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Polly of the Circus (1907 play)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Polly of the Circus
A scene from "Polly of the Circus" (SAYRE 12078).jpg
Mabel Taliaferro in the play (publicity photo)
Written byMargaret Mayo
Date premieredDecember 23, 1907
Place premieredLiberty Theatre
Original languageEnglish
SubjectAfter a circus performer is injured, she falls in love with the local pastor
SettingIn a small mid-western town at a parsonage and a circus

Polly of the Circus was a 1907 Broadway play by Margaret Mayo which starred Mabel Taliaferro and was produced by Taliaferro's husband, Frederic Thompson.[1] A circus girl/minister love story known for its drama and its spectacle staging, the cast also included Edith Taliaferro, Herbert Ayling, Joseph Brennan, Mattie Ferguson, John Findlay, Guy Nichols, Ida St. Leon and Malcolm Williams.


Polly, a star bareback rider in a circus, is injured during a performance. The circus leaves town and she is left behind to convalescence at a local minister's house. During her 11-month stay they fall in love but the disapproval of the town folk causes Polly to rejoin the circus. A month later the circus comes back to town and the minister goes to it in search of Polly. This third act of the play recreates an actual circus on stage, complete with animals, during which the lovers reunite. The final star lit tableau scene has the lovers together watching lights of the circus wagons as they disappear over the hills.[2][3]


Action takes place in a small mid-western town.[4]

Act I
  • Scene 1: The minister's study at night
  • Scene 2: A bedroom above the study the next morning
Act II
  • Rear garden of parsonage eleven months later
Act II
  • Scene 1: Behind the scenes at the circus tent.
  • Scene 2: During the circus
  • Scene 3: At night in an empty circus lot


Margaret Mayo wrote Polly of the Circus as a novel and adapted it into three act play (her first) for the stage.[5] It was brought to the stage by amusement entrepreneur and showman Frederic Thompson, who previously had been the creator of many world's fair attractions as well as Coney Island's Luna Park and the New York Hippodrome. Thompson had married stage actress Mabel Taliaferro the previous year and produced Polly of the Circus as star vehicle for her.[6][7] The sets and elaborate spectacles seen on stage were designed by Thompson and built at his Luna Park workshops.[8]

In performance

The play opened in New York on December 23, 1907 at the Liberty Theatre at 242 West 42nd Street and was a success, running for 160 performances until May 1908. After that it went on the road and was duplicated into several productions. During its run "Polly" was not only played by Mabel Taliaferro, but also by her sister Edith Taliaferro, and by Fay Wallace.[9]

Film adaptations

In 1917 silent film version of Polly of the Circus was produced by Samuel Goldwyn starring Mae Marsh. Marion Davies and Clark Gable starred in a 1932 version of Polly of the Circus directed by Alfred Santell for MGM.


  1. ^ Polly of the Circus as produced on Broadway at the Liberty Theater, December 23, 1907, 160 performances;
  2. ^ The Bellman, Volume 10, 1911, page 122
  3. ^ "At the Theaters: 'Polly of the Circus'". The Morning Oregonian. February 13, 1911. p. 4.
  4. ^ Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar. Part 598: – “Polly of the Circus”
  5. ^ Sandusky Star-Journal, Sandusky, Ohio, 28, 1907, page 8
  6. ^ Woody Register, The Kid of Coney Island: Fred Thompson and the Rise of American Amusements, Oxford University Press - 2003, page 216
  7. ^ "Fred Thompson Marries. Head of Thompson & Dundy Weds Miss Mabel Taliaferro". New York Times. December 1, 1906.
  8. ^ Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar. Part 598: – “Polly of the Circus”
  9. ^ Evening Star, Washington, D.C., December 13, 1908, page 27

External links

This page was last edited on 10 December 2020, at 14:43
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