow him to purchase a better car. Mom chides Travis for not having a job to pay for his own car but Travis reminds her that his father promised to buy him a car when he turns 18. Mom cautions him not to get his hopes up because his father is unreliable. Mom launches into a speech about how their father got a promotion at Hormel over her which Travis blames on the patriarchy. Jude expresses her desire to beat Becky Martin who has a private tennis coach. As the kids head out for school, mom reminds Jude that her father will be picking her up from school. Cathy chides Travis for leaving the milk carton open and suggests he is “just like his father.”

The phone rings but Cathy lets it go to voicemail. It is Trig, Jude and Travis’ father. He explains over the voicemail that he needs to go to a P-9 union meeting and can’t pick up Jude after her tennis try out. Trig asks her to call him so they can talk about the kids. As she collapses into the couch, she finds Jude’s tennis racket.

At the Bolton house on the other side of town, Amy waits by the door for Travis to pick her up. The family who lives in this house is clearly wealthy. Mr. Bolton comments that Travis is “nothing but lazy.” Amy defends her boyfriend and comments that her father is wearing his “factory tie” which he only wears on factory visit days because the dry cleaners can’t get the smell out. Amy flaunts her eye for fashion and reveals her dream of going to fashion school in Paris. Her father tells her that her only job is to get good grades and marry a nice boy who also gets good grades. Amy informs him that Travis doesn’t need good grades because he is going to work for him at the Hormel factory when he graduates. Amy asks more about the union but her father rushes her out the door. Travis honks the horn of the car and Mr. Bolton remarks how Travis is “just like his father.” Her father stops her to ask if Travis mentioned who won the union election but Amy assures him that they don’t talk about their fathers’ jobs’. Amy gets in the car and Mr. Bolton yells to remind them to wear their seatbelts.

At the Olsen house, Rosa is cutting Mrs. Bolton’s hair in her living room which is also a beauty salon. The phone rings. It is Cathy, Rosa’s sister-in-law asking if Rosa can pick up Jude after her tennis try out. Carol, Mrs. Bolton’s 6-year-old daughter plays on the floor. She asks if Cathy looks like Jude or if she looks like Rosa. Mrs. Bolton informs her daughter that Cathy is white but scolds her for asking those types of questions. Scott, Rosa’s son, is getting ready for school. Rosa hangs up the phone and comments about how Cathy’s husband is a P-I-G. Carol is not fooled and knows what she spelled. Mrs. Bolton informs Carol that it is not nice to call someone a pig which spurs a discussion about why it is okay for adults to call other adults a pig but not okay for kids to call other kids a pig. Mrs. Bolton remembers that she needs to make an appointment for Amy to have her air done before the homecoming dance on Friday. Rosa reminds her that she has quite a few girls already scheduled for Friday but accepts the appointment when Mrs. Bolton promises to pay extra. Mrs. Bolton explains that Amy wants an up-do like Cyndi Lauper but she would rather her daughter be a bit classier like Linda Evans. Rosa admits that she doesn’t know those white ladies but she will make Amy look pretty. Mrs. Bolton asks Rosa to tell Amy that she looks like Cyndi Lauper even if she doesn’t. Carol asks why she is allowed to lie to Amy but Mrs. Bolton assures her that it isn’t lying, it is parenting.

Scott, Rosa’s son, enters the living room in a bathrobe and is immediately horrified to find Mrs. Bolton and Carol. Rosa informs Scott that she will be picking him up late so that she can also pick up Jude from tennis. Scott is fine with it because he can do homework with Ms. Priette, his science teacher. This peaks Mrs. Bolton’s attention because she is a scientist but Scott informs her that he wants to be an astronaut. Mrs. Bolton offers to show him around the research and development lab at Hormel. Scott runs out the door for school but forgets to kiss his mother good-bye which prompts her to proclaim he is “just like his father.”

At lunchtime, Scott runs into Ms. Priette’s room to find solitude away from the sports being played outside at recess. He announces to her that he needs to get into shape in order to be an astronaut but doesn’t like competitive sports. Scott asks Ms. Priette to help him become an astronaut and teach him about space during lunch. She agrees and they begin to tackle 10th grade science when Jude bursts in demanding to know where Scott has been. They trade lunches- this is clearly a tradition. Jude reveals that she lied and told her mom she was a vegetarian so that she wouldn’t pack meat and she would be safe to trade her sandwich with Scott who is actually a vegetarian. Ms. Priette chastises the kids for lying to their parents but Scott can’t bear to tell his parents he is a vegetarian due to their commitment to Hormel’s. Scott is practicing to be an astronaut by not eating meat. The lunch bell rings and the kids leave for their next class.

In the parking lot of the New Hormel factory, Gunner and Trig Olsen are eating lunch. Gunner points out that Trig’s pickup is a hand-me-down from him. Gunner gives Trig his pickle and remarks how Rosa is “so gosh-darned hell-bent on adding spice to everything.” Trig remarks some spice could have saved his marriage to Cathy. Gunner disagrees saying that nothing could have saved the marriage.

The two talk about how the new cafeteria is “clean and shiny” and “dull and ugly” at the same time. This launches them into discussing how they don’t feel the “state of the art” factory works well. Trig implies it doesn’t matter if things are ethical, humane, and fair treatment for animals since they’re coming to the factory to be killed. Gunner wishes they cared about the ethical treatment of people instead.

Trig brings up Missy Ogleman, their pregnant coworker, and informs Gunner that she slipped on the stairs because there was no hand rail and her shoes had pig’s blood on them. She sprained her back but the baby is okay. Trig goes on to explain that Hormel’s on-the-job disability won’t cover any of her medical bills. Trig took the issue to the bargaining session but was told that Missy purposely got hurt in order to collect workman’s comp. Gunner is surprised that Trig knows all of this since he hasn’t read anything in the paper. Trig says “the big-ups at Hormels” bribe the doctors into not reporting any of the injuries from the factory which keeps the news out of the paper.

Cathy catches Trig relaxing with Gunner instead of going to the P-9 meeting like he said he was going to go to. She blames him for abandoning both his real family and his P-9 union family.

Jude celebrates that she made the tennis team and Becky Martin didn’t.

There is a sudden deadening sound of machines, ovens, and pig squeals. Behind the kids looms the Hormel Factory. The adults are lined up in the work wear. The doors open and there is the sound of pigs being slaughtered. The adults enter the factory leaving the kids alone onstage.

It’s now 1984- spirit week, again. Opposite day. The company takes the stage. The young people are a grade older. Trig is a P-9 Union secretary. Cathy is now Treasurer. Becky Martin is still not on the tennis team and Jude is still mad her family doesn’t buy her a country club private tennis coach. Amy doesn’t want to participate in “opposite day” in case that would ruin her chance of being asked to homecoming by Travis. Scott delivers papers and saves money for the NASA certified Apollo 11 model kit. The union brought Ray Rogers from out of town to teach them how to throw a strike. We hear opinions on both sides as to whether or not this strike will work. The adults argue about salary cuts until Rosa asks folks to stop and not have the fight in front of their kids. The scene closes with the adults saying the town slogan in unison “Where the good life is here to stay.”

Travis picks Amy up for school on Opposites Day. Amy is dressed somewhat like Freddy Mercury in a leather skirt with a mustache. Travis is dressed like a nerd. Jude implies he’s a nerd all of the time. Jude is dressed in her dad’s old football uniform. Travis does not get Amy’s “boy” costume. Amy asks Jude if she is positive she can’t babysit. It becomes clear that Mr. Bolton never asked Jude to babysit like he told Amy.

Mr. Bolton stops them as they are about to leave. He wants to drive Amy to school, but Amy wants to go with Travis. Mr. Bolton begins to get angry and Amy tells her dad he’s being a bully. Mr. Bolton yells about how Travis’s father spoke to him at the Union meeting. Mr. Bolton states that sometimes it takes a bully to get things done; they’ll learn when they’re older. Travis argues that bullies make things worse; he learned that in junior high. Amy tries to stop Travis from intervening but the argument escalates. Mr. Bolton threatens to call Travis’s parents but expresses that it would be useless since that is where he feels Travis “learned to speak like such a disrespectful ingrate.” Travis offers to apologize if Mr. Bolton can point out what Travis done wrong. Mr. Bolton tells him to get his father to stop making threatening phone calls. Travis doesn’t know what he’s talking about and points out that he never sees his dad since the divorce. Mr. Bolton asks Travis to tell his dad that if he has something threatening to say, he can “be a man” and say it to his face. Travis points out the ironic nature of the statement since Mr. Bolton is not saying anything to his father’s face. Mr. Bolton has no rebuttal and shifts his focus to Jude. He questions what she’s wearing and says she looks just like her father. Jude informs him that it is opposite day.

During lunch, Scott works on building his model space station while Ms. Priette eats. Scott tells her that NASA is holding a writing contest for students to nominate their teachers join the next shuttle mission to space. Ms. Priette remarks that plenty of her students would want to shoot her into space. Scott offers to nominate her. Ms. Priette politely declines saying she’s honored but okay staying in Austin. Scott doesn’t understand why she wouldn’t want to go to outer space; he can’t wait to go.

Ms. Priette asks if everything is okay at home. Scott says it is bonkers because his mom is doing more hair in case the strike happens and his dad can’t work. Ms. Priette offers to listen if he ever wants to talk about it. Scott thanks her and pulls out an essay he’s already typed, nominating her for the space mission.

In the next scene, Carol is playing with her toys while Mrs. Bolton works. Carol’s She-Ra is telling her Barbie she is not allowed in the office because she’s a P-9. When Mrs. Bolton questions what Carol is doing, Carol tells her that She-Ra is not letting “the dirty P-9” into the office. Mrs. Bolton asks her not to call people dirty and questions if she knows what a P-9 is. Carol guesses it’s like a K9. Mrs. Bolton explains that a union is supposed to be a group of workers how make sure their boss treats them fairly. Carol doesn’t understand why this would be a concern. Mrs. Bolton tells her it’s just a safety precaution. Carol asks it it’s like looking both ways before crossing the street. Mrs. Bolton says that is a necessary precaution which prompts Carol to question is unions are necessary. She also asks how they make sure their bosses treat them fairly. Mrs. Bolton tells her one way unions do that is by going on strike, refusing to work until their bosses agree to what they want. Carols asks if she can go on strike and not clean her room. Mrs. Bolton tells her that kids can’t strike because it’d be disrespectful. Carol asks why adults can do it if it is disrespectful. Mrs. Bolton doesn’t have an answer.

At Galloway Park, Travis is smitten while watching Amy practicing a cheer for him. When she finishes, Travis asks her to marry him. Amy is hesitant and points out that she’s going to school in Paris after graduation and that her plans require money. Travis says he’ll get a job at the factory and save until she’s graduated. Amy confesses it’s getting difficult at home when her parents say things about his parents. Travis says, “screw our parents” and sings “Love is a Battlefield.” Amy tries to shush him and then joins in. They kiss.

At home, Travis is trying to talk with his mother about moving to Paris with Amy. Cathy lectures Travis about appreciating the value of work and reminds him that she had a job at the factory when she was his age and has been working there ever since. Cathy warns him that Amy was brought up fancy and won’t take well to change. Travis assures her he’ll get a job. Jude pipes up to ask sarcastically what he thinks he will do. He criticizes her dreams of being a professional tennis player. Jude gets upset and announces her hatred towards everyone. Cathy asks Travis to ease up on his sister since she just wants to follow her dreams. Travis points out he’s trying to do the same. Cathy gently tells him there’s a different between dreams and ability and even though Austin isn’t what he dreams of doing, it’s something he can do. Travis tells her to take her own advice and claims that the union meetings aren’t useful because “a butthole like Mr. Bolton” won’t give in to their demands. Cathy slaps him. Both are shocked and surprised by this action. Cathy informs him that there is a huge difference between fighting for what you want and fighting for what is right. She challenges him to decide what kind of fighter he is. There is a knock at the door. It’s Trig and Gunner. They’re picking Cathy up for the rally. Trig invites Travis to join them. Travis sasses him before running after them.

While adult protesters rally in the Austin High Auditorium, Amy and Mrs. Bolton argue in their foyer. Amy is upset her dad won’t let her go to the rally since it was originally planned to be a pep rally for the students. Mrs. Bolton points out it’s now a P-9 rally and that those people are making things very difficult for her father at work. She asks Amy to try to understand her father’s position; Amy objects since her father isn’t trying to understand the position of her friends’ parents. Mrs. Bolton tells her that this is bigger than them and begins to imply that just because her friends and boyfriend are the most important things to her right now doesn’t mean they always will be, but Amy cuts her off. She can’t believe her friends and husband aren’t the most important things to her mom. Mrs. Bolton tells Amy her children are the most important thing to her and that she’s always looking out for them and worried about them. Amy attempts to deflect the argument by telling her Travis proposed and she accepted. This stops her mother in her tracks. Amy asks if she will tell her dad and Mrs. Bolton assures her that she will not. She asks if Amy is “in trouble” (meaning pregnant). Amy tells her she’s not and but wants to be a part of Travis’s P-9 family. Mrs. Bolton gives Amy her keys and tells her to take her sister for ice cream. Amy hugs her and thanks her but this action was intended to solicit guilt from Amy. Mrs. Bolton tells her to listen to everything Travis and his people say about Mr. Bolton and decide if Travis would be as committed to her family as she is to his.

In the auditorium, cheerleaders do the fight cheer as adults chant “Never surrender, never back down.” Travis sneaks out to smoke a cigarette. Scott burst through the doors followed by Jude who is wielding a protest sign. They are in the middle of a pretend duel when Jude notices Travis smoking. She tells him if he doesn’t share, she’ll tell their mom. She tries to pressure Scott to smoke too, but Scott declines; his mother would object to him smoking. Travis points out their moms aren’t there and checks inside to see if they’re near the doors. He remarks it’s nice to see their Dad even if it’s only on stage. Scott wonders how long the adults will keep up this protest. From inside, we hear call and response chants.

Amy arrives with Carol. Carol points out that Travis is smoking but Amy tells her it’s a candy cigarette. Travis extinguishes it and gives Carol a high five. The kids begin discussing the strike. Amy insist her dad does care and is trying to do what’s fair for the whole company. Scott suggests that the workers are a big part of the company. Travis attempts to change the conversation buy suggesting they let the parents fight about it. Amy points out that the strike affects the entire factory, not just the P-9 families and we see her begin to get agitated by the conversation. Scott tries to deflect by pointing out that Ray Rogers was about to start talking inside which causes Carol to ask who Ray Rogers is. Amy informs her that he is a professional agitator who ruins companies around the country. Travis retorts that Ray Rogers is a consultant who helps other unions organize and strike and win. Jude is skeptical that they would need to pay someone for this. Amy thinks he’s probably a volunteer. Travis heard he costs $5000/week. Scott says whether they win or lose the strike, they’ll have to pay him one million dollars but Travis is skeptical. Jude opens the doors and they hear Ray asking if they’re going to let Corporate win. Carol cheers yes and asks who’s corporate. Jude points out that her parents are Corporate and that they will lose the fight. Amy says that’s not really true and that no one needs to lose because her dad said there’s a way to compromise. Jude insists that Amy’s dad doesn’t understand winning.

We hear Ray Rogers from inside the rally proposing a third party boycott. Carol ask what a boycott is. Both Amy and Travis try to explain what a third party boycott is but they are talking over each other. Amy says it’s when someone you stop supporting someone because they support something you don’t like and uses the example of the Public Pool. Since Hormel paid for the pool, Amy says the strike would include not going to the pool. This changes things for Jude who suddenly decides the strike is bad and will ruin everything. Amy assures Carol they’ll still go to the pool because they like Hormel. Travis points out that his family likes Hormel as well; they just want to make it good again. Things begin to escalate withTravis, Amy, and Jude talking over each other. Inside, Ray Rogers announces that they voted for him to lead the strike. The adults chant strike. Jude is worried about not having money and missing tennis camp. Amy fears her family will have to leave town and she’ll miss out on fashion school and Paris. Travis is concerned about his mom and not getting a job at Hormel’s after graduation. They all think it’s not fair. Inside, the adults cheer “No Fair.”

It's 1985. The P-9 families stand together in their protest garb. The Boltons stand together in Hormel shirts. Ms. Priette enters as the only neutral party and encourages the company to begin the narration. The pickets have begun. It’s unseasonably cold for October. The labs are shut down. The offices are open but are surrounded by shouting protesters. The protestors share how they have to take turns warming up in the union hall between protest shifts. Amy tries to change the tone of the narration by mentioning how the hall is across from TenderMade where there are the best fries in town. Trig criticizes their use of Hormels hotdogs. Scott protests that it doesn’t matter where the pig came from and Rosa insists that he should not bring up his animal rights stuff; he should be proud of his papi’s work. Mr. Bolton questions why Travis isn’t in school. Travis tells him he graduated and should be in the factory. Mrs. Bolton laments the tests rotting in her laboratory and the money being wasted. Ms. Priette talks about how she’s has to stop fights at school between P-9 kids and Hormel kids. Ms. Priette tries to close the narration but everyone is too angry to continue.

At the picket line, Trig is leading others in a chant for fair pay. They freeze and the focus is shifted to the Bolton household. Looking out her front window, Carol asks her father why there is a police car in their driveway. Mr. Bolton assures her no one is in trouble and explains that it is safer for him to ride to work with Sherriff Goodnature. At the factors, Mr. Bolton walks passed the picket line as protestors begin to yell, scream, and chant at him. Trig spits where Mr. Bolton was walking. Mr. Bolton freezes, regains his composure and then continues onward.

Amy arrives to Scott’s house. Scott is home reading about how astronauts poop in space. Amy asks if his parents are home. They are both at the P-9 hall… again. Amy asks if she could go with him to the P-9 hall sometime but Scott declines. It is revealed that Amy is jealous of Scott’s ability to join his parents in the fight when she is not able to. Scott argues that if the strike is impacting the family, the family should be involved. Amy asks if Scott would be willing to give his mom a message from her but makes Scott promise not to tell her mom and dad that she was here. Scott becomes suspicious of her intentions and asks why she came. Amy tries to cover everything up by saying she just came by to visit friends but Scott knows that is a lie since she is 4 years older than him and one of the most popular girls in school. Plus, their parents hate each other. Things become heated as they argue about which side of the strike is right. Amy is able to calm down and they are able to find common ground in the fact that the strike is ruining everything. Amy whines about having nothing after the strike which hits a nerve with Scott since she has two cars and a boat and Scotts family has a hard time making ends meet. Amy tries to clarify that she is being driven out of her own town and told they don’t’ belong. Scott does not have sympathy for her since his family is Mexican-American and is constantly being told they don’t belong. Amy apologizes and confesses to Scott that the reason she came over was to tell his mom that she needs to cancel her hair appointments because of the strike. Amy felt like she needed to tell her face to face. They bond over the fact that all of the adults are changing their lives without asking the kids opinions. Scott thanks Amy for being brave enough to come tell him mom face to face. Amy offers to drive Scott to the Science Museum in Minneapolis but they agree that their parents would never let that happen.

That evening, Mr. Bolton and Mrs. Bolton are fighting. He wants to know what Amy said to Scott and shares that Amy won’t speak to him anymore. Mrs. Bolton suggests he speak with Rosa about the matter. Mr. Bolton tries to convince his wife to go speak with Rosa for him, but Mrs. Bolton doesn’t have time to go around fighting his battles. Mrs. Bolton expresses her concern that his job has only consisted of fighting their friends. Mr. Bolton clarifies that his job is to keep the Hormel factory up and running. Mr. Bolton tries to appeal to her by pointing out that Hormel gave her a job as a scientist and pays her equitably. He claims that no other company would be excited to hire a woman to run their labs and pay her “not like a lady scientist, but like a Scientist Scientist.” Mrs. Bolton defends herself and states that Hormel is lucky to have her. Mr. Bolton is fed up with arguing and makes a sarcastic comment that Hormel is evil, he’s evil, everything should be burned down so they can throw the baby out with the bathwater. Mrs. Bolton points out that’s what he’s trying to do using the example of not letting Jude Olsen babysit Carol because of how he feels about her parents. She asks if he’s going to cancel their newspaper subscription since Scott Olsen delivers it. Mr. Bolton reveals that he already did. Mrs. Bolton remind him these folks are their friends. He corrects her: “were our friends.” Mr. Bolton tells her he’s proud of fighting for their jobs, the company, and their town. Mrs. Bolton says she’s proud of her girls and if she thought anything was hurting them, she’d leave with them. She cares about them more than her job, Hormel, the strike, Austin, and him. The veiled threat is not lost on him. She asks why he won’t just sit down and talk to them like people. Mr. Bolton tells her they won’t allow it because they’re acting like spoiled children. Mrs. Bolton wants him to admit he’s wrong and end everything but he wants an apology. They suddenly realize Carol snuck down in her pajamas and has been watching their argument from the stairs. She asks if they are angry because of her and if they are going to get a divorce. They assure her that they were just talking but sometimes grown-ups talking sounds like fighting. Mr. Bolton offers her a hug but she cowers away begging him not to throw her out with the bathwater.

Rosa, Gunner, and Scott are working as a family to make flyers for the strike. Scott is going to take the take the flyers to the print shop tomorrow. Rosa tells him to have them make 1,000 copies and put it on the P-9 account. They plan to hand them out door-to-door on Sunday. Rosa sends Scott off to bed. Gunner remarks that even though he’d told Scott he’d help him finish his model that night, Scott didn’t say anything while helping with the flyers. Rosa says he’s a good kid and shares with Gunner that Scott is bullied at school because of the strike. She laments losing three more clients. Scott assure her it will get better. They’ve just submitted a new contract to Hormels and will be negotiating soon. He tells her Trig says the third party strike is working since folks don’t want to cross the picket line in front of First Bank in Minneapolis. Gunner assures her that once they’ve ended the strike and get their bonus pay, the family could take a trip to the Boundary Waters.

In her living room, Cathy is ordering lots of pizzas and charging them to the P-9 account. She tried to get Jude to help her put cookies in Tupperware but they end up squabbling. Travis pops in to say goodbye. When asked where’s he’s gong he says home, implying his father’s trailer. Jude asks him to take her along; Cathy objects. Travis has a date with Amy. Cathy inquires if he’ll date anyone else and expresses concern about Mr. Bolton. Travis tells her he’s not dating Mr. Bolton and leaves. Cathy catches Jude eating a cookie and scolds her since they’re for the P-9 support group meeting. Jude is perturbed that her mother expects her to work for the cookies she is giving to people who aren’t working. Cathy tries to explain the ways in which the P-9 folks are working on the protest when there is a knock on the door. It’s Rosa. She’s come from the Union Hall with the news that Ray Rogers and P-9 rejected the new contracts from Hormels. Even though Hormels gave in to every one of the original demands, Ray Rogers advices them to ask for more since the P-9ers have now been out of work for so long. However, the national union said they had to accept it. Because they didn’t accept it, they are now in sanctions from the parent union and their third party boycott is illegal. The P-9 union can’t continue to strike or get strike pay from the union. Cathy is shocked. Jude becomes excited and asks if this means everyone will be going to back to work. Cathy becomes increasingly angry and insists that their fight has to be legal. She expresses frustration that the national union is siding with Hormel instead of uniting with them. Jude pleads with her mother to go back to work and start making money again. Cathy explodes that she will not go back to work until all of their needs are met. Rosa informs everyone that Gunner is going back to work.

Gunner approaches the noisy picket line. Trig asks if he forgot his sign. Gunner informs his brother that since the strike is now unsanctioned, it’s time to go back to work. Trig assures him that the strike won’t be over until the P-9ers give in. Travis steps in and encourages his dad to let his Uncle Gunner go to work. Trig insists that isn’t about working, but about commitment purpose, justice, and family. Gunner says his family deserves to eat but Trig calls him a rotten SCAB. Gunner asks to be let through and apologizes to his brother. After he shoulders past Trig, Trig spits where he walked and says “I don’t have a brother.” As Mr. Bolton ushers Gunner into the factory, Trig leads the picket line in another cheer.

Travis and Amy drink malts on the hood of Travis’ car. They are mid-conversation. Travis asks Amy if she’s breaking up with him. She says she’s not, she just wants them to wait. Amy tells him she misses how things used to be when everyone got along and respected each other. Travis says she missed something that never existed. Amy shares she thinks everyone is being brave. Travis doesn’t believe they can all be brave and Amy clarifies that they can’t all be right. Travis tries to tell Amy that he can put the strike aside when it’s the two of them but Amy isn’t sure she can. Travis begs Amy to stay.

We hear the picketers chant in the distance.

Autumn 1985- The company is unable to stand together to perform the narration. Ms. Priette stands alone.

In the Bolton’s home, Carol asks if all bacon is made out of pig scabs. She explains she saw a sticker on a truck that said “Hormel makes scab bacon.” Mrs. Bolton tells her that’s not what the bacon is made of and that it is just a grownup joke she shouldn’t repeat. Mrs. Bolton exits to take a call from Mr. Bolton which she assumes is about him sleeping at the office again because he can’t get through the picket line. Once she’s gone, Amy tells Carol scab is a bad name for people who cross the picket line to go to work. Carol agrees not to use it and wants a good word for people who cross the picket line to work. Amy doesn’t know one.

Several characters explain what the term “scab” means to them.

Scott is guarding his house with either a BB gun or a slingshot. The word “scab” is burned into the garage door. Jude approaches. He prepares aims his weapon at the intruder before realizing it is Jude. Upon realizing it is his cousin, his first instinct is to warmly greet her but then realizes that he is supposed to be defending his house and realms his weapon. Jude begs him not to shoot which causes him to lower his weapon. Jude questions why he’s is guarding the house. Scott informs her that someone has to protect the house while his dad is gone. Jude asks if wants to hang out and do something together since it is Saturday but Scott is on the defense. Jude tries multiple times to defuse the tension but everything comes back to the strike. Scott reveals that they are being shunned at church so they can’t go anymore. Jude tries to tell a joke which pushes Scott over the edge. He screams at her that the strike is not a joke. He reveals that his dad needs to carry a gun to and from work to stay safe. Jude becomes offended that Scott is implying that everything is her fault when she isn’t even part of the union. Scott asks if she agrees with the union. Jude deflects the question but Scott is insistent. Scott discloses that he does not feel safe around Jude unless she states that she disagrees with her family and P-9. This causes Jude to explode in anger because she is the one with the gun pointed at her but Scott keeps pushing. Scott blames the entire P-9 union for vandalizing his home. Jude rebuttals that the vandalism was caused by just one person, not the entire union. Scott asks for proof but Jude can only assume to which Scott responds with “when you assume, you make an Ass out of U and Me.” Jude states that he is being an ass all on his own. Scott asks Jude point blank if her father burned the garage. Jude refuses to answer and screams about how her father wouldn’t do that to his own family. Scott points out that he walked out on his family by abandoning her and her brother which causes Jude to lunge at Scott and take the gun out of his hand. Scott is knocked to the group and yells for his mother. Jude has lost all control and screams that her father used to be worried about her being friends with a boy until they realized that Scott was “practically a girl.” Jude storms away leaving Scott crying on the ground next to his gun.

From their perspective homes, Rosa and Cathy call Principal Hardy asking him to move Scott & Jude’s lockers away from each other.

Mrs. Bolton answers to phone. Based on her reaction, it’s assumed this is a threatening, nasty call. She hangs up and screams. Amy rushes into the room. Mrs. Bolton cries that she can’t take the awfulness any more. Amy is surprised at her mother. Mrs. Bolton tells her to tell “that no good” Travis and his father to stop making the calls or she’ll have them arrested.

Amy shows up at the P-9 Union Hall where Travis is working on a mural. Amy asks about the mural and Travis explains that it is a snake that is destroying Austin. Amy goes on to ask why he’s not working since he technically is not part of the Hormel union. Travis makes a sarcastic comment about how maybe he could babysit Carol like Jude was except her parents don’t think his family is good enough and fired her. Amy points out this was her parents’ decision, not hers, but Travis is insulted she didn’t stand up to her parents. She tries to talk with Travis, but he keeps circling back to their parents. Travis tries to get Amy to come meet the people who are protesting for P-9. Amy says she’s here for him and not the P-9. Travis informs her that she can’t cheer for both sides and is not interested in talking with her unless she sides with P-9. Amy can see that this conversation is not going to end the way she hoped and compliments his work on the mural. She leaves.

The stage goes dark and the snake comes to life. It eats the workers protesting below the mural. Every time it eats someone, there are the sounds of pigs being slaughtered. National Guardsmen enter in full riot gear and shoot the snake. After overpowering it, they form a line where the picket line was where they will remain for the rest of the play.

Travis drives Jude to school and his mom to the picket line. Jude asks why there are Storm Troopers at the picket line. Cathy informs her that it is the National Guard and explains that they’re supposed to serve and protect during national disasters. Jude asks if they’re here to protect P-9ers but they are not. Governor Perpich has sent them to protect “the god-damn. scabs” from the P-9ers. Travis assures them that they are just here for show. Jude is startled that they have guns. She worries that they harm her mother. Cathy assures her they’re not in danger. Jude questions if the P-9ers are dangerous ones. Travis says no. Cathy elaborates that there are a few P-9ers who have gotten out of hand and made life difficult for “a few scabs.” Jude asks, “Aren’t scabs people?” Cathy does not answer her question and Jude gets out of the car for school. As Jude walks away, Cathy calls after her to remember she comes from good people.

Travis and his dad take a break together. Trig tells him that the National Guard will be sleeping in the basement of the Lutheran church. Trig says he wished he still went to church so he could stop going to boycott. Travis tells him that his mom and sister no longer go because his mom thinks they’re scab sympathizers. Trig acknowledges that Cathy is a good woman and apologizes for not being around to take care of them which surprises Travis. He goes on to tell Travis he’s impressed with how he’s shown up to the picket line and helped with the mural. He admits that Travis is a better man than he is. Travis asks if he’s going to get the engine he was promised. Trig explains that with the financial situation, it won’t happen right now which causes Travis to be upset. Travis explains that he is failing school, lost Amy, his family is exploding, he can’t get the job he was promised because of his parents’ relationship with Hormels, and now he won’t get his promised engine. Trig agrees this is not fair and shares he feels the same way. Travis comes to the conclusion that things can suck and he can’t always control them, but he does want to do the right thing for his family.

On a tennis court, Jude plays serves to an unseen opponent.

Cathy and Ray lead a picket line in Ottumwa in a chant.

In the Bolton home, Carol tells Mr. Bolton that someone at the grocery store said that everything her daddy owns is because of slaves doing his work and that her parents bought her from a sweatshop in China. Mrs. Bolton assures her this isn’t true. Mr. Bolton decides to call the man who said it but Mrs. Bolton objects. An argument ensues between the parents. Carol yells at them to stop fighting. Just then, a rock flies through their window and a rifle is fired into the air outside. Mr. Bolton runs to the door and yells after the truck. Amy rushes into the room concerned. Mr. Bolton is positive that it was Trig; he recognizes his pickup. Mrs. Bolton takes Carol out of the room and Amy challenges her father’s assumption that it was Trig Olson. Mr. Bolton defends his statement by saying if Trig would spit at him and threaten to kill him, he’d throw a rock through their window. He yells at Amy to grow up and admit that her boyfriend’s father is violent. Amy tries to tell her father that Travis is no longer her boyfriend but he is occupied with calling the police.

Jude misses a crucial hit in her tennis match. She becomes frustrated and throws her racket.

Cathy calls Travis at the P-9 office from the police station. She tells him that his father has been arrested due to Mr. Bolton’s claim that Trig threw a rock through his window. Travis asks if this is true. Cathy is shocked that he would even ask but does not deny anything. She asks him to look through her jewelry box and gather as much money as he can find at home for Trig’s bail.

Amy comes to Jude on the tennis court. Jude won the tournament but is upset because no one was there to watch her play and she doesn’t have a ride home. Amy discloses that Jude’s parents might be in a lot of trouble because of her parents and offers to give her a ride home. Jude is confused that Amy is showing her kindness because she is a P-9 kid. Amy assures Jude that she likes her, no matter her standing with Hormel, and offers to buy her a frosty at Hardees on the way home.

At her house, Cathy listens to a voicemail message from Amy informing her she’s borrowed her mother’s car to pick Jude up from her tennis game. In the message, Amy asks Cathy not to tell her mom. Cathy cries.

Travis enters. He’s sold his car to pay his father’s bail. Cathy confides that she’s not sure what the fight was for because they’re going to lose. Travis assures her that no matter the outcome, it’s okay because they fought.

Jude enters with Amy and screams at her family about not attending her tennis match. She won but was envious of the losers who had their parents there. Jude accuses her mother and Travis of caring more about Hormel than her. Jude storms up the stairs to her room and Cathy follows. Travis thanks Amy for thinking of his sister and starts to cry. Amy admits that she doesn’t know what to do. She loves and respects her parents, but she doesn’t ever want to be them. Travis agrees. Amy kisses him and agrees to pick him up for school the next morning. She leaves.

In the Bolton house, Carol is being tucked in bed. She asks her mother why the P-9ers are so mean. Mrs. Bolton starts to answer and then gets an idea. She asks Carol for her doll. Once she has it, she says it’s now hers. This upsets Carol. She protests and assures her mother that she didn’t do anything wrong. Mrs. Bolton tells her the fear and anger she’s feeling is how the P-9ers feel. Carol ask if her dad is the one who took their things without asking. Mrs. Bolton informs her daughter that the P-9ers blame her father. Carol wants to know if her dad can fix it, but Mrs. Bolton does not know.

It's January 28, 1986. Scott is watching the launch of the challenger. A video projection shows actual footage from the launch. When it explodes, everyone is in shock.

At lunch, Ms. Priette attempts to help Scott process through the event and asks if he wants to talk or pray for the families of the astronauts. Scott corrects her and says that they weren’t all astronauts; Christa Mcauliffe was a teacher, and he had wanted that to be Ms. Priette. Ms. Priette assures him he didn’t know what would happen, and this was not his fault. Scott becomes very upset. He explains that grown-ups always tell kids to follow their dreams, to never retreat, never surrender, but it’s not true. He realizes that it is possible for dreams to come true but it is not promised that everything will be okay. Even if he does his best, he could still fail. Everyone on the shuttle did their jobs right, and they still died. Ms. Priette reminds him of the many successful space missions. Scott asks if she told the truth when she said she didn’t want to go into space because she was happy in Austin and she assures him that it was. He brings up the ending of the strike. Scott says they replaced everyone who didn’t go back to work. He says most of the new workers are Mexican and his dad says they hired Mexicans because they can’t complain. Scott reflects on how his dad went back because that’s what was right for their family, but his Aunt Cathy and Uncle Trig didn’t because they needed to fight for what they felt was right for their family. He thinks everything fell apart for everyone. He wonders if it’s better not to try. He thinks it might be better to give up. He thinks he’ll never make a difference; he’ll never win. He sets his challenger model on Ms. Priette’s desk and goes to leave. Ms. Priette stops him and offers him an envelope. It’s a letter of recommendation for space camp, in case he changes his mind. Scott takes it and smiles.

As Scott is exiting the classroom, he bumps into Jude. Scott is immediately defensive but Jude came to find him because she saw what happened with the Challenger. Jude apologizes for their earlier argument and gives him a Christmas gift. It’s beard trimmer. He points out he can’t grow a beard and Jude explains that it came in the P-9 Christmas donation box. Someone got a slip that said “Jude, 13” and assumed she was a boy. Scott doesn’t feel right about accepting the gift when Jude won’t be getting any gifts this year. Jude says that seeing him is what she wanted for Christmas and encourages Scott to take the beard trimmer to space with him. All Jude wanted for Christmas was for the strike to be over but it doesn’t seem to stop everyone from fighting. They agree to stop fighting.

Content Advisories

Language: 5 out of 5 stars
“God-damn” is used as a curse and as descriptive language multiple times throughout the play by both kids and adults. Travis explains that the correct way to pronounce “Hormel” is like a “Whore named Mull.” Jude says “oh my god” and is scolded by her mother. Gunner says “gosh-darned hell-bent.” Trig yells “Shut up.” Travis says “screw our parents” when asking Amy to marry him. Trig says “bullshit.” Cathy begins to say one word but realizes that Jude is in the room and stops herself by saying “the dirty bast…pigs.” Scott informs Jude that when you assume you “make an ass out of you and me.” Amy says "crap." 

The adults and kids experience insults and bullying languages such as dingus, butthead, nuts-fer-brains, pipsqueak, disrespectful little ingrate, and butthole.

Many characters are called “scabs” when they chose to return to work at Hormels.

Themes and Situations: 5 out of 5 stars
The scent of the town is described as “like bacon but only bloodier,” “like bacon and burning hair,” “like bacon, toots and feet,” and “like a burning scab.” Cathy announces that “you can’t be cruel to animals. They’re animals!” Footage of the actual NASA Challenger launch and explosion is projected onstage. The sound of pigs being slaughtered by heavy machinery will be heard. Trig is arrested. Travis and Amy kiss. 

Violence & Scariness: 5 out of 5 stars
There is a description of a factory accident in which a pregnant worker is hurt. Actual footage of the NASA Challenger launch and explosion is projected onstage. Someone throws a brick through the Bolton’s front window. Scott, 13 years old, takes it upon himself to protect his house with a BB gun after someone burns the word “scab” into his garage. Scott points the gun at his cousin, Jude. Protesters spit at workers who cross the picket line.  Many characters engage in arguments about the strike.

The following is depicted via projection- A giant snake with glowing red eyes eats protestors. The National Guard arrives carrying guns and shoots the snake. The word “scab” is burned into a family’s garage.

Sensory Advisories: 3 out of 5 stars
The sound of pigs being slaughtered by heavy machinery will be heard. Play may contain loud sounds and bright lights. We will update this section after we have started rehearsal and understand the technical elements.

Potentially Anxious Moments: 4 out of 5 stars
Beyond the violence listed above, many characters argue. Adults feel the financial strain from the strike. Travis is forced to sell his car in order to bail his father out of jail. Jude feels hurt that her family missed her tennis tournament. Relationships between family members and friends are strained and some are broken.

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