Living Curiosities or What You Will

Written by:

Mary Vingoe

Cast Size:
11

Roles For:

  • Men: 6
  • People of Colour: 4
  • Women: 5

Genre:

Drama
Feminist Theatre
Historical

Themes:

American History
Canadian History
Exploitation
History
Non-Normative Bodies
Play Within a Play
Race
Shakespeare
Slavery

Length:

120 min.

Year Written:

2010

Synopsis:

Living Curiosities is inspired by the story of Anna Swan, the 19th century Nova Scotia giantess who was sent to exhibit at P.T. Barnum’s famed American Museum in New York City at the height of the American Civil War. Lonely but determined to make the best of her situation, Anna goes against Barnum’s orders and befriends the other ‘living curiosities,’ developing a strong friendship with the African American performer ‘Alphonsia di Lugar’. Together, they attempt to create a stronger sense of community by staging an unusual version of Twelfth Night with the rest of inhabitants of the museum. When old alliances and bitter feelings threaten to tear the company apart, Anna and Alphonsia are forced to make a heartbreaking decision about their future.” (From the CPO Website)

Characters:

PT Barnum: late fifties / Anna Swan: giantess, seventeen, from Nova Scotia / Henry Jackson: a dwarf, fifties, originally from the South but has been in New York City for thirty years / Alphonsia di Lugar: early twenties, from South Carolina / Lucia di Lugar: early twenties, from South Carolina, better educated than her sister / Josephine Clofullia: bearded lady, mid-thirties, originally Slavic but pretends to be from France / Chang and Eng: Siamese twins, late forties, originally from China, slight accent, well-educated / Guard / Jones / Edwards / Ladies and Gents

First Produced:

1994, Ship's Company Theatre, Parrsboro Nova Scotia

Resources:

Living Curiosities or What You Will is available through the CPO Website and Playwrights Canada Press.

To view other works by this playwright, click here.