Sample pages from…

Miz MacQuillin
a play

Synopsis: A mother and her four daughters on a top of a hill in northwestern Georgia, 1863. A major Civil War battle breaks out about twenty miles away, a battle in which they have a husband, brother and son fighting. That night a wounded Yankee cavalry captain stumbles into their yard and they capture and chain him to a log. His presence, as well as the outcome of the battle, brings all their conflicts and fears to a boil. A play about the will to survive after life not only pushes you down, but insults you as well. 5 women, 2 men, single unit set.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

(MOTHER, MARY RUTH, WILENE and SOPHIE
are outside working; after a few moments…

WILENE
She’s in there just playing, momma. She’s missing all
this work on purpose.

MOTHER
Fiona. Get yourself out here and get yourself busy.

FIONA (inside)
I’m busy in here, momma.

WILENE
She knew we had to pick the beans first thing this
morning, and she’s in there just prancing.

MARY RUTH
Oh, Wilene.

WILENE
It’s not fair, that’s all. If I have to work in this hot old
bean patch like a field hand then she should, too.

SOPHIE
It’s still morning, Wilene. It ain’t even hot yet.

WILENE
Crawlin round in the dirt like a pickaninny.

MARY RUTH
We always had to work in the garden, Wilene, even
before the war.

WILENE
Not stoop labor, we didn’t. Had us two slaves, and
daddy and the boys were around for that. Most I ever
done was clip roses.

SOPHIE
Listen to Miss Priss.

WILENE
It just rubs me wrong, that’s all. She’s always doin
something like this, momma, missing the work.

MOTHER
Fiona, you better get out here before your sister gives me a fit.

(FIONA enters; her dress is slightly dressier than
that of her sisters; she is the only one wearing shoes

FIONA
Who’s got their corset done up too tight this mornin?
As if I didn’t know.

WILENE
Oh my land, now would you look at that? She’s wearin
the shoes, momma.

MOTHER
Fiona…

WILENE
Look at that! She put on the good shoes to come out
here in the garden.

MOTHER
Wilene…

WILENE
If that don’t beat the britches off a cricket I don’t know
what does.

MOTHER
Fiona, what are you doing wearing the shoes?

FIONA
I got up this mornin and felt like wearing shoes.

SOPHIE
It ain’t Sunday, Fiona.

WILENE
It ain’t her turn to wear the shoes next. It’s mine.

MOTHER
Wilene, I am standing here with a hoe in my hand,
so I don’t think it is wise for you to be testing the limits
of my patience like you are doing. Now you will hush
your mouth and it will stay hushed.

WILENE
It ain’t fair, that’s all I’m saying.

MOTHER
Wilene!

FIONA
Go on and clobber her, momma. If I had money I’d
pay to see that.

MOTHER
You shut your mouth, too, young lady. And get them
shoes off right quick. I didn’t tell you it was time to
dress up this morning.

FIONA
Dress up.
(sits on porch; taking
off shoes; sullen)
One pair of shoes on this whole damn place and you
talk about dressing up.

MOTHER
Don’t you be muttering at me.

FIONA
I had the urge to feel pretty this morning. I should have
known it would make my little sister more insanely jealous
than she usually is.

WILENE
I ain’t jealous of you.

FIONA
Oh, pish posh. Are too.

WILENE
Am not.

FIONA
Are too and always will be. Course, the milk of my human
kindness flows sweet, not sour, and I have always had the
deepest sympathy for you, my dear, having that problem
with your face.

WILENE
What problem with my face?

FIONA
You have not regarded yourself in a mirror this morning?

WILENE
Make her stop.

FIONA
Those awful little red splotches you been breaking out with
in a vengeance? They’re back.

WILENE
Momma!

FIONA
I could tell from all the way over there.

MOTHER
I’m a-gonna lock one of you in the root cellar before this
day is over!

(this stops them; the root cellar is not an idle threat
and is a punishment neither wants; uneasy pause

SOPHIE
We used to get new shoes. Fore the war.

FIONA
Oh, before the war, before the war.

(FIONA hums to herself and barefoot now, begins
to dance around the yard in a graceful loops of a
ballroom waltz; the others stop their work and watch

WILENE
Look at her now.

MOTHER
What do you think you’re doing?

FIONA
Dancing.

MARY RUTH
You dance just like you hear music, Fiona.

FIONA
I do. In my head.

SOPHIE
What kind of music are you hearing? Banjos or fiddles?

FIONA
Violins.

WILENE
She’s crazy, momma.

MOTHER
You get a hat on your head, Fiona. I do believe this sun
is baking your poor brain.

FIONA
Oh, I don’t need a hat. I got that creamy skin the sun
don’t even bother.

MOTHER
You are gonna have a bee hind that’s gonna give you
some bother you don’t stop acting so silly.

WILENE
Want me to go cut you a switch, momma?

MOTHER
I will handle this, Wilene.

WILENE
If I ever saw a body that needed a good switchin, it’s her.

MOTHER
Fiona, get over here and get to work. We’re just about
finished with this bean patch, and you ain’t even done a lick.

WILENE
She does it on purpose.

FIONA
I just felt like dancing.

(FIONA goes to the bean patch, lazily picking
beans and dropping them into her apron

WILENE
Make no mistake, momma. The devil’s in that girl. Why
she hasn’t been burned at the stake is just a wonderment
of the world.

MOTHER
Wilene…

WILENE
Why lightning hasn’t flashed out of the sky and seared her
to cinders is just an everlasting puzzlement to me.

MOTHER
Goddammit!

WILENE
Well, it just gnaws at me, momma. If she had gone off and
got married like she was supposed to, she wouldn’t be
around here to just gnaw at me.

MOTHER
Sophie…go cut me a switch.

FIONA
I’ll go get you one.

MOTHER
I said Sophie!

SOPHIE
Momma…

MOTHER
You get me a branch from one of them peach trees. About
yay long and as big as my finger.

SOPHIE
Momma…

MOTHER
You know what a switch is! You go get me one now!

SOPHIE
Yes, momma.

(SOPHIE exits R; pause

FIONA
My, looks like we have picked this whole patch plum clean
this morning. Well, many hands make light the work.

MOTHER
I have stood your sass all I am gonna stand. Both of you.

WILENE
It’s her fault, momma. She makes me do it.

MOTHER
Both of you too old to be doing this to me. My ears are
overflowing with your squalling and your belly aching and
I ain’t a-gonna listen to it anymore. I have buried more
sorrow than the two of you will ever know. And if any
one around here is gonna get to squalling, if any one
around here is gonna get sympathy, it’s gonna be me!
For living with you!
(pauses)
Now! Sophie! Bring me that switch!

(SOPHIE enters, silently hands MOTHER a
switch, moves to one side

MOTHER (cont’d)
(brandishing switch)
Too old to be doin this.

WILENE
(sniffling)
Yes, momma.

MOTHER
Turn around and bend over!

(sniffling, WILENE turns bends over

FIONA
You’re right, momma. We’re all too old to be doin this.
And you know, you can whip me all you like, it ain’t
gonna make no difference.

(FIONA turns around and bends over

(MOTHER is enraged; she turns and attacks the
chopping block with the switch, viciously hitting it
once, twice, three times

(pause

(MOTHER throws down the switch and storms
into the house

(FIONA and WILENE both look around and
straighten up

FIONA (cont’d)
Well now. That wasn’t so bad.

MARY RUTH
You shouldn’t be wearing momma out like that.

SOPHIE
Both of you just moan and carry on like I don’t know
what all.

WILENE
It’s her fault.

MARY RUTH
Momma does have a breaking point, you know.

(MOTHER barrels out the back door; she has
a shotgun which she points at her two daughters

SOPHIE
Momma!

(WILENE turns and again bends over; FIONA
puts up her hands; pause

FIONA
If you shoot Wilene in her bee hind, I do not believe
it will kill her.
(pauses)
Stand up and turn around, honey. I don’t believe you
want to meet your Maker looking like that.

MARY RUTH
Don’t you know how to be serious?

FIONA
Well, of course I know how to be serious. I just don’t
feel like it this morning.

SOPHIE
Momma…put down the gun.

MOTHER
You’re right. You’re too old.

FIONA
Does this mean we are now at the correct age to be shot?

MOTHER
Sass. That’s all I ever get from you, Fiona.
(cocks a barrel)
Sass and back talk.

WILENE
Momma, don’t shoot!

MOTHER
Stand up and turn around, Wilene!

(WILENE does, putting her hands up in the air

(uneasy pause

MARY RUTH
We’re finished with the beans, momma.
(empties other baskets
into one basket)
Got us a good mess of em. See? They’ll be right tasty
for supper, and we can can the rest, or pickle them if you want.
(pauses)
Why don’t we start with the peaches? That way we can work
in the shade and get out of the sun for a spell.
(pauses)
Momma, you really don’t want to shoot anyone. You’re just tired.

WILENE
The only one you would wanna shoot would be maybe a Yankee.

SOPHIE
We’ll go find you a Yankee, momma, if you wanna shoot someone.

MARY RUTH
Please put the gun down, momma, and let’s get back to work.
We got all them peaches we wanna get canned today.

SOPHIE
I’ll help you bring the kettle out, momma, and get the fire going.

MARY RUTH
We’ll do it outside like we did last year. It’s so much more pleasant
and won’t heat up the house so.
(pauses)
Momma…?

MOTHER
(lowers gun)
I have already lost one son in this war. And if I lose the other one
God better have mercy on your souls, because I have stood all I
am ever gonna stand. Is that clear?

WILENE
Yes, momma.

FIONA
Yes, momma.

MOTHER
You have pushed me right to the edge of perdition. Why God took
my Joshua and left me you four is a plague.