"Trace a lie to its beginnings and you might find the truth."

On September 11, 1916, in St Paul, Virginia, a hotel worker named Red Eldridge was hired as an assistant elephant trainer by the Sparks World Famous Shows circus. The next day, in Kingsport, Tennessee, he was killed by Mary, a five-ton Asian elephant.

The details of the aftermath are confused in a maze of sensationalism and folklore. What is known, is that on the following day a crowd of over 2500 people assembled atop the Clinchfield Railroad Yard to watch Mary hang.

The story of why and how Mary died is now obscured by time and countless retelling: an
example of the best and worst of oral history. It is tragic, absurd, excessive and quintessentially theatrical.

At a time when ‘spectacle’ executions in the U.S. drew crowds of up to twenty thousand, this bizarre event serves as a crucible in which to study the convergence of justice and theatre - and a reckoning with the true nature of punishment: rehabilitation, restitution or retribution?

Clinchfield: A Tale of Good Citizens combines direct address with dialogue, scenes described as well as depicted on stage. Soliloquies are interspersed with choral scenes, humour set off against pathos, fact mixed with fiction and conflicting truths juxtaposed to shape a story, not only about Mary, but the nature of storytelling itself.

  • ensemble
  • 100
  • 7 total
  • 3 female identifying, 4 male identifying
  • young people
  • 16 to 18, 18+
  • teen, young adult, adult
  • Australian Script Centre


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Sarah Bailey

Female | 20s | under 3 minutes
Starts on page 21

EXTRACT: Look at that. Disgusting. Little varmints stealing into my pantry, eating our food then leaving behind their little black calling cards. I tell Carl but he doesn’t even care. He just sits there, stone-faced, nursing his drink til I want to slap him. “Say something!”

Joan Thatcher

Female | 20s | under 3 minutes
Starts on page 26

EXTRACT: Past eight and I’m still lying in. Vern is at work. Baby’s sleepin in the crib. Lloyd must be playing outside, probly doing something filthy. Day looks miserable. Clouds bloated up and angry like they trying to suffocate the sun. I watch a mosquito hover by the window and think about all the things I got to do today. The thought of bending over a tub, scrubbing tar out of Vern’s overalls - I don’t know why I bother. Not when he’ll just come home the next day looking the same.


Documentation of Caleb Lewis' body of work.

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