Spamtown, USA, is a moving portrait of Austin, Minnesota during the 1985 Hormel strike. While five kids dream of space camp, tennis teams, and out-of-state college, they find their families and community suddenly divided by picket lines and opposing agendas. This is the story of having the strength to stand up for what you believe in, the challenge that comes in disagreeing with those you love, and the humor that helps keep friendships alive.
Written by Philip Dawkins
Directed by Will Davis
About the Show
- 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.
- The playwright traveled to Austin, MN and interviewed many adults and kids about their real-life experience living through the Hormel strike and the aftermath. Stories from these interviews directly influenced scenes and dialogue in the show.
- This play takes place in the 1980s—references to pop culture, slang, and views of that decade are represented throughout this play.
- This show contains scenes depicting tension between family members, friends, and coworkers, resulting in harsh language, bullying, and some instances of physical violence.
- Our Cargill Stage 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.
Language: 4 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. Jude says “oh my god” but is scolded by her mother. Trig yells “Shut up.” Travis says “screw our parents” when asking Amy to marry him. Amy says crap and the phrase “H-E-Double Hockey Sticks.” Rosa uses Spanish slang.
The adults and kids experience insults and bullying language such as dingus, butthead, nuts-fer-brains, pipsqueak, and disrespectful little ingrate.
Many characters are called “scabs” when they chose to return to work at Hormel.
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 announced that “you can’t be cruel to animals. They’re animals!” Travis steals part of a parked car. 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 falls and accidentally amputates her finger. 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 and Jude fight. Protesters spit at workers who cross the picket line. Many characters engage in arguments about the strike.
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.
this is a complete synopsis of the play, so it is full of spoilers
Please note, this script is still in development and content is subject to change.
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 train tracks through the middle of the town, The Tendermaid, 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 tryouts 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 tryouts. 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. her father asks if Travis mentioned who won the union election but Amy assures him that they don’t talk about their fathers’ jobs. Travis honks the horn of the car and Amy rushes out the door.
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 tryouts. 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 in the science lab. 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 papa.”
Jude is waiting for Scott outside of school but he is running late. He bikes up and explains that he had to do astronaut training this morning but could only do 1 pull up. Jude comforts him by explaining that he won’t have to take PE class in space but questions why he wants to go to space so badly. Scott explains that space is better than Austin. Jude agrees that space isn’t far enough from Austin. 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. It didn’t go well 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 they part for their classrooms when Scott remembers to tell Jude that his mom will be picking her up after tennis try-outs. This news clearly upsets Jude who was looking forward to seeing her dad.
In the parking lot of the New Hormel factory, Gunner and Trig Olsen are eating lunch. They swap meals just like their kids did. Gunnar bemoans forgetting Rosa’s special hot sauce in his locker. Trig remarks some spice could have saved his marriage to Cathy. Gunner disagrees saying that nothing could have saved the marriage. The two begin discussing Missy Ogleman who had an accident at the factory when they see Travis and Amy kissing. Gunnar decides to annoy his brother by calling over the teens. It becomes clear that Travis has not seen his father in quite a while. Trig tries to get the kids to go back to school but they decide to sit and chat since they have time before heading back. Travis begins to tell his father about the car he is building and asks him to come see it. Amy attempts to make conversation by bringing up the brand new cafeteria at the factory which hits a nerve. 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 asks Amy if her father has told her anything about Missy Ogleman’s accident. Travis and Gunnar try to change the conversation but Trig ignores the hint. Trig explains that despite her being seven months pregnant, the new foreman refused to give her time off or allow her to trade jobs. Last week, she slipped and cut off one of her fingers. Amy feels relieved that the baby is okay but Trig points out that Amy’s father wasn’t so sympathetic claiming that Missy hurt herself on purpose to collect workman’s comp. Gunnar is able to stop the conversation and the teens head back to school without saying good-bye to Trig. Gunnar chastises Trig for berating the kids but Trig argues that Travis needs to know what he is getting into if he intends to work for Hormel after graduation. The two vow to fix the problems before Travis is hired.
Jude celebrates that she made the tennis team and Becky Martin didn’t.
There is a sudden deafening sound of machines, ovens, and pig squeals. Behind the kids looms the Hormel Factory. The adults are lined up in the workwear. 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 of actors 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. Scott delivers papers and saves money for Space Camp. We hear opinions on both sides as to whether or not this strike will work. The adults argue until Mrs. Bolton asks them to not 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 did 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.
Scott and his mother are passing out flyers door to door inviting families to the P-9 rally. They approach a house and an unseen neighbor opens the door. There is an unheard tirade from the homeowner that causes both Scott & his mother to look shocked. Rosa tries to calm the person and asks them to not use harsh language around her son. Rosa loses her temper and calls the woman a “pinche pelada” before telling Scott to never use that language. As the pair walk away, there is an unheard racist reply from the homeowner which prompts Rosa to defend her home and family.
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. Travis assures her that they are not their parents, they are the kids.
Amy and Mrs. Bolton argue. 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 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.
Adult protesters rally in the Austin High Auditorium. Scott burst through the doors dramatically followed by Jude. They are in the middle of a pretend duel when Jude uses her fingers to pretend to wield a gun. Scott stops the action and tells her that guns are not allowed in space due to zero gravity and he is scared of them. She surrenders and grabs an abandoned protest sign to use as a pretend sword. Travis enters carrying a car part which distracts Jude from the game. She accuses him of stealing the part from someone’s car and threatens to tell their mother. Travis points out their mom isn’t worried about anything other than the rally. From inside, we hear call and response chants.
Amy arrives with Carol. The kids begin discussing the strike. Amy remarks that she cares about what happens at “the office” which causes Travis to giggle. He likes the idea of their dads “sittin’ at desks hackin’ off hog heads.” Scott replies that his father said that her father doesn’t care about anything other than his paycheck. Amy insists her dad cares 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 by 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 stick it to Corporate. Carol 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.
Travis informs the group that Ray Rogers is going to teach them how to boycott. Carol asks what a boycott is. Both Amy and Travis try to explain what a boycott is but they are talking over each other. Carol asks if they will have to move if they boycott Austin but Amy assures her that they will not be moving 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 with Travis, Amy, and Jude talking over each other. Amy points out that if the P-9 goes on strike, all of their parents might lose their job and then everyone loses. Additionally, she reminds Travis that if the strike happens, he won’t be able to work at Hormel and save money for their move to Paris. Travis retorts that if she feels that strongly about it, she should talk to her father. Inside, it is announced that P-9 is officially striking against Hormel. We hear the adults chant from inside the auditorium while the kids stand outside, lost.
During intermission, actual news footage from the strike is played onstage.
It’s 1985. The P-9 families stand together in their protest garb. The Bolton’s stand together in Hormel shirts. The pickets have begun. All students are one year older. Amy celebrates being a senior while Travis celebrates graduation. Amy reminds him that it is time to get a job to save money while his family encourages him to join the pickets. Travis assures Amy that if he joins the strike now, he will make even more money when they win. It’s unseasonably cold for October. The labs are shut down. The offices are open but are surrounded by shouting protesters. 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 Hormel’s 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 father’s work. We learn there have been fights at school between the P-9 and Hormel kids. The adults argue about who’s kid started the fight. Jude’s locker got graffitied.
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 factory, 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 at 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 says that the union is making her dad’s life “H-E-Double Hockey Sticks.” Eventually, Amy is able to calm down and explains her frustration that she had to switch to Pacelli Catholic School because she was being bullied at Austin High School, she can’t be on the cheer team, and they can’t go to church anymore. 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 and tell him mom face to face.
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 into baggies but they end up squabbling. Travis pops in to say goodbye. When asked where’s he’s going 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 them away to people who aren’t working. Cathy tries to explain the ways in which the P-9 folks are working on the protest but Jude insists that she is working at school, and at tennis practice, and learning how to do her laundry because she can’t rely on her mother anymore. This escalates the argument and Cathy loses her cool. Cathy states that if Jude could just help her put the cookies into baggies, it just might “keep me from walking into traffic.” Cathy continues ranting about how she needs help when she notices Rosa at the door. She’s come from the Union Hall with the news that P-9 rejected the new contracts from Hormel’s. Even though Hormel’s gave in to every one of the original demands, the P-9ers rejected the offer. 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 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 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 the union. Cathy explains 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 which causes Cathy to drop a sheet of cookies.
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 it isn’t about working, but about commitment, 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.” Trig pressures his son into taking a stand against Gunner which leads to Travis reluctantly spitting in Gunnar’s path. Travis apologizes to his father for the weak effort and apologizes to his uncle that he had to do that before walking away from the protest. 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 and asks her to see the sacrifices he is making. Amy explains that she has made sacrifices too but Travis doesn’t think her sacrifices are as big as the ones he and his family have had to make. Amy tells Travis that she missed the deadline to apply for fashion school in Paris and explains that the kids of Austin are the sacrifices of the strike.
We hear the picketers chant in the distance.
1985- Scott attempts to start the opening narration without success.
Rosa is removing P-9 flyers from the newspapers Scott is supposed to be delivering on his paper route. Gunnar is on the phone with the newspaper editor to complain about the P-9 propaganda that is being attached to the newspapers. Rosa vents in Spanish about keeping the community safe when Scott enters. He has clearly fallen on his bike and exclaims that he can no longer go on his paper route because the tire on his bike popped on a hunk of nails left in the driveway. Someone left lots of these nail balls in the driveway in order to stop Gunnar from going to work. Rosa decides that Scott shouldn’t finish his paper route which leads to Scott’s protests that he needs the money for Space Camp. Gunnar and Rosa break to Scott that they will not be able to afford to send him to Space Camp this summer because they lost too much money during the strike. Scott becomes upset and declares that he hates the strike. Rosa assures her son that he will get to the moon one day, even if she needs to fly him there herself. Scott leaves to clean up and Gunnar becomes frustrated by the situation. He throws the nail-clump into the trash can and goes outside to collect the others.
From their perspective homes, Trig and Gunnar call Principal Hardy asking him to move Scott & Jude’s lockers away from each other.
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. Carol asks what the word “scab” means but Mrs. Bolton will not give her an answer. 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 but wants a good word for people who cross the picket line to work. Amy doesn’t know one.
Scott is standing outside his house with a BB gun. The word “scab” is burned into the garage door. Jude approaches and questions why he has a BB gun. Scott informs her that someone has to protect the house while his dad is at work. Jude asks if wants to hang out and do something together since it is Saturday but Scott is on the defense. Jude confesses she is passing out flyers about the roving picket lines. 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 not the one with the gun 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 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 he won’t be able to call for his mother in space. Jude storms away.
The National Guard enters decked out in all white snowsuits and holding guns. 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 the 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, she yells back “if we’re not hurting people, then why does the Governor think we’re a national disaster?” Cathy calls after her to remember she comes from good people.
Travis and his father are standing around a fire barrel during a picketing break with National Guardsmen standing watch. 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 explains that they are protesting because “The Man” made a promise and broke it. Travis points out that he made a promise to the family and broke it by leaving them which strikes a nerve with Trig but Trig acknowledges that Travis is right. Travis asks if he is ever going to get the engine he was promised and Trig says no. Travis explains that he’s lost a lot of things this year so losing his engine wasn’t a surprise. Trig assures Travis that they haven’t gotten what they deserve yet but they will. Travis challenges that they might not because life isn’t fair. Trig assures his son that he will be a great father one day before walking off-stage.
On a tennis court, Jude plays serves to an unseen opponent.
Cathy and Ray lead a picket line in Ottumwa in a chant.
At the Bolton house, 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. Travis’ immediate reaction is to go over to Amy’s house to make sure she is okay but Cathy reminds him that Amy is not his family and his real family needs him right now. She asks him to look through Jude’s jewelry box and gather as much money as he can find at home for Trig’s bail.
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 their own family. 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 asks 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 from his house. A video projection shows actual footage from the launch. When it explodes, he is in shock.
Jude stands in the doorway of Scott’s house with her bike helmet and backpack. She left school because she saw what happened and knew Scott would be upset. Scott expresses frustration that he wanted to be on that shuttle but if he had been, he would be dead. Jude tries to assure him that he didn’t know it would turn out like this. Scott continues by explaining that adults tell him to reach for the stars but what is the point if you are probably going to fail like the Challenger? Scott congratulates Jude on her tennis accomplishments but Jude bemoans the fact that her picture was right under a photo of her dad being arrested. Scott asks if she is glad the strike is over. Jude explains that they aren’t sure what to do now since both her parents lost their jobs. They agree that maybe they don’t have to say or believe the things their parents say. They agree that their parents did the right things for their families except it all blew up because they lost each other.
Jude gives him an already opened Christmas gift and admits that arts and crafts aren’t her thing. It’s a 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 he didn’t get anything for Jude. Jude says that all she wanted for Christmas was for everyone to stop fighting. Jude and Scott agree that they aren’t sure if their parents will ever stop fighting but decide that they can stop fighting.
Shift to present-day Austin. The kids update us on where they are now. Travis and Amy are married and now live in Paris, Texas. Carol is a trauma counselor. Jude works in St. Paul with her wife and kids. Scott drives a Taxi and has a brand new baby. They recite the town motto and exit the space.
Pre and Post-Show Workshops
Extend the field trip experience with a pre or post show workshop in your classroom or at CTC. These 1-hour interactive workshops develop personal relevance with the characters and themes of the play while engaging their body, voice and imagination.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule.
A Message from the Artistic Director
Learn more about Spamtown, USA from Peter C. Brosius, CTC Artistic Director, as he sits down to talk about the show.