Rosie the Riveter

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16-26 characters-flexible casting. Approximately 60 minutes running time. As the men head off to war, Rosie paves the way for the women to take over the factory and support the war effort. Bring the story of the WW2 American War Effort to life with this script by Elizabeth West. Inspired by the iconic painting and song of Rosie the Riveter.

It’s the beginning of World War II and the All-American Parts Factory must shut down when the workers are drafted into the military. The women, headed by Rosie and the factory’s co-owner Jean, successfully transform the factory, and win a government contract to keep it running. Charlie longs to join the military but is denied due to a medical issue. Lucky for Rosie, he agrees to stay home and train the women to run the factory. Most of the men return home before Christmas, but one wife receives the “dreaded” telegram reporting the death of her dear husband. The local newspaper writes a story about Rosie’s efforts, which gets the attention of some songwriters who produce the “Rosie the Riveter” song. The song gets the attention of Norman Rockwell who paints the famous “Rosie” portrait that makes the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Rosie and Charlie finally admit their love for each other and celebrate with their family and co-workers, all singing the “Rosie the Riveter” song. This story is a work of fiction but inspired by historical events.

This script also includes:

Two pages of historical information.
Ten extension activities.

Elizabeth West holds a bachelor’s degree in Theatre from the University of Oregon and has worked both onstage and backstage for more than 40 years. Working with her husband Doug, who is a high school drama teacher, she started adapting plays to fit his students. She has now written six plays, many with strong female leads. Married since 1983, she and Doug have 2 sons and 2 grandchildren.

Excerpt from the Play:

CHARACTERS

Rosie Reynolds:
Early 20’s, gung-ho, highly motivated, and patriotic.

Charlie Cunningham:
Early 20’s, wants to be a Marine but a ruptured eardrum as kid makes him ineligible (4F). He trains girls to run factory.

Madge Marshall:
A machinist and Rosie’s best friend.

Retired Colonel Frank:
Factory Owner in his 50’s, married to Jean, called to service.

Jean Westwood:
Factory Owner in her 50’s, married to Col Frank.

The Gals

Arlene Arnold, Assembly Worker
Charlotte Chapman, Crane Operator
Daisy Davidson, Drafter
Elaine Elliott, Electrician
Lois Larson, Lathe Operator
Mildred Miller, Molder
Millie Mason, Millwright
Peggy Perkins, Pipefitter
Sally Stone, Sander
Wilma Wheeler, Wiring

The Guys

Arthur Lowe
Henry Bennett
Joe Elliott
Larry Mason
Walter Arnold
Wayne Marshall

Special Characters and Voices

Courier
Telegram
Government Rep
Reporter
Announcer

Act I Scene 1
Curtain opens to a factory floor. Conveyor belt located mid-stage going off-stage. Supervisors’ office on catwalk SR. RETIRED COLONEL FRANK sits at desk with paperwork. Men are working on the conveyor production.

CHARLIE
Need more rivets.

HENRY
Coming with a bucket of rivets.

WAYNE
Art, heads up … new piston on the belt.

ARTHUR
Ready.

LARRY
Put another tick mark on the tally.

JOE
That puts us past last month’s quota.

WALTER
My cousin got his draft notice. He is headed to boot camp next week.

CHARLIE
With America in the war, won’t we all be called into service?

WALTER
Some men have already volunteered.

CHARLIE
I plan to join the Marines by summer.

ARTHUR
Really, Charlie, you’re going to volunteer?

CHARLIE
Of course! Just as every red-blooded American man should want to do.

ARTHUR
I suppose, but I can wait until my draft notice arrives.

HENRY
I’ll volunteer with you Charlie. But I’m gonna join the Navy.

CHARLIE
I’ve always wanted to be a Marine.

LARRY
The Marines are always in the thick of things. I’m gonna stick with being a mechanic and fix all the stuff you GI Joes break.

WAYNE
I gotta farm to run with my folks and wife, as well as my job here.

JOE
And me and my wife just had baby number 4. Wouldn’t want to leave her all by herself with all that noise and chaos.

CHARLIE
Each man will need to do his duty. Some can get deferrals to take care of necessary business at home.

COURIER
[Enters and crosses to CHARLIE.] I’m looking for Colonel Frank Westwood.

CHARLIE
He’s up in the office, use those stairs.

COURIER
Thanks. [Crosses to Supervisor’s office.]

WALTER
Looks like that may be the news we’ve all been waiting for.

WAYNE
Ya, that sure looked official.

CHARLIE
Frank will share with us if it’s news for all.

COURIER
[Knocks and enters office.] Sir, I have draft notices for your employees.

COL FRANK
I was expecting those. I’ll deliver the news. [COURIER exits.]
[COL FRANK crosses onto factory floor, work stops.]
Well, men. We knew it was only a matter of time until your draft notices arrived. And here they are. [Distributes envelopes.] I am also being called out of retirement to set up training and will be seeing many of you at the local training center. I think we should just clean up and call it a day. We can all go together to the enlistment office and get this taken care of.

CHARLIE
Frank, do we all just sign up with the Army? I know a couple fellas who want to be in the Navy, and I want to be a Marine.

COL FRANK
That can all be taken care of at the enlistment office. Anyone with special skills will be wanted in specific departments. They need men in all branches of the service. You will all be interviewed and then take aptitude tests.

WALTER
Sounds good to me. I am ready to serve and get this war over with quickly.
[Conveyor belt is pushed to back wall or out of site to make way for new scene. Light change.]

Act I Scene 2

ROSIE & MADGE enter with table and chairs. Men line up to check in.

ROSIE
Please get in line with your enlistment papers to check in.

WALTER
I want to sign up with the Army.

MADGE
I’ll take you over here please.
[Each boy checks in. MADGE stamps each letter and tells boy to see COL FRANK. He shakes their hand and tells them to go get a uniform offstage right. Last boy is CHARLIE.]

ROSIE
Well, hi Charlie, you got your notice too, huh?

CHARLIE
Yep. Everyone at the factory did. We all need to do our part.

ROSIE
I know, I … um … we, we will just miss you, that’s all.

CHARLIE
I feel the same way. Will you write to me Rosie?

ROSIE
Of course! Every day. You take care of yourself. Promise me.

CHARLIE
Sure, just gonna go knock some sense into those Japanese. We’ll be home in no time.

ROSIE
[Looking at CHARLIE’S letter.] Um…Charlie… there’s seems to be something wrong with your letter.

CHARLIE
What? What is it?

ROSIE
Your letter is marked 4-F.

CHARLIE
What does that mean?

ROSIE
It means there was something in your physical. You didn’t pass. Oh, Charlie, I am so sorry.

CHARLIE
Maybe Frank can sort it out. [Crosses to talk to COL FRANK, scene continues.]

ROSIE
This is awful. Charlie is going to be so disappointed.

MADGE
Ya, he’s been planning to join the Marines ever since the war broke out.

ROSIE
Maybe the Colonel can do something about it. Look, here come the rest of the girls.
[All the Ensemble girls enter]

COL FRANK
All right you recruits, say goodbye to your wives and girlfriends. Now fall into line. That’s right, two wide. Step lively. Left, Right, Left, Right. Wave goodbye ladies, you’ll see your men when the war is over. [Soldiers and COL FRANK march off SR. girls waving, some crying]

JEAN
Buck up girls. They have a destiny to fulfill.

MADGE
We need to keep our spirits up. They will come home. They will all come home.
[Lights dim. Table and chairs cleared. Conveyor belt is pushed back into place.]

Act I Scene 3
Lights up. JEAN has called a meeting of the women. General chatter.

JEAN
Ladies, if we could start this meeting, please.

ROSIE
Sure, Jean. We are all pretty curious why you called us together.

MADGE
Yea, Jean. It’s been hard enough saying goodbye to our husbands and brothers this week.

JEAN
Well, in a way, that is why I asked you all here. We have another crisis to deal with.

PEGGY
[Sarcastic] Has Canada declared war on us now!

MILDRED
That isn’t very funny Peggy. Seems like this is a big enough war already.
[General grumbling from the group.]

PEGGY
You’re right Mildred, it’s just been a rough couple of weeks. Most of our men have either shipped out already or have their marching orders.

JEAN
And that brings us to my topic – with the men shipping out, including my husband, I’m afraid I have no choice but to close All American Parts.
[Gasps, groans, exclamations.]

CHARLIE
Jean, that is the worst news.

ELAINE
This is the only factory in the county.

CHARLIE
But I can’t run the factory alone.

SALLY
That means the shops and restaurants will close too.

DAISY
Not just the luxury items either, but the grocery and gas stations.

PEGGY
Not that there will be much gas. We just got our ration booklets and we only get 5 gallons a month.

ARLENE
It could mean the whole town closes.

JEAN
I’m sorry, but not only are most of our employees in the armed forces now but our raw materials will be diverted to the war effort.

MILLIE
This means my family will probably have to move away.

DAISY
We will have to move back to my parents in the city.

MILDRED
Can’t anything be done, Jean? I mean have you considered alternatives?

JEAN
There just aren’t any alternatives.

ARLENE
Ya, Sally, what are you going to do about it? Take your husband’s welding job?

ROSIE
Hey – maybe you’re on to something, Arlene. Why couldn’t we?

ARLENE
Why couldn’t we what?

ROSIE
Do the jobs our men did here. We could operate the factory.

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