Elgin County Heritage Centre hosts a panel on Blyth Festival’s production of Jumbo, May 16 at 2 pm

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Go behind the scenes at the Festival and meet playwright Sean Dixon, director Gil Garratt, set and costume designer Eric Bunnell and Gemma James Smith – builder of the life-sized Jumbo puppet.

The production will be “every bit as big as its subject,” says Bunnell, who enjoyed the challenge of designing the sets and costumes.

In the early fall of 1885, P.T. Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth toured South Western Ontario, playing to sold out crowds. On the bill, among the snake charmer, the aerialists, the tightrope walkers, the contortionists, and the famous bearded lady, Annie Jones, were 28 elephants led by the world renowned Jumbo.

Between their stops in Guelph and London, Barnum’s circus played the bustling railroad city of St. Thomas, Ontario to standing ovations. But on that fateful night, when the circus cars were being packed back up, an unscheduled freight train, travelling unbreakably fast through the railyard, ended the career, and the life, of the biggest superstar in the world.

A cast of larger-than-life characters, including PT Barnum himself, Matthew Scott the elephant trainer, the bearded Annie Jones, and a world-famous taxidermist, fill this riveting play that brings a Jumbo-sized Ontario history to life, memorializing the legendary final performance of the most famous pachyderm the world has ever known.

This panel discussion will give people the inside scoop about how the play was put together; what the playwright’s intent was when he wrote it and how his vision is carried forward by the creative team.

Elgin County Heritage Centre, 460 Sunset Drive, 519-631-1460 ext. 193 elgincounty.ca

This event is part of Blyth Festival’s Deeper Roots Series of events in celebration of 45 seasons of producing plays, including more than 135 world premieres.

Series Co-Sponsors: NWMO and Township of North Huron

Media Sponsor: Rural Voice

Partner: Huron County Economic Development

Photo: The Death of Jumbo on the Railroad in St. Thomas, Ontario, from The Daily Graphic, New York, September 18, 1885, on loan to the Elgin County Heritage Centre from Steve Peters.