Bumbershoot – The Plays of Jeffrey James Ircink

for 20-page samples of my original plays, click on "read the rest of this entry"


Inspired by Ken Burns’ The Civil War and A.R. Gurney’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama-nominated, “Love Letters”, two women in 1863 Virginia strive to maintain a “normal” existence, one in which their perspective on each other is as different as their perspectives on the war itself.

Megan Turner (foreground) and Marty Norton star in “Reveille!”.

While Catherin – the utilitarian, older woman – manages the day-to-day life on the farm, Amanda fancies herself a writer. Between Amanda’s letters to her beau, Dowd, who is off fighting the Yankees, Dowd’s letters to Amanda, and Amanda’s diary entries (and a healthy spritz of Walt Whitman and Catherin’s temperament), a story is weaved that encompasses the thoughts and desires of both Amanda and Dowd – and Catherin, concerning the war, love and life, in general…a story unlike any Civil War tale you’ve ever heard.

REVEILLE! is a one-act play, the third in the erotic trilogy, AMOR NO FLUXO (Love in Flux). The other shorts are “PASS THE SALT, PLEASE.” and 4 ½ MINUTES (give or take) TO CLIMAX. One-act, drama (2W)

* Staged play reading, September 25, 2010 at Trimborn Farm in Greendale, WI. Click here for information/video from the event.

“I must admit, this is the first time I have ever read an entire play…I found myself wrapped up in a time where life was sometimes difficult and most times rememberable. I found myself squinting as if I were reading your play by candle light…..with the smell of fresh strawberries in the air. Love is a funny thing….we often go through great lengths to preserve it. No matter what it takes. That is why it is so special. Thank you Jeff. You have a lovely winner here.”
Cindy Kennedy-Lesky, artist, Milwaukee, WI

“This is a cool play, Jeff. I keep thinking of the characters…”
Dee Rich, Phoenix, AZ

“Quite lovely…slow-paced but completely appropriate for the time period. And wonderfully poetic.” Val Grant, screenwriter and graphic designer, Los Angeles, CA

“Great one-act. Compelling story, authentic, engaging characters. Surprising ending that felt right, and felt organic to the story. Strong writing all the way around.” Vicki Letizia, producer, Peabody recipient, VP, Development, PorchLight Entertainment, Los Angeles, CA

“…this is very interesting.”  Dana Koellner, Artistic Director, The People’s Theater, Santa Monica, CA

“The play touched and entranced my mind – the history in it and the relationship between Catherin and Amanda. Can’t tell what I loved best – the descriptions of “Reveille” and “Taps”, the use of Walt Whitman’s poetry, the gentle way you lead your audience throughout the play…”
Renee DeWitt, Wisconsin Rapids, WI

“I finished your play this morning, and it was so moving. Really…I love the storyline, the setting, the characters are so well conceived. I loved the transition you made from Amanda’s love for Dowd becoming realized with Catherine. Wow! I can’t believe as a man, you were able to capture two women like that. The conversations were natural and some of it reminded me of how my sister and I talk. I adored the Whitman quotes. I shed a few tears Jeff, reading the last letter Amanda reads.”
 Katie Anderson, writer, visual artist, member of Inked-In.com, poet, IN


 A One Act Play (excerpt)
by Jeffrey James Ircink

© Copyright September 2007, Jeffrey James Ircink
6405 blossom ct.
greendale, wi 53129
c: (262) 806-2808
February 2008

Cast of Characters
Catherin (Older Woman): 32-38
Amanda (Younger Woman): 24-30


(August. 1862. Evening. Somewhere in the Shenandoah Valley of Northern Virginia. The Civil War is in its second year. AMANDA, 25, is sitting at a long table in the living room of a modest farm home – alone. She is wearing the best dress she owns. Throughout the play, another woman – CATHERIN – enters and exits the room. She is eight years older and plays a utilitarian role, busying herself with the day-to-day routines associated with the house and property. With pen in hand, AMANDA reads from a letter she is writing.)

“I arose early this morning, fed the ducks which number around 30, looked over the fields and the garden and gathered some watermelon, say two or three for the day, of which we have a handsome sprinkle and a second growth on the vines. I came in and washed up and had some light breakfast – a roll of bread and fresh butter with a cup of coffee. Then I walked into town to do some shopping and listened to talk of the war and other gossip, including the elections which seem to have the whole town churning about like a beehive. I returned home after deciding war news frightens me so and had dinner – today it was pork, a little batterbread of sweet corn meal, some fresh butter and plenty of good buttermilk. We usually save the pork for special occasions, though I don’t recollect what that special occasion was today. I am thankfully full for which I praise the good Lord. I read some poetry from Godey’s Ladies Book then took a nap for an hour.”
(CATHERIN enters from outside, carrying a watermelon, and goes directly into the kitchen to clean it. She is dressed in work clothes. AMANDA looks up, then continues reading her letter.)

“I awoke refreshed and went for a long walk down the lane…at least it seemed long for me. It was still fairly warm outside as I noticed beads of sweat forming on my brow and I had to wipe my face often. It was a clear, beautiful day – clearer than I remember for some time. And quiet – like it used to be before the war. Noticing it was getting late in the day, I started for home, where I ate some fresh raspberries and currents and some leftover cornmeal. I spent the rest of the evening delighting myself by catching up on a particular serial story in Godey’s about a woman who believes her husband has been killed fighting the Yankees and is courted by a country gentleman; however, it all spells disaster as her husband, who turns out to be very much alive, receives a week’s furlough and returns home to find his wife with another man – the country gentleman – who just so happens to be his brother. I will not spoil the ending – in case you happen upon a copy of Godey’s yourself – but I will say thank the Lord and Robert E. Lee that there is still honor left in the South.”
(AMANDA glances up at CATHERIN, who is slicing open the watermelon. She reads as she writes.)
“I cut up the watermelon I gathered from the garden and found it to be the sweetest I had ever tasted. As sweet as sweet can be.”
(AMANDA continues writing in silence. Then she reads out loud what she has just written.)
“So sweet, as a matter of fact, that I’m beginning to feel tired – probably from fretting over that poor Yankee woman in the Godey serial. Though she and I are on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to the war, we are women, and therefore, I empathize with her misfortunes. I think I shall turn in. I haven’t slept a full night in months. These are the days – “
Who are you writing about?
Sure about that?
‘Course I’m sure. Who else would I be writing about? I’m submitting a story for publication in Godey’s Ladies Book. They’re asking readers to, ‘tell us about your typical day’, in 500 words or less. So – that’s what I’m doing. I’m writing about my typical day.
Then it must’ve slipped your mind that I’m the one who picked the watermelon and prepares the meals and goes into town for supplies. I do the milking and chase after the cows in the middle of the night when they get through the fence. I do the sewing and the ironing and the cooking and the laundry –
Alright, alright.
(AMANDA gets up, walks into the kitchen and pours herself a drink. She has a brace on her leg and walks with a slight limp.)
I help fold the laundry.
Where I really need your help is scrubbing the laundry. Anyone can fold.
Not everyone can fold properly. Besides, I have weak elbows. Doc Clemens said so. And I never said I prepared the meals – only that I ate them. Besides…if I’m going to be a writer someday, I have to learn to embellish. I plan to write fiction, you know. Real life isn’t nearly as excitin’ as embellished life.
Not the real life we’re living in. Not today, leastwise.
How many words did you say?
You gonna have enough to go on about?
500 or less.
I detect a jibe in your query.
The jibe is in those words you’re putting to paper.
Oh go on. You’re just jealous because Godey’s Ladies Book didn’t ask you to submit a story, that’s all.
I think it’s wonderful Godey’s ran an ad inviting all its readers to send in a story.

How would you know? You never read Godey’s so how would you know the first thing about it?

(Somewhat irate – she’s heard this before.)
Godey’s Ladies Book is a prissy piece of trash for passin’ time and nothing more. Why, any soul in his right mind would pay good money for the paper it’s printed on just so he – or she – could have something fittin’ to use in the washroom. And I am not referring to washing one’s hands either.

Well that’s peculiar talk coming from a lady. I don’t recall the last time I’ve heard such vulgarity spoken in our home.
I say Godey’s is not a luxury but a necessity. With its helpful hints and its patterns and needle-work and instructions in housekeeping – why we save twice the price we pay for it in less than a few months.
Anything I’d write would put to shame 99% of the gibberish in that rag – if I had the inclination…or the time.
Then why don’t you submit a story?
(Once she has finished slicing the watermelon, CATHERIN begins ironing.)
The world is an unhappy place, Amanda. My demeanor would have to be on a higher plain for me to even consider the task of sitting down to write – Godey’s or otherwise.
Well if the world were in a better place, what would you write about then?
Oh, come on. Don’t be such a sour puss. Tell me.
I don’t know.
I suppose I’d write about living here in the valley – before the war…when even the faintest breeze blows in the smell of sassafras blossoms from a mile away and the mockingbirds swoop down on anyone who gets close to their nest – which they do without reservation because everyone knows you’re never to kill a mockingbird and the mockingbirds know it, too.
(She stops ironing.)
I’d write about how that dog of yours slouches around so much so you’d think she were dead to the world –
Don’t talk unkindly about Molly. She’s never ever even hurt a flea.
– except for when she nips at the honey bees flying about her head.
Or I’d write about the farm, and how you’re scared of feeding the chickens and how one day –
I am not!
You are too – and quit interrupting me. And how one day you proposed we eat the Rhode Island Red and Plymouth Rock chickens as they most certainly were Yankee-bred and would do irreparable harm to a Southerner’s palate. I’d tell of midnight walks along 4 ¼ Mile Road, lit up by the slightest sliver of a moon – like a postcard…where you can hear the rippling and splashing of Little Mountain Run in the dark as she snakes down and around through the Shenandoah Valley, and the horned owl joins the bullfrog and the crickets in a symphony that only God could compose. Or the lonesome whistle of the Blue Ridge Railway…clickety-clackety – reminding me there’s a world to explore beyond this valley. I’d write how exhausted I am after drinking it all in and how I’m able to get a full night’s sleep and wake up refreshed, ready to experience it all over again.
Not like now…where the world’s filled with nothing but the suffering because of some men’s war. Not like now when I worry that soldiers might steal off with the horses in the middle of the night or that I might awaken to a rifle barrel stuck in my gut – or worse.
Oh I smell sassafras occasionally. And I’m not saying the crickets have stopped chirping all together. But it’s –
– everything I cherish about this place has been smothered by war. The trains bring men into town, filling our streets with blue troops and gray troops marching off to fight and kill one another. The air is filled with smoke and fire. The Yankees’ blockade stopped Little Mountain Run from rippling and splashing. How many people have we known moved away or killed? This simple life of ours which I derived so much joy is no more.
I used to enjoy the rain – a steady, long, slow rain. It washed the earth clean and made everything smell reborn…new – like fresh laundry brought in outta the sun and the wind. The only rain that falls now brings with it the stench of death and the streets run with the blood of young men who are lost forever. And I’m afraid that everything will change and I’ll forget what it was like.
I didn’t mean to ramble.
(Beat. She goes back to ironing.)
That’s what I’d write about. The way things used to be. Our reality is the war. What joy would there be in writing about that?
Well I’m fairly certain that’s not the slant Godey’s is aspiring it’s readers to write about – all that blood and guts and such. I, for one, choose to concentrate on the positive aspects of the day. War or no war.
Why don’t you write about that boy you’re always talking about? What’s his name – Dowd? You two write back and forth enough – I’m sure there’s plenty of inspiration in those letters.

He’s in love with me – did I tell you that? Yes…I’m not entirely sure to what degree I reciprocate those feelings. I feel something for him, though I’m not for certain if it’s real love or just an infatuation. You remember him, don’t you, Catherin? He lived in the next county over. His father bought and sold horses before the war. I think he’s a zillionaire now after selling horses to the army. Makes no never mind to me. I’m not interested in Dowd’s fortune. Just in Dowd – maybe.

Well whatever you write about I’m quite certain you’ll be optimistic for both of us. Maybe something good will come of it.

Godey’s Ladies Book publishing my story would be good for starters.
(She goes back to writing. Beat.)
Sounds like a storybook – all that…fluff you were talking about. You came up with all that on your own?

It wasn’t difficult. I’ve lived it all my life. So have you…or did you already forget?

I didn’t forget.
“Sassafras blossoms”.
I like that. May I use it in my narration? For Godey’s?

Not too much fluff for you, I hope.

(AMANDA rises, walks over to a hope chest and opens it.)

I need to be more diligent in keeping up my diary.
(She removes a small, leather bound book and returns to the table.)
It’s not a daily diary if I don’t write in it everyday, is it now? You could help me by reminding me every once in a while – when you’re not too busy.
(She opens the diary and a VO is heard of AMANDA reading from it. CATHERIN continues ironing.)

Diary Entry – August 16, 1862. Dear Diary. This whole agitation about slavery is the most monstrous humbug since the flood. It is my full belief that the infatuation which has precipitated the North into this war is a judgment from God.

Isn’t it plain to them – them being the abolitionists and the Yankees – that our President Davis is a simple, consistent Christian, and a member of the Episcopal Church, and generally and joyfully observed? I believe we are lucky to have civil and military leaders who acknowledge God. The Commander-in-Chief of our armies, Robert E. Lee –

(The VO fades as AMANDA sets her pen down and continues reading aloud. Overlap with VO.)
– who is an elder in the Presbyterian Church in Lexington and is said to be a Christian of the same stamp as Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson sent a special request via the newspapers calling upon the ladies everywhere to unite in support of prayer for peace.



(She closes her diary, sets her head down and falls asleep. LIGHTS FADE. LIGHTS UP. Late morning. AMANDA is sitting in a chair next to the window. She’s reading a letter.)
August 18, 1862. Dear Amanda. A steady rain fell all day. It’s evening now and the rain has stopped. It is quiet. Seems like it’s only been a few days since the fighting nearby commenced at Cedar Mountain. Battles inevitably bring rain, at least I am told that’s what most soldiers believe. Or maybe it’s the other way around. If Stonewall Jackson keeps delivering one victory upon another, I will pray for a flood a hundred times the size of Noah’s so this war may come to an end.



Listen to me…going on like a politician or a preacher. My dearest, sweet Amanda. I pray that this will all be over soon. I don’t know how much more our country can take. This letter is short – I know. We are pulling out tomorrow but to where I do not know. I will write more when we get situated. All my love. Yours. Dowd.

(AMANDA moves from the chair to the table and continues writing a letter she has started. CATHERIN enters from the bedroom.)

I’m going into town for a while, Amanda. I’ll be back before dark.

Are you stopping by the store?

Your fervor and zeal regarding the South’s involvement in the war is admirable, and yet I can’t help but think it is misdirected love. Maybe all of us are misdirected, misinformed and misplaced. War brings misery and this past year, seeing our world in this terrible upheaval, has been an unpleasant experience for me. I suppose it is natural to take sides – to cheer the South and hate the North, to wish our Rebel boys well and spit at the feet of the Yankees. To join in the fray saying, “Preserve state’s rights and leave us our slaves!”. That would seem to be the proper thing to do as sons and daughters of the Old South, and yet is it the moral thing? I’m at a loss to make sense of this entire, abhorrent affair.

I am. We’re almost out of coffee, bacon, flour, sugar –
Would you see if they have some licorice candy drops?
– and I need nails and new wrench…if Mr. Van Ells will let me put them on credit.
Oh-h please?
Fine. I just thought it would nice for a change to have some luxuries in the house, that’s all.
You’ll have to forgive me, Amanda, if I’ve forgotten what luxuries are.
(CATHERIN exits. AMANDA reads from a letter.)
August 29, 1862. Dear Dowd. I’m fully aware that you feel my opinions are based on nothing more than emotion and an idealized viewpoint of the South. If my “superficial” views on the war or my levity towards it are bothersome to you, do not take it personally.
With that in mind, I can’t help but wonder how none of this might have happened had Mr. Lincoln not been elected and allowed to let his anti-slavery rhetoric rile the nation into jumping headfirst into this bloodbath. Honestly, if that man and his politician cohorts would have kept their opinion to themselves, the North and South would be left to live free of each other and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. What are the people in Yankeedom thinking – hugging the delusion that Richmond will soon be theirs? We shall achieve our independence, and if guided right, shall be far more prosperous than ever before. Never could I for one moment believe that a righteous God would suffer us to be trodden down like the mud in the streets.
By the way, did you hear about the schooner, Minna, which was attempting to run the Yankee blockade? Well I declare, Dowd…those nasty Yankees stole the ship and absconded with 10,000 testaments. What good does anyone suppose those Bibles will do the Yankee soldiers? Will the blessing of God attend stolen goods? Nothing has aroused my indignation so much for a long time – taking the bread of life out of the mouths of our famished soldiers, and giving it to profane creatures who won’t even read a verse or a psalm.


Walt Whitman says, ‘The pervading sentiment or lesson is to be that the only good of learning the theory of the fluency and generosity and unpartiality, largeness and exactitude
of the earth is to use all those toward the theory of character – human character.’ I’m not sure exactly what that all means, but I’m sure that whatever Mr. Whitman’s point is, the North should heed it.
*“This Is the Earth’s Word” from “Poem of The Sayers of The Words of The Earth,” by Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1856.
I don’t know how I’ll be able to fall asleep tonight now that I am riled up inside. Well, I have been neglecting my diary terribly and I have much catching up to do – so much has happened and if I wait any longer I most certainly will forget everything I have ruminating inside my head. I will close here and say goodbye, dearest Dowd, and I am hoping to hear from you soon. I am ever yours sincerely. Amanda.


(LIGHTS UP. Afternoon. AMANDA sits on a chair and stares out the window, sipping a glass of tea. A couple beats later, CATHERIN enters with a basket of laundry. She sits down and begins folding. AMANDA glances over at CATHERIN, then stares out the window. LIGHTS FADE.)
(LIGHTS UP. Early evening. AMANDA, alone, sits by the fireplace. CATHERIN enters from outside.)
This was waiting for you at the store.
(Hands a letter to AMANDA.)

Goodness gracious. I don’t know what I’d do without Dowd’s letters.
(CATHERIN tosses a bag next to AMANDA.)
And licorice candy drops!
(CATHERIN unpacks groceries while AMANDA reads the letter.)
September 19, 1862. My dear Amanda. I was saddened when I heard how a Yankee patrol had somehow gotten lost and ransacked Bishop Van Duren’s home and property in
Winchester – and just a few weeks after he had passed away. Can you believe he was bishop of the diocese of Virginia for more than 30 years? I remember him as a child – he was one of the meekest and most Godly of men among the Episcopal clergy, if ever there was one. My brother and I would make frequent trips to his home with my mother and father for lemonade and fruit cakes. His home was embellished with the finest fruits and flowers. Our visits were always a treat and it wasn’t unusual for our parents to have to drag us home. My mother said that on his deathbed the Bishop said the cause in which we are engaged is a holy one.
Do not be uneasy when you do not hear from me, my mind is in a million places at once. Your diligence in writing me is appreciated and I hope to reciprocate with a whole package of letters in the next few months. I would give anything to spend time with you in a world without this war.
Goodbye and a thousand kisses to my own sweet, Amanda, for the present. As ever your devoted. Dowd.


(AMANDA closes her diary and exits. CATHERIN enters and sees AMANDA’S diary on the chair. She looks around and picks up it up. She opens the diary and reads aloud.)


Diary Entry – September 9, 1862. Dear Diary. The 28th, 29th and 30th of August the second battle of Manassas took place. At this battle Col. William Baylor was killed, leaving a heartbroken wife and mother and sister to mourn his loss. James Mullen was also killed in this battle. His brother John was wounded before but died after and was brought home to be buried.

On the 10th, little Mary Bentley died of diphtheria. On the 20th, David Bentley died of the same disease at the age of twelve. If it’s not the war that’s causing death, it’s the things the war brings. So sad. My dearest Dowd, I wish there was something you can do to help rid me of the pain this war brings to my heart. If at any time in our relationship, I think now is when I need you most.
(AMANDA enters.)
I was just reading –

I can see that.
(Grabbing the diary from CATHERIN.)


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