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About Liz Bussey Fentress

LizIn 1974, 21-year-old and fresh-out-of-college Liz Bussey joined a fledgling family-owned circus in Wisconsin. As Miss Elizabeth of Franzen Bros. Circus, she was the first (and at the time, only) ringmistress in the history of the Big Top. She tells her story and that of Franzen Bros.’ remarkable founder, Wayne Franzen, in Liz’s Circus Story.

Liz didn’t grow up dreaming of joining the circus. This native of Phillips, a small town in Wisconsin (population 1,500), had her heart set on a career in theater from the 4th grade, when her parents took her to Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theatre to see Volpone. After two seasons of performing with the circus and one winter spent booking advance dates, Liz saved enough money to attend the Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London, then got a job with the Guthrie Theatre stage managing tours in the upper Midwest. After a stint in New York City, where she was a founding member of the Irondale Ensemble Project, she became executive director of Playhouse in the Park, a community theater in Murray, KY. In 1991, she became associate producer at Horse Cave Theatre, a professional theater company. She was with Horse Cave for eight years.

LizThroughout her career as a theater producer, administrator, director, and actor, Liz kept in touch with Wayne Franzen and her circus friends. She always thought that someday she would tell the story of her circus days, and Franzen’s death in 1997 inspired her to begin work on a play about his impact on her life. She developed the play through Horse Cave Theatre’s Kentucky Voices program, which nurtures Kentucky playwrights. The stage production of Liz’s Circus Story premiered at Horse Cave on August 3, 2001.

Liz continues to work as an independent theater professional. She and her husband, Larry Fentress, live in Jefferson County. Her hobbies include beekeeping, an activity that plays a part in the plot of her latest play, The Honey Harvest, which will open at Horse Cave Theatre on August 6, 2004. The four-character play explores a father-daughter relationship over the course of a summer.

• about Liz and how she works, read her profile in Kentuckians in Theater, part of the Drama Arts Toolkit drama resources section.
• about Horse Cave Theatre and its Kentucky Voices program, visit the Horse Cave web site or KET’s Electronic Field Trip to Horse Cave Theatre.

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