Musical Drama/ 14 Characters, 7 Women, 6 Men, 1 Boy, plus chorus of 3 to 6 Women/ Full Length, Two Acts
Synopsis: (From The Off-Off-Broadway Review [oobr.com]): “Out of the dark rises the rhythmic sound of machines at work. The lights fade up on a slow-motion tableau of women miming working in a mill. They start to sing, inaudible over the machines until with a collective stamp of the foot the machines stop and we are treated to the opening number, ‘Pennies in our Pay,’ leading into the defiant ‘We Strike.’
“It’s a strong, effective opening to a show with a strong, serious subject. The musical is an adaptation by Rachel Rubin Ladutke of her own play; this in turn is based on the real-life events of 1912 when immigrant female workers in the mill-town of Lawrence, Massachusetts decided to strike for decent pay in the face of police brutality, the National Guard, and town officials. Ultimately successful, their victory came at a great personal cost to the families involved.
“Ladutke’s musical tells this story through the experiences of a few individual characters, although a handful of smaller roles and the chorus of mill-workers help to suggest the wider community. The story follows two main families — first that of Sarah, the midwife whose license is revoked due to her support of women’s suffrage, her shopkeeper brother-in-law Hiram, and her nephew Jacob. Into their life comes Irish teenager Bridget.
“In a sense, her journey is that of the show: first introduced as the sexual victim of her boss Albert, she seeks help from Sarah; confronts the entrenched ideas of her uncle Father Paul; talks back to the unsympathetic chief of police; confronts her romantic feelings for Sean, the Irish policeman; and ends up as a spokesperson for downtrodden workers through the encouragement of union organizer Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.”
The first act of Belles of the Mill may be read by clicking on the “Read It Now” button above. To obtain a complete reading copy, please see the Contact Information.
“If you’re familiar with The Pajama Game, you’re probably aware that a musical comedy about labor relations can be entertaining. But you might not be aware of how much entertainment can be wrung from what is otherwise a musical drama . . . . Ladutke has highlighted many of the subject’s strong dramatic possibilities, and brought the conflicting emotions of all the characters to the forefront. The book is swift and compact, covering an amazing amount of ground in two hours . . . . the strike numbers are particularly strong and explosive.”
A “Best of the ‘Fest” selection at the 2002 Midtown International Theatre Festival
Amateur and professional rights:
Rachel Rubin Ladutke
About the Playwright: Rachel Rubin Ladutke is a playwright based in New York City. Grace Notes, her first full-length drama, has been widely excerpted in various monologue and scene anthologies. As one of four winners of the Pittsburgh New Plays Competition, it premiered at Pittsburgh’s Gemini Theatre in February 2000. Later that same year, it was staged at The Looking Glass Theatre in NYC.
The Belles of the Mill, a fact-based historical epic, was a stageplay Finalist in the 2001 Moondance Film Festival, and Runner-Up in the Coe College Playwriting Symposia and in America’s Best Writing Competition. It has been excerpted in three anthologies. Her latest full-length play, Clary’s Exodus, was awarded Honorable Mention in the prestigious Jane Chambers competition.
Rachel is a member of the Looking Glass Theatre Playwrights’ Lab, Membership Director of the International Centre for Women Playwrights, and an Associate Member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and of the Dramatists’ Guild.
Belles of the Mill was first produced at the RAW Space as part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival in July, 2002. It was directed by Arlene Schulman.