Thursday, June 24, 2010

Circus Fire Documentary To Show at Twain House

Famed circus clown Emmett Kelly carries water during the fatal July 6, 1944,
Hartford Circus Fire. (Photo courtesy of Craig Hotchkiss.)

Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer would doubtless have welcomed the fanfare of a circus coming to town, but in Hartford during the darkest days of the Second World War, the anxiously awaited arrival of the “Greatest Show on Earth” turned from celebration to tragedy.

The Mark Twain House & Museum will mark the anniversary of Hartford’s 1944 circus fire on Tuesday, July 6, at 6:30 pm with an airing of the CPTV documentary on the Big Top tragedy, followed at 7:30 by a panel discussion between four authors whose recent work has focused on that terrible day. The evening will be free.

The panel for "Telling a Tragic Tale: Writers on the Hartford Circus Fire" includes novelist Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (Masters of Illusion); poet Paul Janeczko (Worlds Afire); and non-fiction authors Don Massey and Rick Davey, who traced the mystery of “Little Miss 1565,” a girl whose body had never been identified, in A Matter of Degree. The program moderator will be Kathy Maher, Executive Director of the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport. There will be a book signing after the program.

The Hartford Circus Fire of 1944, a production of Connecticut Public Television, uses original footage, photographs, and witness interviews that recall the horrors of the fire, the search for its cause, and the impact of the tragedy on the community and the circus industry.

An exhibition of circus memorabilia, presented by Curatorial Assistant Jeff Mainville, will also be on display in the Great Hall during the program and through July.

The entire evening will be free to the public as part of a collaboration with the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Conn., that jointly commemorates the Centennial of Mark Twain’s death and the Bicentennial of P. T. Barnum’s birth. The collaboration is funded by a grant from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism.

The event is one in the museum’s continuing series of Mark Twain 2010 Centennial Celebration events . The Hartford Financial Group, Inc., is the Mark Twain House & Museum’s Centennial Sponsor.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced
numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont
Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.”

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway
League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill
Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at She
is editor of The award-winning Connecticut Arts Connection (,

She is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Contributing Editor for, Connecticut theater editor
for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web. Yarger is a book reviewer and writer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented
by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle (awards committee).

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts,
the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

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