The Living

Play title: The Living

Author (s):  Anthony Clarvoe

Publisher: Theatre Communications Group

Publication Date: Dec.1993

Genre: Drama

Primary Discipline: Medicine

Secondary Discipline: Mathematics (statistics) 

Scientist (s) and Historical Figures:

Dr. Harmon – Physician

Thomas Vincent – Minister. During the Plague years, Vincent was very active in his parish and preached daily. His sermons were often very graphic and came from his own loss of family during the plague. During these years he produced the A Spiritual Antidote for a Dying Soul

Sir. John Lawrence – Lord Mayor of London 1664-1665. After working as an alderman in the city of London, a Sheriff of London, and Master fo the Haberdashers company Sir John Lawrence was knighted in 1660 and elected Lord Mayor in 1664. During the Bubonic Plague he was one of the few mayors who stayed in the city of London with his alderman and sheriffs to provide ‘Plague Orders’ and to try and slow the spread of infection.

John Graunt – English Statistician. Known as the ‘True Father of Statistics’, Graunt studied the death records provided by the city of London. He noted patterns and determined life expectancy and survivorship with his creation of the ‘Life Table’. With this knowledge he was able to accurately predict the number of deaths the plague would take. He was also able to determine how the plague spread.

Source Texts:

The events that took place in London in 1665 have survived thanks to the extraordinary testimony left by Captain John Graunt, Nathaniel Hodges, M.D., Sir John Lawrence, the Reverend Dr. Simon Patrick, Mr. Samuel Pepys and the Reverend Dr. Thomas Vincent, and to a remarkable act of historical imagination, Daniel Defoe’s novel A Journal of the Plague Year. This script owes a handful of sentences, and its existence, to them.”

Journal of the Plague Year:

Character Breakdown:

Mr. John Graunt, early 30s. A scientist.
Mrs. Sarah Chandler, late 20s. A shopkeeper’s wife.
Dr. Edward Harman, mid-30s. A physician.
Mrs. Elizabeth Finch, early 40s. A Searcher of the Dead.
Sir John Lawrence, late 40s. Lord Mayor. A merchant.
Lord Brounker, early 50s. A cavalier.
Rev. Dr. Thomas Vincent, 30s. A nonconformist minister.
Man 1, 20s: Mr. Sawyer, a cabinetmaker. Paul, a shopkeeper. First Constable Lawrence’s Clerk Robert, a smith. 

Man 2, 30s: Mr. Mills, a minister. Second Constable Brounker’s Clerk Andrew, a shopkeeper.
Man 3, 40s: Dr. Goddard, a physician. Jamey, a watchman. Bill, a farmer.’

(Character Breakdown provided by playscript)

Setting: London, England

Time Period: 1665

Synopsis of Play: 

London, 1665. In the midst of a terrifying and inexplicable epidemic that will ultimately kill over 20% of the city’s population, a handful of residents struggle to respond to the cataclysm that threatens to engulf them. Heartbreaking, bitterly funny, and deeply moving, The Living celebrates the power of courage and compassion to combat a climate of overwhelming fear and darkness.”


First Performance: Denver Center of the Performing Arts dir. Nagle Jackson

Funders/Sponsors: Alton Jones Foundation, and a grant from the Fund for American Plays 

First Producer: Upstart Stage, the Playwright’s Center, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Performance History: 

The Living was developed through readings at Upstart Stage, the Playwrights’ Center and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and workshops at Mark Taper Forum’s 1991 New Work Festival, Carnegie Mellon’s 1992 Showcase of New Plays, Kenyon College, and Denver Center Theatre Company’s U S West TheatreFest ’92. The world-premiere production of the play was presented by Denver Center Theatre Company with the help of an award for New American Plays from the W. Alton Jones Foundation and a grant from the Fund for New American Plays. The production was directed by Nagle Jackson and opened on May 3, 1993. The Living was also presented by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and premiered there in March 23, 1994.”

(Performance History provided by playscript) 


Entered by: Anna Galanides

Photo/Visual Research with citations

Dartmouth Theater Department Photography by Eli Burakian 

Photographs from the Denver Center Theater Company premier performance in 1993 provided by Playwright, Anthony Clarvoe.
Denver Center Theatre Company, 1993
Denver Center Theatre Company, 1993
Denver Center Theatre Company, 1993

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