In 1903, Thomas Edison publicly electrocuted Topsy the elephant at Coney Island, in a demonstration of the “dangers” of alternating current. The event was filmed by Edison, later becoming a huge hit as the new ‘moving pictures’ were shown across the country.
So, how does one dramatize such a sad, momentous, and gruesome story from last century for the modern stage? In the case of Edison’s Elephant, playing as part of the Gilded Stage Festival at the Metropolitan Playhouse, you start with not one, but two talented playwrights — Chris Van Strander, and David Koteles.
Listen in as Chris and David discuss the circumstances that led them to join forces to write the play, the tension between exploitation and enjoying the fruits of that exploitation, and the similarities between Gilded Age and modern-day America.
“…everybody for the past few months has been asking me, ‘what’s your new play about?’ and I said, ‘it’s about Thomas Edison executing an elephant,’ and everybody sort of looks at me like, ‘what in the name of God are you talking about?’ And so if that piques your curiosity at all, you should definitely come down and see the show…”