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Agnes Under the Big Top - Full Length Play, Dramatic Comedy

Agnes Under the Big Top

Aditi Brennan Kapil

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Full Length Play, Dramatic Comedy

3m, 3f

ISBN: 9780573700880

Against the subterranean rhythms of a subway train, a Liberian home care worker, a former Bulgarian ringmaster and his wife, an Indian call center escapee, and a bed-ridden American woman, find and redefine themselves in today’s America.

More Information Below:

Description | Characters | Rental Materials | Media | Author | Reviews
: Acting Edition
: Large Print
: Stage Manager

Minimum Fee: $75 per performance


Full Length Play

Dramatic Comedy

90 minutes

Time Period - Contemporary

Settings Of Play - Interior of an apartment, a subway platform, and a subway train. The components of these locations are a bed, subway train, a pole, a window, doors, and seats.


Mime, No intermission, Physical Comedy, Play w/ Music

Cutting Approved for Competition

Unit Set/Multiple Settings, Bare Stage/Simple Set, Opportunity for Spectacle

Contemporary Costumes / Street Clothes


Alcohol, Drugs, Strong Language, Smoking


Adult, Senior, Teen (Age 14 - 18)


College Theatre / Student, Community Theatre, Professional Theatre, Reader's Theatre, Shoestring Budget, Large Stage, Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups

Agnes Under the Big Top: A Tall Tale explores the intersecting lives of several immigrants in a US city. It is a magical tale of hope and disappointment, identity and reinvention, narrated by an itinerant subway busker. Against the subterranean rhythms of a subway train, a Liberian home care worker, a former Bulgarian ringmaster and his wife, an Indian call center escapee, and a bed-ridden American woman, find and redefine themselves in today’s America.


"Rich in feeling, wide in scope, teeming with poetry and sprinkled with Bulgarian." - The New York Times

"...a tough and tender play...that is as graceful and evocative as trapeze artists flying through air with the greatest of ease." - Variety

"...Kapil has created a masterly matrix for what are essentially first-person short stories told by the five main characters...this lyrical, bittersweet play is a spirit-soaring experience." - Hartford Courant

Agnes Under the Big Top was commissioned by Mixed Blood Theatre, and selected as a NEA Distinguished New Play Development Project as part of the NEA New Play Development Program. The play was presented in a National New Play Network rolling world premiere at Mixed Blood Theatre (MN), Long Wharf Theatre (CT), and Borderlands Theatre (AZ). The play opened at The Mixed Blood Theatre, under artistic director Jack Reuler, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on February 18, 2011. It was directed by the author. The play opened at Long Wharf Theatre, under artistic director Gordon Edelstein, in New Haven, Connecticut, on March 9, 2011. It was directed by Eric Ting. The play opened at Borderlands Theatre in Tucson, Arizona, on February 9, 2012. It was directed by artistic director Barclay Goldsmith.



3m, 3f


Ensemble cast, Multicultural casting, Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle), Strong Role for Leading Woman (Star Vehicle), Parts for Senior Actors


No Chorus

AGNES - 30s; Liberian immigrant; Ella’s home care worker; tough and funny.
ELLA - American; white; a rheumatoid, bedridden woman; deformed and wooden, her fingers trapped in claws; prematurely aged.
ROZA - 40s; Bulgarian immigrant; speaks Bulgarian; Ella’s home care worker; silent except when addressing birds.
SHIPKOV - 40s; Bulgarian immigrant; Roza’s husband; drives a subway train; former ringmaster.
HAPPY - 20s; Indian; recently immigrated con artist; training as subway driver; smiles a lot.
BUSKER - plays an instrument on the subway platform; is all other voices/voiceovers; moves freely through time and space.
Rental Materials


N/A (Not a musical)


N/A (Not a musical)

  • Agnes Under the Big Top - Long Wharf Theatre promo

  • Actress Fancesca Choy-Kee discusses Agnes Under the Big Top

Aditi Brennan  Kapil

Aditi Brennan Kapil

Aditi Brennan Kapil is a playwright, actress, and director, of Bulgarian and Indian descent, raised in Sweden and currently residing in Minneapolis, MN. Her play Love Person, a four-part love story in Sanskrit, ASL, and English, has been produced to critical acclaim around the country and is published by Samuel French. It was developed during a Many Voices residency at the Playwrights' Center, ... view full profile

Other Aditi Brennan Kapil titles:

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Kati Frazier 5/12/2013 12:14 AM
Agnes Under The Big Top has rapidly become one of my favorite plays. Aditi Brennan Kapil does an impressive job of weaving together the stories of five very different Americans. As much a tale of the immigrant experience as the American one, Agnes Under The Big Top follows the ever universal story of searching for one’s place in the world. While Ella is straining to regain a human connection, Shipkov and Roza are struggling to be American while trying not to lose the magic of their old lives. That magic pervades the play, painting the absurdity of life with the colors of a sideshow. With a bit of circus magic, and the rhythm of the subway these characters all find themselves exploring their mortality. For some that means the end of their lives, for others that means a living death, in another case it’s a need for meaning, and in another it’s an attempt to find one’s place in a world surrounded by death. Agnes Under The Big Top is a play that asks difficult questions, and provides no easy answers. All the while the story is told with a beauty and magic, and tinged with a lightness and humor that makes this play truly memorable.

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