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Drama Canadian


by (author) Sean Dixon

J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing
Initial publish date
Oct 2019
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2019
    List Price

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In the early fall of 1885, P.T. Barnum's Greatest Show on Earth toured southwestern Ontario, playing to sold-out crowds. On the bill, along with the snake charmer, the tightrope walkers, the contortionist, and the bearded lady, were 28 elephants, led by the world-renowned Jumbo. Between their stops in Guelph and London, the circus played the bustling railroad town of St. Thomas to standing ovations. But on that fateful night, as circus crews were packing up, an unscheduled freight train came hurtling down the track and ended the life of the most famous pachyderm in the world. A cast of larger-than-life characters brings the last performance of the legendary Jumbo to life.

About the author

Sean Dixon is a novelist and playwright, co-founder of the seminal 90s Winnipeg physical Theatre Company PRIMUS. His novels include The Girls Who Saw Everything (published in the UK as The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal) and The Many Revenges of Kip Flynn. His recent plays include Theatrefront's The Orange Dot, (which Toronto Star's Karen Fricker called a "finely nuanced observation of male-female interaction ... that is part triumph, part tragedy of wronged, vengeful women"), Blyth Festival's The Wilberforce Hotel (published by Scirocco, about a short-lived African American settlement in 1830's Ontario) and Tarragon Theatre's 'A God in Need of Help' , based on the true story of four strong men who were forced to carry a painting over the Alps in the early 17th Century (GG nominated for best new play). Upcoming is a play for the Tarragon (Orphan Song) about two different species of early humans involved in the elemental experience of adoption, and a children's picture book about a kid making a family tree.

Sean Dixon's profile page

Excerpt: Jumbo (by (author) Sean Dixon)


Surtitles: Friday, September 12, 1885. Then: Toronto.

(PT Barnum is getting his hair cut. His friend Henrietta Ward is waiting for him. The barber is Shack.)

BARNUM: I told them to give me their best barber and they sent me you.

SHACK: Yes, Mister Barnum, only the best for you, sir.

BARNUM: How does that get proved anyway?

SHACK: Oh, I'm visiting from out of town, sir. This way they don't have to argue among themselves.

BARNUM: So you're not the best barber then?

SHACK: Oh no, I am. You always want a barber who trained aboard ship, they got the steady hand.

BARNUM: You trained aboard ship.

SHACK: Steward on the Mississippi, Civil War.

BARNUM: For the South?

HENRIETTA: (Quick loud laugh.) For the North, Phineas. You're such a card.

BARNUM: (Laughs then returns to his questioning.) So where'd you come in from then, if you from outta town?

SHACK: From London, sir.

BARNUM: London. My elephant Jumbo comes from London too, have you seen him?

SHACK: I come in from London, Ontario, sir.


SHACK: Come to Toronto for a few days to mentor the young son of an old friend in the art of barbering.

BARNUM: London, Ontario. How do you get here from there? Horseback?

SHACK: Well sir, I'm just not sure that's a topic for a gentleman to discuss.

BARNUM: What, you mean me? I haven't been a gentleman going on sixty years now. I'm an old humbug.

SHACK: Well, if you say so. I'm a dingbat, Mr. Barnum.

BARNUM: A whatbat? A whobat?

SHACK: A dingbat, sir. I ride the rails. Cheapest way to travel if you don't get caught.

BARNUM: Ha! Well I'll be a gaycat. A dingbat? A dingbat. I always wanted to try that.

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