The Resolute Sisters of Nemesis
A Burlesque Initiation for Women
RETRIBUTION: Her Majesty, the Most Esteemed Dignitary.
VENGEANCE: The Estimable Condign Punishment.
RETALIATION: The Lofty Representative of Revenge.
REPRISAL: The Stately Agent of Deserved Compensation.
OBEY: Household Duty Chorus
MRS. CARRIE BURDENS.
MRS. VERA BIZZY
MRS. CONSTANT TOIL: New Members to be Initiated.
PLACE: In the Temple of The Resolute Sisters of Nemesis.
COSTUMES AND CHARACTERISTICS
RETRIBUTION: A queenly woman in a burlesque way. Walks, talks and acts in an exaggerated regal way, except at such times when she forgets her role, and then falls into a chattering "over-the-fence neighbor lady." No special costume is called for. She may wrap herself in any kind of bright-colored robe, and may, if desired, wear some type of headdress, such as a cardboard crown covered with tinfoil.
VENGEANCE: Similar to Retribution. A comedy effect will result if she wears a bright-colored sash around her waist, on one side of which hangs some sort of scabbard, and having in the scabbard a rolling pin. When speaking, she may emphasize her remarks by brandishing the rolling pin.
RETALIATION: Also similar to Retribution.
REPRISAL: Also similar.
HOUSEHOLD DUTIES: Are all dressed alike to form chorus. Simple costumes, fancy little house dresses, or maid’s costume. Sweep carries broom; Dust, a feather duster; Scrub, a mop; Cook, a large ladle; Mend, a small sewing kit; Shop, a small market basket; Wash, a miniature washboard; Love, a large red pasteboard heart; Honor carries pair of man’s bedroom slippers; Obey, apparently has wrists shackled with small chains or piece of rope.
CARRIE, VERA and CONSTANT are typical housewives, dressed in common street clothes.
SCENE: A plainly furnished club room, or lodge hall. May be played in parlor. Table half Down C., behind which is a chair. Table may be decorated in wild colors if desired. A few chairs on L. stage for new members. If available, there should be hung on the rear wall or drop a large picture of Joan of Arc. Large mail order catalogue on table.
At rise of curtain, RETALIATION, standing with affected dignity, is motioning to off L.
RETALIATION: Come! Enter into the Temple of the Resolute Sisters of Nemesis.
CARRIE, VERA and CONSTANT enter L., all somewhat frightened and undecided.
RETALIATION: Be seated, ladies, and I will briefly introduce you to your surroundings. She points to chairs at L. The ladies sit, sitting very prim and stiff on edge of chairs. I, Taps chest. I am Retaliation, the Lofty Representative of Revenge. There are others as powerful as I, but there be one more powerful than we. That personage is Her Majesty, the Most Esteemed Dignitary, Retribution. What she sayeth is law.
In other words, when she says something, it stays said. This queenly person will soon enter this temple. Also, with her will enter her worthy attendants, Vengeance, the Estimable Condign Punishment, and Reprisal, the Stately Agent of Deserved Compensation. You will also feast your eyes on our Household Duties, composed of the housewife’s parasites, namely: Sweep, Dust, Scrub, Cook, Mend, Shop, Wash, Love, Honor, and Obey. Her Majesty, Retribution, will, from her queenly throne, deliver her rhetorical oration wherein is explained in detail the fundamentals upon which this society, The Resolute Sisters of Nemesis, is based. Toy horn is tooted off R. Hark! The trumpet blows! Her Majesty approaches. Humble thyselves and prepare to witness the blazing beauty of her charms. She steps to side of chairs and stands at rigid attention.
HOUSEHOLD DUTIES, single file, goose-step in from R., half of them going on one side of table and others going to L. of table, forming a lane. VENGEANCE and REPRISAL enter side by side, VENGEANCE taking position R. of table, and REPRISAL L. of table. RETRIBUTION struts majestically in R., trips and nearly falls. Goes to chair back of table. All bow.
RETRIBUTION: Resolute Sisters of Nemesis, I greet you! All salaam low, but clumsily, as she sits.
HOUSEHOLD DUTIES march down C., and mark time as they recite.
CHORUS: We are the pests called the Household Duties,
We’re not cuties; we’re not beauties.
But without us ‘round ‘twould all be gloom,
The home would soon fall down, go boom!
SWEEP: I am sweep, and the rugs slick up;
For all the dirt I must pick up.
DUST: I am Dust, and my duty’s plain,
I wipe up the dust that falls like rain.
SCRUB: I am Scrub, and my daily chore
Is skating around on the kitchen floor.
COOK: I am Cook, and spend my time
Getting up a dollar meal on a dime.
MEND: I am Mend, I sew and snip,
For as ye sew so shall it rip.
SHOP: I am Shop, and must buy the food,
For hungry hubby, and the whole blame brood.
WASH: I am Wash, and in the Monday suds,
I swish the dirt from the family duds.
LOVE: I am Love, and it racks my bean
To keep things running on a smooth routine.
HONOR: I am Honor, and with Love I go,
Doing my best in the family show.
OBEY: I’m obey in the marriage vows,
But I’ve been the cause of a good many rows.
CHORUS: But we join hands and do our best To make a happy, homey nest.
They march backwards half Up stage.
RETALIATION, bows to RETRIBUTION: Your Majesty, we have with us this evening three down-trodden housewives that wish to take advantage of this great and noble society. They wish to join this—
RETRIBUTION: Aha! And a couple of "Abs V’ Slowly but surely our great work is becoming known. Step by step we are gaining the loyal support of those who suffer within the domains of the household. It won’t be long now. Nope, it won’t. Reprisal, my Stately Agent of Deserved Compensation, what hast thee to report this evening? What hast thee to say?
RETRIBUTION: Then say it, but be brief.
REPRISAL: Your Majesty, there has been a case of cruelty on the part of a hard-boiled galoot of a husband towards his sweet and innocent and harmless little wife.
RETRIBUTION: What is this I hear? What is this antique cave-man brutality of which you speaketh? Open wide thy organ of speech and let ‘er flicker. I’m all ears.
SWEEP, to audience: And all nose.
RETRIBUTION: Says which?
SWEEP: I say, as everyone knows.
RETRIBUTION: But only a Roman nose. But ‘tis as I thought. Thine toggling tongue doth toggle too much. Reprisal, my Stately Agent of Deserved Compensation, relate this sad but true event wherein said hard-boiled galoot of a husband cruelly mistreated his sweet and harmless little wife.
REPRISAL: It happened a week hence. On a Tuesday.
RETRIBUTION: Oh, Monday. I thought you said Friday.
REPRISAL: No, I insist it was Saturday.
REPRISAL: Your Majesty, it happened on Sardine Avenue, just across from the laundry wherein the native habiliments are cleansed as white as the drifted snow.
RETRIBUTION: I beg to disagree with you, O Reprisal. That is a rotten laundry.
REPRISAL: So be it, Your Majesty, but the husband—
RETRIBUTION: Which husband?
REPRISAL: The cruel husband.
RETRIBUTION: That tells me naught. They are all cruel.
REPRISAL: The husband that lives across from the laundry.
RETRIBUTION: Proceed. The husband that lives across from the laundry. But I repeat, O Sisters! ‘Tis a rotten laundry. They lost two pillow slips and my husband’s overalls. Proceed, Worthy Sister, proceed.
REPRISAL: This cruel husband—
RETRIBUTION: The husband across from the laundry?
REPRISAL, impatiently: My heavens, yes!
RETRIBUTION: I see. What happened?
REPRISAL: It all began when he insisted upon teaching the goldfish to smoke cigarettes.
RETRIBUTION: Which goes to prove it’s a rotten laundry. O Vengeance, my Estimable Condign Punishment, heed thee the cruelty of the husband that lives across from the laundry. He insists upon teaching the goldfish to smoke. What could be worse? Think of that poor little wife going into their aquarium and seeing nothing but a lot of smoked fish. O Vengeance, in your official capacity as my Estimable Condign Punishment you have become worldly and full of experience. What do you suggest should be the punishment for such as him—he?
VENGEANCE: For such as who?
RETRIBUTION: For such as he that lives across from the laundry. The laundry that lost my pillow slips and my husband’s overalls. And say, girls! Did you see that wonderful muslin at the Hub for only nineteen cents a yard?
SHOP: Humph! They got the same material in Fedder’s basement for seventeen cents.
RETRIBUTION, uppishly: I never go into basements except to fire the furnace. Basements are below me. As I was saying, O Vengeance, my Estimable Condign Punishment, how shall we punish this cruel husband who smokes goldfish
VENGEANCE, waves rolling pin: Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye! In my official capacity I have had many such cases confront me. There is only one punishment that such as he deserves, Your Majesty.
RETRIBUTION: Name the punishment, O Vengeance.
VENGEANCE: Sprinkle tacks on the floor and then hide his shoes.
RETRIBUTION: You are a worthy member of this noble society, and some day— Aye, aye!
Some day, I, Retribution, shall reward you. Some day I shall give to you my recipe for sour milk pancakes.
RETALIATION: Your Majesty, you forget the poor down-trodden housewives that honor us with their presence.
RETRIBUTION: What? There is somebody here with some presents?
RETALIATION: Yonder sitteth those who wish to join this society.
RETRIBUTION: Oh, sure enough. Waves hand to applicants. Toodle-de-oo! I will let the Household Duties greet thee as per Rule Seventeen, Page Four, Chapter Eight, in our book of Parlor-mentary rules.
HOUSEHOLD DUTIES do a simple drill, stepping towards applicants, then back and turn to face audience.
CHORUS: You’re as welcome as the flowers in May,
And we greet you in the customary way.
You’ve had troubles by the score,
With no relief from more and more.
You’ve been trodden, trampled on,
All the romance now is gone.
You are like ten million wives,
Wearing, tearing down your lives,
All through fear, for rather than
Being a spinster you took a man.
Now you rue the very day
That you gave yourself away.
OBEY: And obey!
CHORUS: Oh, you’re as welcome as the flowers in May. They dance Up stage.
RETRIBUTION: There you are, ladies, the whole blame thing in a peanut shell.
CHORUS: Well, well—well, well, well! The whole blame thing in a peanut shell.
RETRIBUTION to applicants: Ladies, ever since this earth was created and man put thereon, there has been trouble. And who has been the goat? Woman! Woman, because she is weaker.
By physical strength we cannot hope to win against the strength of men. But by tact, by intrigue, by strategy—
VENGEANCE, waves rolling pin: By-golly!
RETRIBUTION, unconsciously follows lead: —by-golly, we’ll beat them yet. Takes mail order catalogue from table and holds it out to REPRISAL. Reprisal, my Stately agent of Deserved Compensation, let the ladies lay their hands upon the book and take the vow of secrecy.
REPRISAL, takes book and stepping to ladies, holds it out: Kindly place your right hands upon this sacred tome and repeat what I sayeth to you. They place hands on catalogue. Do you salmonly premise to never repeat what you hear within these walls, or to tell what you see? Do you salmonly premise to follow all the rules and orders of this society, to obey every command of your superiors in or out o F this Temple, no matter when, where, which, how many or why? Do you premise to assert your rights in your home, and if necessary use your lefts as well? Do you salmonly premise everything, and we don’t care what the whoop it might be, whether it be rain, snow or probable showers, Christmas, Happy New Year, and the cow jumped over the moon? Do you salmonly premise to do this and a lot more if necessary to make this society the outstanding harbor of safety for the down-trodden housewife, and if so, should a man shave every morning and put the cat out every night, or should he wear wing collars to church on Sunday and turn over his pay envelope to the wife every Saturday night? Loudly. Do you?
REPRISAL bows to RETRIBUTION: Your Majesty, they do.
RETRIBUTION: Good! Take your post, Reprisal. REPRISAL steps to her post, tossing catalogue on table so hard that it slides across table into RETRIBUTION’S lap. Ladies, you have sworn secrecy. Points finger at CARRIE. What is your name?
CARRIE: Mrs. Carrie Burdens, and 1 was born in Oshkosh County. Father ran for sheriff twice, was elected once, arrested one man, and shot his foot off chasing another one. Mother was a Methodist, and I married Joe Burdens when I was twenty-two. Outside of that I’ve been pretty happy.
RETRIBUTION to VERA: What is your name?
VERA: Mrs. Vera Bizzy. My mother’s folks came over on the Mayflower. Father’s folks sneaked over on a cattle boat. Father ran from a sheriff twice, was arrested once and got shot in the foot getting away from another one. Outside of that, I’m still a Democrat.
RETRIBUTION to CONSTANT: What is your name?
CONSTANT: Mrs. Constant Toil. Don’t have much to say. Worked in the five-and-ten-cent store until I got fired because I couldn’t remember the prices. Not much else to tell. Grandfather died at six hundred and nine.
RETRIBUTION: Say, there ain’t nothing lives that long except an elephant.
CONSTANT: He didn’t live that long.
RETRIBUTION: You said he died at six hundred and nine.
CONSTANT: Six hundred and nine Mason Avenue.
RETRIBUTION: All will make worthy members of this society. All possess the qualifications that are so valuable in an order of this kind. Pardon me, Mrs. Burdens, but may I ask how much you paid for that hat?
CARRIE: Two nineteen.
RETRIBUTION: I was just wondering. My sister had one like that when I was a little girl.
CARRIE, snappishly: Yes, I know. Styles go in cycles, they say. The clerk told me this was all the style fifty years ago.
RETRIBUTION: Humph! We must proceed with the rites of this order. It is getting late and I must get home. It’s almost time to give the baby another bottle and my husband always makes the milk too hot. Now, Sisters, once again I want to stress the basis upon which the Resolute Sisters of Nemesis is built. We are down-trodden. Our husbands are brutes—
RETALIATION: Oh, my land! Oh, my land! 1 told my husband to wash the dishes and I just happened to think there are no soap flakes in the house. Oh, my land!
VENGEANCE: You can get some on the way home.
RETALIATION: Yes, and then he’ll be rattling the dishes in the sink when I’m trying to sleep. Oh, but men are brutes!
RETRIBUTION: Then we shall proceed with all haste. My dear Household Duties, lead the way with the war dance. Our new members will fall in behind and vent their anger and their rage upon the cruelty of man.
HOUSEHOLD DUTIES, single file, form circle and do an Indian war dance. The new members get in circle and try to follow steps of DUTIES, but are very clumsy.
RETRIBUTION, holding up hand : Stop! Dancing stops. Ladies, you ate now full-fledged members of the Resolute Sisters of Nemesis. You are now privileged to go home and lam the stuffing out of your husbands with shovels, brooms or—
VERA: Just a minute, Queenie, or whatever they call you. There has been a slight misunderstanding.
VERA: This society isn’t what we understood it to be. We are widows and we thought this was a sort of a matrimonial bureau where we could get in touch with some marriageable men. They turn, and with noses held high, march out.
RETRIBUTION: Meeting adjourned.
ALL: Hooray! Now we can go back to our husbands!