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Characters and Story

Liz’s Circus Story takes place over 23 years, from 1974 to 1997. The numerous settings include Liz’s apartments in Wisconsin, New York, and Horse Cave, Kentucky; the Franzens’ dairy farm; the circus tent and grounds; and the road.

Who’s Who in the Play

  • Liz, the narrator—a 21-year-old college student when the play begins; at itsLiz conclusion, she is 44 and a theater professional
  • Wayne Franzen—founder of Franzen Bros. Circus
  • Paul (Paulo the Magnificent, Brother Paul Vincent)—Liz’s childhood friend, who convinces Liz to join the circus
  • Neil Franzen—Wayne’s brother
  • Suzanne Franzen—Neil’s wife; cook and aerial artist for the circus
  • Liz’s mother
  • Kathy—Wayne’s sister, who does the aerial act after Neil and Suzanne leave
  • JoAnne—Wayne’s wife
  • Brian Franzen—Wayne’s son
  • Killer (Fred Zimmer)—props man for the circus
  • Killer’s Dad
  • Tom—Liz’s actor friend
  • The animals:
    Buck the horse
    the goats—Snuff, Spike, Billy, and Day
    Sophie the tiger
    Loo-kah the tiger
    Okha the elephant
    Ponies of America

Plot Outline


  1. Liz tells the audience and her mother that she is going to work for the circus.
  2. Liz calls Wayne Franzen and gets directions to his farm.
  3. Liz visits Wayne at his farm, and they discuss preparations for the circus.
  4. Liz decides on the lineup for the very first performance in Plainfield, Wisconsin.
  5. Liz tells about the circus’ first month.
  6. Liz and Wayne discuss getting a tiger for the circus; Wayne tells Liz why he started the circus.
  7. Liz makes a deal with Wayne to book dates for the circus.
  8. Liz tells about booking a trip to Red Lake Falls, Minnesota.
  9. Liz tells Wayne’s story to a Kiwanis meeting in Watertown.
  10. The wind in West Texas makes Liz think about her own dreams of being an actor.
  11. A generator accident kills Day the goat.
  12. Eight years later, Liz comes from New York to see the circus. She is delighted to see how large and successful it is. She sees a new tiger, born in the circus (Loo-kah), and tells her friend Paul that she’s not sure she likes how New York is changing her. She wishes she could dance with the circus horses.
  13. Wayne calls Liz in New York and asks her to pick out two baby elephants for him from a shipment in the Catskills.
  14. Liz returns to do advance work and promotion for the circus. She takes Killer to visit his father.
  15. Liz gets an opportunity to take a job with a theater company in Kentucky.
  16. Liz and her actor friend Tom visit the circus. She sees Loo-kah the tiger and gets angry with Tom because he can’t understand what Wayne has accomplished.
  17. Liz looks at her old circus outfit and finds that it still fits.
  18. Wayne begins a performance in Carrollton, Pennsylvania, and Loo-kah the tiger knocks him down and stalks him.
  19. Liz receives the news that Wayne has been killed and talks to Wayne’s son, Brian.
  20. In a dreamlike sequence, Liz recognizes Wayne’s impact on her life ... and finally can dance with the horses.

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