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From Page to Stage

“Working in the circus was a great and amazing experience. I never knew quite what to do with it,” says Liz Bussey Fentress, author and star of Liz’s Circus Story. “In 1997, when I learned that Wayne Franzen had been killed doing what he loved doing, it was a huge shock to my system and my life, and I understood that I had to write a play about the experience.”

Liz took the first draft of her script for a one-woman play to a scriptwriting class taught by a theater professional whose opinion she both trusted and feared: Warren Hammack of Horse Cave Theatre. Hammack’s philosophy was that “plays are not written, they are rewritten.” And Liz’s Circus Story went through numerous incarnations in the three or so years from idea to premiere. (See the Warren Hammack interview for more about his ideas on play development and the Liz Fentress interview for more about how this particular play developed.)

At first, Liz was the only character in the play. Later the author decided to add other characters, though she retained the concept of playing all the parts herself. At a workshop in Florida, she even tried changing the play’s name to Peg’s Circus Story and watched as it was read by another actress. The experience reinforced her belief that her original inclination to tell her story herself in a one-woman performance was the way this story wanted to be told.

After its successful run at Horse Cave Theatre, the play was performed—with additional modifications—at Georgetown College. Meanwhile, Liz had already contacted KET about the possibility of the play airing on KET. But to adapt the play for television, additional changes would need to be made. See Adapting the Script and the rest of the From Stage to Screen section for more about how the play was rewritten and then produced for TV.

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