Letters from the Epidemic
Goat in the Road Productions
About the project
In 1878 nearly one out of twelve New Orleanians died from an outbreak of Yellow Fever. The cases trickled in through the early months of summer before turning into a flood of deaths. Through a combination of creative practice and rigorous historical research, "Letters from the Epidemic" will bring to life the 1878 New Orleans yellow fever epidemic in order to explore our society’s response to public health emergencies.
"Letters from the Epidemic" is a collaboration between the Louisiana State Museum (LSM) and New Orleans theater company Goat in the Road Productions (GRP). The piece builds on a previous collaboration, The Stranger Disease (2018), an immersive theatrical performance set in 1878 and performed at Madame John’s Legacy. Madame John’s Legacy is a historic home owned and operated by the LSM in New Orleans’ French Quarter. The Stranger Disease followed seven main characters who lived in, or orbited around, the house as they contended with the epidemic and the rapidly changing ‘color line’ of the time. Stranger won four Big Easy Theatre Awards (including Best Play), as well as a 2019 History in Progress Award from the AASLH Leadership in History Awards, and an Award of Excellence.
In "Letters from the Epidemic", actors playing characters from The Stranger Disease will read based-in-history fictional letters that, when brought together, form a tapestry of experiences of a diverse group of 19th century New Orleanians in the midst of the epidemic. The story revolves around an interracial couple, Adeline Stringer and Joe Mathis, who are torn apart by the disease and the times. Although the characters will be fictional composites, they are based on real histories.