There’s a rumbling on the horizon…big footsteps…coming closer, and closer – It’s HERE ! The world premiere of CARDIFF will be presented during four performances in Decker Auditorium at Iowa Central Community College. Scheduled performances include Nov. 9 – 12 with Thurs., Fri. and Sat. evenings, beginning at 7:30 and a Sunday matinee set for 2:00. CARDIFF is the 39th annual production by the Fort Dodge based theatre troupe Comedia Musica Players. CARDIFF was written by local author Deann Haden-Luke and features the music of Karl L. King as adapted by Larry Mitchell.
Recently the Comedia Musica Players received notice they were awarded an Iowa Arts Council Organization Mini Grant for the production of CARDIFF. The world premiere of CARDIFF is now supported, in part, by the Iowa Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Iowa Arts Council aims to empower Iowa’s leaders in strengthening community life through the arts and provide leadership in stimulating a healthy arts environment. Their mission is to enrich the quality of life and learning in Iowa communities by encouraging excellence in the arts through leadership, grants and technical assistance. Funding for the Iowa Arts Council and its programs is provided by the State of Iowa and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
The Comedia Musica Players received an Organization Mini Grant, which is designated to support exemplary arts projects that benefit Iowa’s and the needs of Iowa communities. Collaborations and the exploration of new experiences for the audience are encouraged.
Additional generous support has been provided by the Catherine Vincent Deardorf Charitable Foundation and the Ann Smeltzer Charitable Trust, along with many other sponsors and advertisers.
To review the story, in 1868, a shrewd New York cigar maker named George Hull visited his sister in Ackley Iowa. He got involved in a heated argument with a traveling evangelist about whether there had actually been giants on the earth. He devised a scheme to fool the public. A large block of gypsum was quarried at Fort Dodge and sculpted into the likeness of a large human being. It was buried near Cardiff, New York, dug up one year later and proclaimed a fossilized giant. Viewers came from far and wide to pay a fee for a look at the giant. A few months later, the fraud was revealed, however, Hull had profited greatly by then. The scam was so lucrative, P.T. Barnum made his own petrified giant exhibit and charged admission.
While the musical is loosely based on the actual events, it is far from a documentary, Haden-Luke emphasized. I created characters to make the story into a colorful comedy. In the show, one of the first characters you meet is the spirit of the Cardiff Giant. He comes to life and acts as the narrator to guide the audience through the events. Cardiff is a very likeable song-and-dance man. In his opening song he sings about going from just a slab of stone to being the giant.
She went on to describe more characters and subplots of the show. George Hull is a smooth-talking con man, a bit of a rascal. He loves his wife Hannah but has become a bit insensitive. Hannah dreams of romance but George’s older sister Constance tries to keep her grounded. There’s George’s hayseed cousin Stubby who owns the farm where the Giant is buried. And Reverend Turk, a fast-talking evangelist who argues with George which gives him the idea to create the Giant.
Another character is Galusha Parsons the newly elected Iowa State Representative from Fort Dodge. Several accounts of the Cardiff Giant story note that Parsons was instrumental in unraveling the fraud and exposing the hoax. For the script, Haden-Luke created a courtroom scene full of comedy and chaos as the point where the hoax is revealed. And of course don’t forget P.T. Barnum who created his own giant - a fake of a fake.
Haden-Luke elaborated, The cast is doing a fantastic job of bringing these colorful folks to life. And keep in mind, there’s no video for them to watch; these are their imaginations at work. They’re a very creative group with great visionary skills. They’re enjoying the songs set to the music of Karl King – I chose the ragtime sounds along with waltzes, some more exotic marches and ballads. They’ve been surprised by the music. One performer even commented that he had no idea King wrote tunes with such a swing. Pair the cast performances with the great Karl King music and you have the makings of a very fun and entertaining evening.
“In 1868 they buried a secret…one year later they dug up the ‘greatest hoax of the 19th century.’” CARDIFF tickets are on sale now at Economy Print and Graphics in Fort Dodge and will also be available at the door.
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