Ladies and Gentlemen, We Proudly Present.. Shaun Prendergast, Playwright
...Julia Pastrana.. opens in less than two weeks! We're more than honored to present the Midwest premiere of Shaun Prendergast's work. We were recently able to speak with Shaun about how this piece originated and what drew him to write about this intriguing figure:
What initially inspired you to write a piece based on Julia Pastrana's story?
I’d been drawn to her story since I first discovered it in a book in my College library called Very Special People by Frederick Drimmer. I think the whole 'freak show' debate is fascinating. As a performer, I’m aware many who become performers do so because they have a psychological make-up which craves esteem. It seemed to me this was a story all about esteem, and exploitation. I just think it’s one of the most mesmerising true stories Ive ever heard.
In the script you are adamant that the play must be done in the total darkness. What sparked you to make that choice? What do you think is gained for the audience in this choice?
I was asked to write a show for darkness, (by Tom Morris, later creator of Warhorse) for a season at the alternative BAC theatre. Julia was the subject I chose. Total darkness made the whole question of representing her physical appearance redundant. Quite simply, the darkness forces the audience to do two things - to listen intently - and to try and picture Julia in their heads. I also wanted this to a 'carnival' like experience, so the darkness is also, in the best sense of the work, a gimmick - the thing that gets people hooked on the idea. A couple of times companies have tried showing the actors beforehand. It kills the show stone dead.
Though this play takes place in a fairly distant past, what themes do you think resonate for audiences today?
Sexism, racism, disability rights, capitalist exploitation of minorities, and the appalling pressures put upon women by society to conform to an accepted idea of beauty, as defined by those who want to sell you products to plug the hole in your self-esteem left by consumerist values. It's a very, very political play.
What would you say is your target audience for this piece?
Anyone who likes a good story and is up for a new and unique experience.
In five words or less, why should people come see Julia?
What does she look like?
..Julia Pastrana.. opens in one week! Get your tickets here!
The True History of the Tragic Life and Triumphant Death of Julia Pastrana, the Ugliest Woman in theWorld
By Shaun Prendergast Directed by Joshua Ellison
Sept 26 - Oct 20 Thurs - Sun, 8pm Berger Park Coach House 6205 N Sheridan Rd (near Granville Red Line)