In 1858, Charles Darwin struggles to finish “On The Origin of Species” and give the world his theory of natural selection. Meanwhile, Alfred Russel Wallace has come up with the exact same theory.

Play title:  TRUMPERY

Author (s): Peter Parnell

Publisher: Dramatists Play Service Inc.

Publication Date: 2009

Genre: Drama

Primary Discipline: Biology           

Secondary Discipline: Evolutionary Theory

Scientist (s): Charles Darwin, Joseph Dalton Hooker, Thomas Huxley, Richard Owen and Alfred Russel Wallace.

Source Texts: The Song of Dodo by David Quammen, A Delicate Arrangement by Arnold Brackman, Darwin biographies Voyaging and The Power of Place by Janet Browne, Darwin by Adrian Desmond, Annie’s Box by Randal Keynes, The Reluctant Mr. Darwin by David Quammen, Afred Russel Wallace by Peter Raby, In Darwin’s Shadow by Michael Shermer, The Heretic in Darwin’s Court by Ross A. Slotten, Biologist Philosopher by Wilma George, Darwin’s Moon by Annabel Ellis, Huxley by Adrian Desmond, Ghost Hunter by Deborah Blum, The Dragon Seekers by Christopher McGowan and Father and Son by Edmund Gosse.

Character Breakdown: Darwin, George, Emma, Hooker, Annie, Girl, Owen/Williams, Huxley, Wallace, Vicar/Protester

Setting: Act One:  Down House, England .  A weekend in June, 1858.   Act Two:  Three years later.  A weekend in October.

Time Period: 1958 and 1961

Synopsis of Play: In 1858, Charles Darwin struggles to finish “On The Origin of Species” and give the world his theory of natural selection, while coping with family illness and his own impending loss of faith. Meanwhile, halfway across the world, Alfred Russel Wallace, a brilliant but virtually unknown explorer and Utopian socialist, has come up with the exact same theory. The one person he sends his abstract to is Charles Darwin claim property? And what will happen if he doesn’t finish his own book in time? Vibrantly comic and deeply moving, TRUMPERY examines what it means to live in a Darwinian universe from the points of view of the men who discovered the idea.

First Performance Date: 14 November 2007

First Producer: Atlantic Theater Company

Performance History:  TRUMPERY was produced by Atlantic Theatre Company (Neil Pepe, Artistic Director; Andrew D. Hamingson, Managing Director).  It was directed by David Esbjornson: the set design was by Santo Loquasto; the costume design was by Jane Greenwood; the lighting design was by James F. Ingalls; the sound design was by Obadiah Eaves.


Entered by: Denise Gillman / Brook Sanders

Photo Source: Manoel Felciano, left, as Wallace and Michael Cristofer as Darwin. By Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
Photo Source: Michael Cristofer, left, as Darwin and Bianca Amato as Emma. By Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

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