As with my novel-in-progress (The Virgin Cure), I’ll be occasionally sharing notes from Jerome, The Historical Spectacle, my play-in-progress. (If you’re wondering about the origins of the project, please see my original blog entry about Jerome and my collaboration with Two Planks and a Passion Theatre Co.)
Searching for Jerome
Jerome journal – January 2008
The play now has an official title –
For the longest time, his name alone stuck in my head, not needing any other words to clarify the project for me. Now I find that, the longer this varied collection of historical facts and stories about Jerome stews in my thoughts, the more I need to step away from historical records and create my own kind of tale – one that reflects what Jerome has come to mean to me. The ghosts of his truths and his myths have gotten under my skin. What began as an exercise in historical observation has turned into a journey of unexpected twists and turns.
From The Yarmouth Times – June 19, 1899
“JEROME” TO BE EXHIBITED
Jerome, the unfortunate individual whose name has appeared in every Canadian and American newspaper at various times for many years, will shortly visit Yarmouth. Eleazer Comeau, representing the C. M. B. A., has been to Cheticamp to arrange the matter with Dedie Comeau, who has the custody of Jerome. On his arrival he will be placed on exhibition in McLaughlin’s hall and will undoubtedly attract a large number of people. He is expected in July. A short time ago a lady who resides in New York claimed him as a brother, saying to people in Digby county that when twelve years old he left his home. The lady says further that her family is of Irish descent. It would not be surprising if Jerome, who is a charge of the Nova Scotia government, finds his way to the United States and once there would make a fortune in the various dime museums throughout the country.
It is this bit of Jerome’s history that has haunted me from the start. It has taken me on a journey to from the world of Acadian folklore to the world of sideshows and circus freaks. Now that I’m there, I can’t help but think – who better to tell Jerome’s story than a turn-of-the-century sideshow troupe? (To expose dark and light, to accept him as one of their own?)
Stage notes (Act I Scene One): Imagine stepping through time, into the twisted, magical world of a turn-of-the-century circus sideshow. Celestin Trahan, (also known as Cy a’Mateur of Acadian history and folklore) serves as barker and storyteller. He is a trickster, a shapeshifter – believed by some to be a shaman, by others, to be possessed by demons. Most often seen sporting a bowler hat, a walking cane and a cutaway coat – he is a showman.
Upon his arrival, Celestin is accompanied by a cast of sideshow performers – a mermaid girl, a wild-fingered phrenologist, a one-eyed knife thrower, a whip-wielding lion tamer, a fortune-telling burlesque singer, a mysterious legless man. Together, they will present Jerome, The Historical Spectacle. In the tradition of historical spectacles that have gone before, this sideshow tale of a silent, legless man known only as Jerome, begs history loosen its hold on fantasy and farce, all for the sake of the telling of the tale.
Strange days, indeed… It’s important for me to also make note that a strange kind of portal has opened up between the play and The Virgin Cure. I’ve come to the point where the two stories are fueling each other – and it’s incredibly exciting. A character now walks freely from one tale to the next – who am I to stop her?
Making Plans for the Summer?
The performance dates for Jerome, The Historical Spectacle have been set.
August 1 – August 17th
Jerome will be part of Two Planks’ Off the Grid season and will be staged outdoors at the beautiful Ross Creek Centre for the Arts. (The Centre is only a 20 minute drive from Scots Bay – so you can come to NS, take in the play, and see the area that was the inspiration behind The Birth House.)
Please visit the Two Planks and a Passion web page for details on how to place advance orders for tickets! (they currently have a Double Play special running – but only until March 31st.)
Last but not least.
I’m thrilled to announce that Gaspereau Press will be publishing a special edition of Jerome, The Historical Spectacle. Publication will take place in conjunction with the run of the play. More details to come!