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Stage vs. TV: A Script Comparison

For television, Liz’s Circus Story needed to be 56 minutes long so it could air as an hour-long program—a little more than half the length of the original stage production. The story was tightened to focus more clearly on how Wayne Franzen’s pursuit of his dream inspired Liz. As the script samples below show, the editing entailed both the removal of entire sections and characters and minor changes to shorten the play.

Stage Version TV Version

NARRATOR

[To camera.] I’ve just committed to driving to the Canadian border.

[The narrator mimes driving a car.] Halfway to the Canadian border I have a conversation with my grandfather.

LIZ

I’m bored, Grandpa Bussey!

NARRATOR

My grandfather has been dead for ten years, but I imagine that he travels with me in the passenger’s seat.

LIZ

I can’t even find a radio station up here!

GRANDPA BUSSEY

Why don’t you memorize a poem?

LIZ

What?

GRANDPA BUSSEY

Didn’t your mother give you a book of poetry? Isn’t one of those poems about the snow? You could memorize that poem on these long drives.

[The Narrator gets a scrapbook out of the suitcase.]

NARRATOR

I have a scrapbook of circus pictures to show the Band Boosters. [She turns the pages and shows the pictures to the audience as she describes them.] It shows the farm at the end of County Road ZZ. It shows all of us sitting on the barnyard fence the week before the show opened. It shows Wayne with his seven goats. It shows children laughing.

Two weeks later, I head west to Watertown. It’s late afternoon when I leave the dentist’s office in Minneapolis. I’ve just had a wisdom tooth pulled. I’m scheduled to be the guest speaker at a Kiwanis meeting. Big flakes of soft snow pour out of the sky. I’ll memorize the poem about snow! [The Narrator gets a poetry book out of the suitcase.] “Velvet Shoes” by Elinor Wylie: “Silence will fall like dews/On white silence below. Silence will fall like dews... Silence will fall.”

[The Narrator takes a feed bin from the dairy barn area and places it on the center-stage ring curb to serve as a podium.]

The men eat, while I tell them Wayne Franzen’s story: His folks were poor Russian dairy farmers in northern Wisconsin. Wayne can remember the day his dad made him clean the barnyard in his bare feet because he didn’t want Wayne to get his new shoes dirty.

Farmers are close to their animals. Wayne told me, “On our small farm, we watered each individual calf with a pail.” Wayne taught their animals to do tricks. He trained a dairy cow to jump a bale of hay and take a bow. He taught a goat to climb a ladder. When Wayne showed his dad that he could juggle fresh eggs, his dad exploded. “Forget about circus! It is thing of the past! Think about something useful. Like lawyer or teacher.”

So Wayne went to college, where he majored in industrial arts education. But he had to write a paper for an English class on “What I Want To Do with My Life.” He decided to be honest and wrote that he always wanted to have a circus. His teacher called him in and said, “You should do this.”

Wayne got married right after college, and he and his wife, JoAnne, bought a farm. They never put the thermostat above 50 degrees because Wayne hadn’t had heat in the house growing up, and he was saving money for his circus. They ate pancakes for breakfast and mashed-potato sandwiches for lunch and dinner.

Wayne taught industrial arts—which is the perfect background for someone who’s going to start a circus. After school in the shop, Wayne built the ring curb, painted it bright blue, and wired it with red and yellow lights. And last summer, when one of our trucks broke down, he just crawled under and fixed it.

Wayne saved $25,000 teaching high school. When he saw a baby elephant advertised for sale in Amusement Business, the trade paper that circuses use, he called the number in Pakistan. He spoke to a Rajah and arranged to have the elephant flown to Boston and then on to Milwaukee. He took $8,000 from his savings to buy Okha, the elephant, and spent another $1,200 on her airfare. He and his brother met her at the Milwaukee airport and took her home in their pickup truck.

Wayne took another $12,000 and bought a big top from the Voorhies Brothers—a new circus that had gone broke after only two weeks the previous summer. And he bought an old Allied Van Lines trailer to haul his animals around in. My friends and I painted it bright blue and put his name across it in bright yellow: Franzen Bros. Circus!

And I am pleased to announce the Franzen Bros. Circus will present a brand-new act for the 1975 Minnesota tour: “Wayne Franzen and his Jungle Companion, Sophie the Tiger!” Wayne welded Sophie’s cage out of a stainless steel vent he bought from a McDonald’s. And he bought a corncrib to make into a steel arena for the tigers to perform in.

Gentlemen, we proved Wayne’s dad wrong! The circus is not a thing of the past! In fact, every town we played last year has asked us back!

And I am confident YOU will ask us back if you book the Franzen Bros. Circus!

Thank you. I have never before spoken to a group of men who were all wearing orange sports coats.

NARRATOR

[To camera.] I’ve just committed to driving to the Canadian border.

(End Scene 8)

SCENE 9

NARRATOR

A month later, I head west to Watertown, where I’m scheduled to be the guest speaker at a Kiwanis meeting. I’ve just had a wisdom tooth pulled.

Big flakes of soft snow pour out of the sky.

The men eat, while I tell them Wayne Franzen’s story:

LIZ

His folks were poor Russian dairy farmers in northern Wisconsin. Wayne trained a cow to jump a bale of hay and take a bow. He taught a goat to roll a barrel. His dad exploded. “Forget about circus! It is thing of the past!”

So Wayne went to college, where he majored in industrial arts education. But he had to write a paper for an English class on “What I Want To Do with My Life.” He decided to be honest and wrote that he always wanted to have a circus. His teacher called him in and said, “You should do this.”

After college, Wayne got married, and he and his wife bought a farm. But they never put the thermostat above 50 degrees. And they ate pancakes for breakfast and mashed-potato sandwiches for lunch and dinner.

Wayne taught industrial arts. After school in the shop, Wayne built the ring curb for the circus, painted it bright blue, and wired it with red and yellow lights.

Wayne saved $25,000 teaching high school. When he saw a baby elephant advertised for sale in Amusement Business, he called the number in Pakistan and spoke to a Rajah. He took $8,000 from his savings to buy Okha, the elephant, and spent another $1,200 on her airfare. He and his brother met her at the Milwaukee airport and took her home in their pickup truck.

Wayne spent $12,000 on a big top; he bought it from the Voorhies Brothers—a new circus that had gone broke after only two weeks the previous summer. And he bought an old Allied Van Lines trailer to haul his animals around in.

And I am pleased to announce the Franzen Bros. Circus will present a brand-new animal act for the 1975 Minnesota tour: “Wayne Franzen and his Jungle Companion, Sophie the Tiger!” Wayne welded Sophie’s cage out of a stainless steel vent he bought from a McDonald’s. And he bought a corncrib to make into a steel arena for the tigers to perform in.

Gentlemen, we proved Wayne’s dad wrong! The circus is not a thing of the past! In fact, every town we played last year has asked us back! And I am confident YOU will ask us back if you book the Franzen Bros. Circus!

Thank you. I have never before spoken to a group of men who were all wearing orange sports coats.


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