TRIPLE-A PLOWED UNDER
script taken from Federal Theater Plays ed. Pierre de Rohan (New York: Random House, 1938).
SCENE FIVE (Milk Prices)
VOICE OF LIVING NEWSPAPER MIDDLEMAN
CONSUMER, A WOMAN
VOICE OF LIVING NEWSPAPER (over LOUDSPEAKER): Milk flows to market.
(Light directly over the MIDDLEMAN seated at table. FARMER and CONSUMER on truck, right and left Of MIDDLEMAN. Scene is played on metronome count through entirety, a speech and a beat, etc.)
FARMER (holding up quart can of milk): How much do I get?
MIDDLEMAN: Three cents.*
FARMER: Three cents?
MIDDLEMAN: Take it or leave it.
FARMER: I'll take it. (Hands over milk and pockets coins.)
WOMAN CONSUMER: I want a quart of milk.
MIDDLEMAN (who has been pouring milk from can into
bottle): Fifteen cents.
WOMAN CONSUMER: Fifteen cents?
MIDDLEMAN: Take it or leave it.
WOMAN CONSUMER: I'll take it. (MIDDLEMAN holds out his
hand, takes money, and slaps pocket.) Blackout.
*New York Herald Tribune, July 5, 1934.
(Sioux City-Farmers Organize)
VOICE OF LIVING NEWSPAPER FIRST SPEAKER
SECOND SPEAKER from audience THIRD SPEAKER from audience FOURTH SPEAKER from audience
FIFTH SPEAKER from audience
VOICE OF LIVING NEWSPAPER (over LOUDSPEAKER): Sioux City-August 31, 1932-Farmers organize Relief Conference in theatre.*
(The stage is a speaker's platform. DELEGATES are seated in various parts of the lower floor of the theatre. CHAIRMAN and FIRST SPEAKER are at table on stage.)
FIRST SPEAKER: We've been sold out! We've been cheated and robbed. Milo Reno declared a holiday for Milo Reno-not for us. Forget Reno. Forget his crazy schemes! For God's sake, think for yourselves. I say, let's organize intelligently.* We've got to solve our problems clean and straight, or there will be those who will solve them with bayonets.t
SECOND SPEAKER (from audience): We ain't scared, Mister. THIRD SPEAKER (also from audience): We'll fight if we have to.
CHAIRMAN (coming down stage a bit): If anyone wants to speak, let him stand up.
FOURTH SPEAKER (from audience): I got something to say. CHAIRMAN (nods).
FOURTH SPEAKER: Men, talk is cheap. . . . Tons and tons of dirt are being thrown at Milo Reno. This is all a stunt to take your mind off the real situation-the milk situation. I say, "Stick to Reno. . . . He meant to . (Cries of "Boo" from the audience.) +
FOURTH SPEAKER: All right, "Boo" if you want to, but I say you're making a mistake. (Cries of "Pipe down," "Get off" and "Boo.")
CHAIRMAN (holding up hand for silence): Friends, there's a great deal to be done. Yesterday fourteen of our men were shot down on the picket line in Cherokee County. ... We want our rights. . . . We want relief . . . and we will get it.§ (Thunderous roar greets him. Cries of "Strike!" "Dump the milk!" and "Turn over the trucks!")
FIFTH SPEAKER (from audience): Menl We've got to save
ourselves, with or without Milo Reno-and the only way to do that is to dump every truck and spill every can of milk we can lay our hands on. Let's stop talking and do something! (Tremendous roar.)
*New York Times, September 1, 1932.
t Ibid., September 4, 1932.
$ Ibid., September 1, 1932.
VOICE OF LIVING NEWSPAPER A GROUP OF A DOZEN MEN FIRST MAN
SECOND MAN THIRD MAN
VOICE (off stage)
(During darkness following Scene Six, cries of "Strike" have given way to an ominous musical undercurrent. Throughout this scene, music continues, highlighting the climaxes, but at no time becoming more than a back
VOICE OF LIVING NEWSPAPER (over LOUDSPEAKER): The challenge echoes through Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Indiana. Over the Middle West embittered farmers act.* (The stage is completely dark save for a faint light which illuminates a crossroad signpost and part of an immense boulder. At rise there is no sound, but after a moment, the faint sound of an approaching truck is heard. This becomes louder and soon the twin lights of automobile headlights appear left. They grow stronger as the auto comes nearer, and sound increases. The lights have by this time reached the boulder, lighting up the heads of a DOZEN MEN grouped around and behind it, men who have been lying in wait to waylay the truck. As the lights hit them, one speaks:)
FIRST MAN: Here comes the truck, boys.
SECOND MAN: Let's get it.
THIRD MAN (stopping him with his hand): Wait. (There is a second's pause as the lights get brighter.)
SECOND MAN: Now! (The MEN leap out from behind the boulder and rush off left. A single voice is heard off stage-clearly-with great but quiet determination.)
VOICE OFF STAGE: Get down off that truck. . . . (There is a split-second pause.)
TWO OR THREE VOICES: Dump the milk! * (From off stage is heard the ripping and smashing of boxes being hurled from the truck. . . . A moment of this and then one voice, clear and loud.)
VOICE: Turn over the truck. Push! (A moment . . . then the final terrific crash as the truck is turned over.)
*New York Times, August 16, 1932.
*Article by Bruce Bliven, New Republic, November 29, 1933.
(NOTE: This effect is heightened by the following device: as the truck is being turned over, the lights on the boulder swing round dizzily until, instead of being one beside the other, they have become one over the other. . . . There is a full second's pause as they remain in that position, before the blackout.)
SCENE EIGHT (Farm Auction)
VOICE OF LIVING NEWSPAPER AUCTIONEER
FIRST NEIGHBOR OWNER (FRED) SON (WILSON)
TRIPLE-A PLOWED UNDER 21
FARMERS, MEN AND WOMEN
VOICE OF LIVING NEWSPAPER (over LOUDSPEAKER): Farmers lose their land-their homes-unpaid mortgages are foreclosed; land is sold at public auction. The farmers take matters in their own hands.* (The scene is a farmyard, but there is no attempt at realism; blue cyclorama, gray platform for auctioneer, barrel on platform. Gray ground row to mask lights on floor in front of eye. Otherwise no further properties in scene. FARMERS are in overalls, a few WOMEN in crowd. One MAN conspicuous in business clothes stands apart. All this is discovered at rise. The time is clearly afternoon, the day bright.)
FIRST NEIGHBOR (beckoning): Hey, Sam! Albert's going to
do the talkin'. John'll speak up first.
WILSON: - There's a fellow here I don't know.
FRED: He was asking me questions about the place.
FIRST NEIGHBOR: Point him out, Sam, and I'll watch. (WILSON nods his head backward toward a well-dressed man, who is walking about. The MAN finally stops in front of a group of farmers, and engages them in casual conversation.)
STRANGER: Nice day for an auction. (The GROUP OF FARMERS look at him in disgust, turn away. STRANGER shrugs shoulder, and turns to FIRST and SECOND NEIGHBOR standing near.)
AUCTIONEER: We're all ready, folks, soon's the sheriff reads his notice. (SHERIFF reads in an unintelligible fast monotone, "State of Wisconsin . . ." WILSON goes through GROUP OF FARMERS, from person to person, speaking so that the audience can hear.)
WILSON: Albert's going to do the rest of the talkin'. (Each FARMER nods in understanding manner. WILSON continues as he reaches JOHN) You speak up first. Albert'll do the talkin'. (As SHERIFF completes his reading of the notice, the AUCTIONEER comes down with his hammer.)
AUCTIONEER: Folks, today you're going to be able to buy a lot of up-to-date modern machinery, and the best piece of farm land this side of the Mississippi River, and I want to see some spirited bidding. (FARMERS watch him grimly and silently) The valuation of the farm alone is twenty thousand dollars, three hundred acres under cultivation. Lock, stock and barrel, I should say it's worth, conservatively speakin', thirty thousand dollars. I leave it to you, gents, as to how we bid. All to oncet, or piece by piece? What'dya say we keep the pikers out... .
(Meaningly, to STRANGER) All to oncet. (STRANGER nods slightly. FARMERS all turn their heads in unison toward STRANGER who is still occupied by two farmers talking to him) . . . Any objection? (There is no answer) .. . All right, thirty thousand dollars on the block. What am I bid? (Slight pause.)
JOHN (quietly, unemotionally): Twelve cents.* (Pause. FARMERS remain grimly silent.)
AUCTIONEER (forcing a laugh): That's a good one. Twelve cents. . . . Ha! Ha! Well, now, let's have a bid!
JOHN: That's my bid. (AUCTIONEER looks around and is sobered by the dead earnestness of the FARMERS. His next speech, in dead earnestness likewise, is spoken meaningfully, directly to the stranger.)
AUCTIONEER: All right, I've got a bid. I'm bid twelve cents on thirty thousand dollars' worth of property, twelve cents. (Right at STRANGER) Who'll bid a thousand? Do I hear a thousand? (STRANGER opens his mouth to speak. He starts to raise his arm. The FIRST NEIGHBOR grabs his hand. THIRD NEIGHBOR spins him around, tips his hat over his eyes and the two lead him off, THIRD NEIGHBOR speaking.)
THIRD NEIGHBOR:..: and when it rains around these parts,
Mister, it pours. And you ought to see the pigs down to my place. It's the likeliest litter of little devils anybody ever seen. (His voice trails off as they disappear off stage. The auctioneer's jaw sags. He looks at the SHERIFF and tries to catch his glance. SHERIFF deliberately turns his back and starts whittling.)
JOHN: Whattya waitin' for? You got a bid.
AUCTIONEER: All right. Twelve cents, twelve cents, what do I hear? I've got to have another bid. 'Tain't legal less I have another bid.
ALBERT: Thirteen cents. (Dead pause. The AUCTIONEER
looks beaten, as if he hadn't heard the bid) You got your bid. (There is another, shorter pause, during which the AUCTIONEER looks more helpless than ever) Well, whattaya waitin' for? Call it!
AUCTIONEER (thoroughly licked, smacks his hammer down hard): All right, thirteen cents once . . . thirteen cents twice . . . thirteen cents. . . . Are you all done? Sold for thirteen cents.
* Literary Digest, January 21, 1933.
t Fictional character.
*New York Times, February 2, 1933.