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Production Timeline

2006 - Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Workshop)

2007 - Wesleyan University (World Premiere)


Creative Team

Directed by Jess Chayes
Text by Stephen Aubrey and Jess Chayes
Scenic Design by Nic Benacerraf
Lighting Design by Greg Malen
Costume Design by Andrea Lipsky-Karasz
Stage Manager Annie Paladino
Assistant Stage Manager Miriam Krent
Co-produced by Wesleyan University Theater Department


Cast: Tori Amoscato (Little Miss 1565), Edward Bauer (The Ghost of P.T. Barnum), Elissa Kozlov (Jennie Heiser), Kieran Kredell (Emmett Kelly), Zach Leclair (Thomas Barber), Gregory Silver (Robert Dale Segee), Hansel Tan (Merle Evans), Randa Tawil (May Kovar), and Annie BodelMike James Hayley Stokar (Edinburgh Fringe Festival cast)


The unresolved true story of the Hartford Circus Fire of July 6th, 1944.


In the immediate aftermath of D-Day, the Hartford Circus Fire — which killed 168 circus-goers, mostly women and children — seemed a small tragedy. But the story of the fire that destroyed “The Greatest Show on Earth” raises fundamental questions about the loss of a city’s innocence, as an unidentified girl's body triggers an obsessive search for truth in a corner of history that no one can reach.





“The painful story that was in danger of being lost to history is brought to life by a lyrical, well-researched script, slick performances by the cast and Jess Chayes’s imaginative direction…As the innocent pleasure of the matinee turns to terror, the choreography of the characters who move from dancing to dying while the circus orchestra plays on is impeccable, beautiful and touching. Despite the brevity of the play, each is brought sharply to life to tell not only the story of that fateful day, but also of wider American society.”
The Scotsman (4/5 stars)


"Using a series of anecdotes and monologues that mingled historical fact with dramatic interpretation, Hartford persuasively pieced together the fire and its aftermath while constantly acknowledging the seemingly insurmountable gaps and contradictions in the historical narrative....

This critic walked away with a head full of questions, but also a heart both provoked and soothed by the intellectual provocation and honest humanity Hartford balanced with such graceful skill.
The Wesleyan Argus

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