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Circus Lady

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Miller, Jason (Irish-American playwright, 1939-2001), "Circus Lady,"

a 40-minute realistic comedy in English set in East Harlem, New York City, anytime,

2m2f (+ extra);

  ©  1968 by playwright, in Jason Miller’s Three One Act Plays (New York: Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 1972), ISBN 0822207591, DPS 3162; playwright (home) 717-344-2190, agent Earl Graham, 212-489-7730;  •  script/rights available from Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 440 Park Avenue South, New York, New York, 212-683-8960, fax 212-213-1539; the DPS citation says,

  §  Dramatis Personae _____ (m), Circus Lady’s son; _____ (m), welfare investigator; Circus Lady (f), a grossly fat, slatternly woman; _____ (f), Circus Lady’s  sister.

  §  Synopsis “The ‘Circus Lady’ of the title is a grossly fat, slatternly woman who has been reduced to living in squalor, and on welfare, while beset with fears that the rapist-killer who has terrorized the area is coming for her next. Her son, fed up with their slovenly existence, is about to go off to join a government training program; the welfare investigator wants to move her to a furnished room and arrange for psychiatric treatment; and her sister refuses to take her into her own home. Ultimately she confesses to her son that his father did not desert them as she had always claimed but, instead, had committed suicide and for the same reasons that others are now abandoning her. In the end she is alone, resigned to her fate, and tragically aware that this is of her own inevitable making.

  §  Comment “Powerful yet often bitingly funny, this affecting play moves swiftly to capture its telling portrait of a tormented and desperate woman unable any longer to control her own destiny.”  •  “Jason Miller, who in 1973 won a Pulitzer Prize as a playwright for That Championship Season and an Oscar nomination as an actor in The Exorcist, died of a heart attack . . . in his hometown of Scranton. Over the last decade, Mr. Miller, 62, had mounted and directed several plays in Philadelphia, most notably a production of Inherit the Wind staged in a City Hall courtroom. His final local appearance was last fall as John Barrymore in Barrymore’s Ghost, a one-man play about the famous actor that Mr. Miller also wrote. Although Mr. Miller wrote several other plays, none achieved the fame of That Championship Season. The play is set in a Lackawanna Valley town among former high school basketball players and their win-at-all-costs coach 20 years after the team garnered the state championship. In the 1950s, Mr. Miller played on the St. Patrick’s High School basketball team in Scranton, the city in which he was raised and to which he later returned. In 1973, That Championship Season ran 700 performances on Broadway and, in addition to a Pulitzer, won Tony Awards for Mr. Miller and its director. In 1995, Mr. Miller played the lead role of the coach in a production of his play staged at Philadelphia's Ethical Society that was not well received by critics or popular with audiences. The reception of that show contrasted sharply with that afforded the 1991 Inherit the Wind, which Mr. Miller co-starred in and directed. That play was critically praised and ran for six months in a City Hall courtroom, an appropriate venue for a play based on the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial. In 1994, Mr. Miller returned to the City Hall courtroom as star of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. The high point in Mr. Miller’s career of supporting roles in movies came when he was nominated for an Academy Award for the role of the exorcising priest in The Exorcist. . . . Born in Long Island City, N.Y., Mr. Miller grew up in Scranton and graduated from the University of Scranton, where he studied English and philosophy, acted, and began to write. He later earned a master’s degree from Catholic University in Washington. Mr. Miller was artistic director of the Scranton Public Theater and its Summer Theater Festival. He was slated to play Oscar Madison in the coming season's run of The Odd Couple.”—Douglas J. Keating, Philadelphia Inquirer Theatre Critic, Jason Miller, 62, Actor and Playwright, http://inq.philly.com/content/inquirer/2001/05/15/obituaries/O-PMILLER15.htm, accessed August 27, 2001.

  §  Themes abandonment, awareness, confession, control, desertion, desperation, destiny, dispossession, family, fate, fear, government training program, investigation, mendacity, mother-son relationship, murder, obesity, parenting, psychiatry, rape, rejection, resignation, responsibility, sister-sister relationship, solitude, squalor, suicide, torment, treatment, untidiness, victimization, welfare.

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Page updated June 30, 1997, August 28, 2001, by the site Webmaster.

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