FAME & INFAMY by Lisa Coleman-Brown
In the madcap days of turn of the 20th century Vaudeville and the slapstick world of the Silent Silver Screen the beloved, rotund yet dainty, actor comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle comes to enjoy world renown. While he from boyhood achieves fame, Virginia Rappe from girlhood craves fame. Starting out as an artist’s model she is soon groomed into the world of prostitution by the evil madame, Maude Delmont, who uses Virginia as bait for tipsy millionaires set up for blackmail shakedowns. Fame turns to infamy when Roscoe’s and Virginia’s paths cross at a 1921 boozy party during the days of prohibition. Virginia takes sick, her bladder ruptures following an earlier illegal backstreet abortion, and she subsequently dies. The press has a field day vilifying Roscoe as rumours swirl accusing him of raping and squashing Virginia to death during the act. Infamy, resulting in a Hollywood sex scandal of 1920’s cancel culture, prevails and his career is destroyed in spite of two jury acquittals.
A “cast of thousands” featuring the likes of the Great Houdini, Buster Keaton, and Pancho Villa, the 62 characters can be played by as few as 8 actors, the maximum number appearing in any scene.
Keywords: large cast, historical drama, cancel culture, vaudeville, silent movies, Fatty Arbuckle, Virginia Rappe, Hollywood 1920s sex scandal
Run time: 60 minutes
Suitable for students 16+
Content note: Prostitution and blackmail is portrayed, abortion is alluded to and causes the main female character Virginia's death, whose rape and murder is rumoured to have occurred during an illegal prohibition party with alcohol consumption - 1920s cancel culture.
Cast size: 8 - 62
Male roles: 46
Female roles: 16
Musician roles: 1
Casting note: Cast includes 2 Mexican and 2 Chinese characters. Several roles can be played by males or females. The play can be performed by 8 actors: 5 males, 3 females. One female character Guitar Girl strums guitar and sings, the main character Roscoe sings opera and operetta songs.
Cover art by Bonnie Ouellet-Mathieu