JOHN A. SPELMAN III ‘The Pink Ribbon’ a Play

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY
Series 16: EVENTS
Series 33: DRAMA
‘The Pink Ribbon’ a Play

Actors in an outdoor pageant.; JOHN A. SPELMAN III The Pink Ribbon a Play

039 Actors and audience in ”Good – Play at Jack(‘s) Gap” One of many early educational pageants at Pine Mountain Settlement, School, Kentucky. [creech_columbus_1_039.jpg]

TAGS: John A. Spelman III, The Pink Ribbon, plays, educational pageants, theater, Nativity Play, Percy MacKaye, playwrights, play-scripts


 Art Instructor, Houseparent,
Artist-in-Residence 1937 – August 1941

Throughout the years at Pine Mountain Settlement School, pageants and plays were an important part of the educational curriculum. Following the traditions of the first decades of the twentieth century, one of the favorite recreations was to either have a role in a pageant or play or to be an audience for one. The “Pink Ribbon,” a complex play with quick shifts in the plot and lessons in civic behaviors, was meant to instruct.

Theater at the school often pulled from classic theater such as Shakespeare, but it also looked to contemporary play-scripts, and occasionally from the original scripts of faculty or friends of the School. Many of these original scripts have survived and are collected in the Archive at Pine Mountain.

The most familiar of these original plays include the Nativity Play written by Ethel de Long and now performed at the School during the Christmas season for over 100 years. Other playwrights have used Pine Mountain as a source of inspiration. Playwright Percy MacKaye is one of the more famous of those. He and his wife came to Pine Mountain in the 1920s and spent many weeks observing the local culture and listening carefully to the colorful dialect of the people of the remote Pine Mountain valley. MacKaye’s plays were later performed in New York to mixed reviews.

John A. Spelman‘s play, “The Pink Ribbon,” appears to be intended as a lesson to both the actors and the audience. It is a one-act play, with a minimum of dialog and a basic set. What is more complex is the dialogue. It requires that the audience follow the dialogue carefully if they are to get the message of the short play.


01 “The Pink Ribbon,” page 1

John A. Spelman III
Pine Mountain Settlement School
Pine Mountain, Kentucky

A One Act Play
in two scenes
John A. Spelman III


Judy Stevens – 10 or 12 years old
Folly Stevens – /Molly Stevens – Sisters -15 or 17 years old
Bessie Strait – School Teacher – about 20 or 22 years old
Henry Stevens – Father of girls – about 50 years old
Morris Van Dyke – Outsider from the city – about 50
Mrs. Stevens – Mother to girls – about 45
John Peters – Country farmer, about 28 or 30, or younger
Other men, boys, girls


Scene I — Late Afternoon in front of Steven’s home.
Scene II – Night, three hours later, in front of Steven’s home.

02 “The Pink Ribbon,” page 2

Curtain opens on yard of Steven’s home, with front of house and porch showing on Left, fence and outbuildings at Rear, and large beech tree and shrubs along Right. Polly, Molly, and Judy are busy with cleaning and arranging the yard for the box-supper party. A cat wanders about yard, or sleeps on porch. The girls carry in benches and tables from R, arranging them in semicircle about stand for auctioneer on R. There is a table or bench for the box-suppers just behind the auctioneer’s stand. Lanterns on strings are hung along the Rear and Right.

JUDY – (Singing a piece from a ballad and dusting fence with a broom of branches, first with back to audience, then turning about says 🙂
Polly! Molly!
You-all better git out here an’ holp me here. There’s plenty o’ benches yit to be moved and the yard to be picked afore chores. (Continues dusting, sweeping, and singing or humming her piece of tune).

Molly and Polly enter with a table, from out of house, with little ejaculations of toil and strain. Judy goes to their assistance, and finally they move the table across under the beech tree, sitting down on it.

MOLLY – (Wiping her brow) Let’s set a might. I be hotter’n the sun ball. (Looking about yard) I wonder if hits worth all this puffin’?

POLLY – Why, Molly Stevens, you know it is. Just think, Morris Van Dyke is here from Lexington. It oughta be.

MOLLY – Now don’t say I’m interested in him. He’s Bessie’s man. An’ I don’t see what she sees in him! Oh, he’s rich all right; kinda handsome too. But he’s so old.

POLLY – An’ kin yuh ask fer more? You ain’t kiddin’ me, Molly; I know how much yer talkin’ means.

JUDY – (Having been busy all the while, now stands in middle stage with hands on hips) You-uns better start holpin’ me. The folks come at seven and there’s a mess o’ boxes to finish an’ wrop.

All start working again. Stools that are piled at gate are moved into yard and placed. Polly is tacking cloth below table for auctioneer.

03 “The Pink Ribbon,” page 3

JUDY – (Carrying a stool, stops suddenly) Miss Bessie kinda

told me secret-like that she’s a-goin’ ta put pink ribbon round her box. It’s a likely color fer her, I reckon. John Peters allus said he liked pink on her best.

MOLLY – Some secret it’ll be now. (Making sport of her). Do yuh spose Morris Van Dyke know? Wouldn’t be surprised if he hinted at it so as he’d be sure to know her box.

JUDY – Come to think of it, she did say something about his likin’ pink too. (Goes out for another stool.) But, golly, I don’t like seein’ him git her box. John Peters needs a good woman like Miss Bessie more ‘n Morris.

POLLY – OH, I know what you’re a-thinkin’. Just cause Ma thinks there’s no teacher we’ve ever had as good as Bessie, she wants her to stay.

MOLLY – Yeh, and if Bessie up and marries Morris, she’ll be leavin’ right off.

JUDY – Well, if John takes to her, an he better be doin’ some husslin’ mighty soon, she’d be a-stayin’. But more’n that, John Peters is a better man – not upitty an’ set on makin’ fools outa folks.

MOLLY – Don’t fergit tho’, John likes to eat. Bessie’s no cook. I hate to think of what she’s got in her box. Fancy stuff, maybe, but dried up and chicken all burned.

POLLY – Member the time –

Voice calling JUDY; Judy exits.

MOLLY – Member what?

POLLY – Never mind; jest think how things’re goin’ to be if John should git Bessie’s box.

MOLLY – Mouth full of sand – he never would get a word out then — (laughter).


POLLY – (Suddenly) Didn’t Ma find some pink ribbon a while back she’d laid away and forgot about? Pink ribbon she said she wanted to trim our weddin’ dresses with? Yards and yards of pink ribbon?

04 “The Pink Ribbon,” page 4

MOLLY – Why, yes, I do remember. I think she laid it ‘way in the chest in the sittin’ room. Why?

POLLY – Oh, nothin’; I was just a-wonderin’. (going off on a tune as Molly exits) (Looks after Molly; then:) Morris Van Dyke’ll be lookin’ for a box with pink ribbon. He’ll think it’s Bessie’s, of course. What if there’s two of them? He won’t know which! (Starts singing and exits). (by way of porch)

BESSIE STRAIT comes from Right along behind fence and enters thru gate at R L. She has a small box under her arm. As she comes out front, she stumbles (for she is looking at the arranged yard) against a bench, and losing her balance, the box is thrown to ground, the contents spilling. (Judy has just come out onto porch, but surprised, she waits). Bessie picks up her supper and stuffs it back into the box. Embarrassed, she pushes the box under the soap box on the auctioneers stand.

JUDY – (Entering off porch) oh, Miss Bessie! . . . Isn’t it going to be lovely? . . . How long have you been here? (Looking to where Bessie’s box is). Won’t you come on in and set?

Polly comes out onto porch with carton, but waits.

BESSIE -(Now recovered) Oh, thank you Judy. (Pause, as she walks toward house). I know I must be early, but I thought there would be something I could do to help out. (Seeing Polly). Oh, hello, Polly. Let me help you.

POLLY – Oh, thank you, Miss Bessie, but really I don’t need any help. It’s not heavy. Just going to start gettin’ things out so as everything’ll be ready in plenty of time.

Stage has gradually grown dimmer.
Exit Judy and Miss Bessie into house.

Polly carries out carton and across to auctioneer’s stand, opens it up, and takes out her box, tied with a pink ribbon – admires it, stands off from it, utters a little prayer over it, piles other boxes along shelf behind auctioneer’s stand (in sight of the audience) her’s being in the center. Takes carton back to house by way she came.

05 “The Pink Ribbon,” page 5

Molly comes out of shadow of house thru back gate, her box in both hands – held carefully. Her’s too is tied with the pink ribbon. Seeing another like her’s she shrugs her shoulders, smiles, but places the box along side of the other and exits across to porch and into house.

Judy sneaks out onto stage from gate at rear, with small box similar to Bessie’s. She carries a bundle under her arm from which hangs the end of the yards of pink ribbon. Reaching under the soap box, she removes Bessie’s box, examines it, but before she has time to act, Judy sees Polly entering from porch; Judy ducks under the auctioneer’s stand which is enclosed by paper on three sides, the back open only. She has forgotten the ribbon which lays in full view on the stand.

Polly comes across from porch carrying more boxes. Discovering another next to her’s with pink ribbon, she shows surprise. Picks it up, shakes it, and is just about to be rid of it when she puts it back – she’s seen the bundle of ribbon on the stand. Taking hold of the end of ribbon, she pulls it off the table and the whole thing cascades before her. Holding the mop of it and looking at whole shelf of boxes she says:

All of them! Why, not?



Yard is lit by lanterns along outer edges. Before curtain opens there is the sound of the auctioneer’s voice and the general babble of the party. It is at the close of the auction.

HENRY STEVENS, the auctioneer, stands behind his stand, holding the last of the pink-ribbon boxes.
MORRIS VAN DYKE is surrounded by all of the boxes, each tied with a pink ribbon, with
BESSIE STRAIT sitting beside him, nervously twisting handkerchief into a knot, and looking over at
JOHN PETERS, who is sitting with MRS. STEVENS,
THE TWINS are each with a boy or two.

Other boys, men, and girls are sitting in couples, toward back, and empty-handed. There is the atmosphere of restlessness among them.

06 “The Pink Ribbon,” page 6

JUDY is nowhere to be seen, except to the extent of her movements under the stand, the paper bulging at intervals.

HENRY – (Holding last box) And now what am I bid for this here last perty box? Pink ribbon an’ all? A dollar, a dollar, a dollar!


VOICES – (Daringly)

Dollar and a half!
Two dollars!
I betcha It’s Miss Bessie’s box!
I can see; I can see; it is Miss Bessie’s box! 

HENRY – Four dollars, four dollars; now lookee here folks, ye can’t let this here perty box go for any measly four dollars. Van Dyke, did I hear yeh say five?

VAN DYKE – Five! (Bessie tries to stop him). 

VOICES – Five-fifty!

It is Miss Bessie’s box!
If you lose this’n, you may be losin’ the very one you wanted most!
Com’on, buy us another box, Van Dyke.
Oh, we ain’t hungry nohow! 

VAN DYKE – (Exasperatedly) Ten dollars! 

HENRY – Ten dollars it is then; it’s your’s, Van Dyke. 

Van Dyke walks forward, pays, turns about with the last box, but as he looks at his pile, he stops. Everyone is clapping. Then, the couples in the rear get up to leave. But he calls out:

07 “The Pink Ribbon,” page 7

VAN DYKE – Wait a minute, folks, sit down – maybe I need to make a little speech. (Hand in collar and swallowing). You can see I can’t handle all this food by myself. Let’s put hard feelings aside. You girls (points out back) must have brought these boxes; come on up and take your pick and get you the company you want to eat with. I’ll take what’s left. Pause. It’s on the house, folks! Come right ahead, girls.

Girls get up a little awkwardly, not all sure. Polly and Molly hang back.

HENRY – All right folks, let’s help this gentlemen out. We can all eat, and eatin’ a’plenty there’ll be.

Girls come forward, each taking a box.

Finally, there’s only two boxes left, both belonging to the twins. They hesitate, then after whispering to each other, they come forward, and taking their boxes, say:

TWINS – Mr. Van Dyke, we’d like for you to eat with us. Please do.

VAN DYKE – (Bewildered) But – but, isn’t there some mistake? Surely one of these must be Miss Strait’s.

BESSIE – No, no, there’s no mistake. Neither is mine.

VAN DYKE – NONE? You knew then, and didn’t tell me?

Judy begins to emerge from behind the stand. She still holds the two boxes, the mass of pink ribbon about her neck (Polly threw under stand when she finished the boxes). Before coming into full view, she peeks around stand.

BESSIE – Yes, yes, I knew, but I did try to stop you from buying all of the boxes. If you hadn’t thought you had to get my box, which wasn’t even there, this wouldn’t have happened. You did You did insist, you know.

VAN DYKE – Well, I’ll be! (Pause) (Bessie rises). Don’t leave us – there’s plenty for all four of us.

BESSIE – No, no, I think Mrs. Stevens is looking for me, (She crosses the stage, Van Dyke remains standing, but finally, the girls get him seated. During this interval the couples have gotten seated again, have swapped their boxes and unwrapped them, the pink ribbons draping benches, etc. …

As Bessie crosses the stage to Mrs. Stevens, Judy runs square into John Peters, who has started toward Bessie. Mrs. Stevens closes in with them so that a semi-circle surrounds Judy.

08 “The Pink Ribbon,” page 8

MRS. STEVENS – Judy! Where have you been? I thought you were in bed long ago! And what’s this, my pink ribbon? 

BESSIE – And my box!

JOHN PETERS – And this other box? The one you told me yesterday you’d have for me!

Judy is too confused and embarrassed to speak, so she bursts into tears. This attracts the others, who look toward the half circle. Suddenly, John Peters grabs Judy by the arm, steering her away from the crowd out right, Bessie taking her other hand, and as all three exit, Mrs. Stevens grabs the trailing end of the ribbon, pulling it toward her.

HENRY – (Walking up to his wife ) Hyar, hyar, what be all this?

MRS. STEVENS – Oh, nothing! (She winds ribbon on her arm, holding it in great loops). It’s just that pink ribbon I was telling you about – for the girls wedding dresses, but I do believe there should be enough to spare mighty soon for Bessie.

GALLERY: JOHN A. SPELMAN III ‘The Pink Ribbon’ a Play

See Also:
JOHN A. SPELMAN III Staff – Biography

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