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The Great Whorehouse Fire of 1921 (rev.) by Linda Wood Edwards

A Christmas Carol – Keyano Theatre Company
Photo Credits

A historical drama told with humor and heart.

Big Valley, Alberta. An enterprising madame establishes a brothel, leading to conflict and unexpected friendship with a town matron. Tension turns to crisis when the brothel is burned down. This true story is re-imagined with wit, sarcasm, and really good wigs.

Genre: Dramatic comedy

Acts: One

Time: 70 minutes

Characters: 2 female

Florence Smith: owner of a boarding house that specializes in pregnant single girls 
Isobel Hastings: owner and proprietor of the Brothel

Setting: Big Valley, AB.

Mrs. Smith (Twilla MacLeod) and Mrs. Hastings (Sue Huff) get to know each other. Northern Light Theatre. Photo by Ian Jackson.


From the December 29, 1921 Big Valley News — Big Blaze near Big Valley — A house occupied and owned by a woman named Hastings who was living a mile and a half north of town was totally destroyed by fire at 4:30am on Monday morning. The cause of the fire is unknown. The occupants had a very narrow escape, as when they awoke the house was full of smoke and fire. Nothing was saved and the loss is estimated at $4,000. [about $50,000 in contemporary funds]. The Hastings woman and another person who was staying with her had to walk into town clad only in night attire with blankets over them, and had a terrible time from cold and exposure. The police are investigating the affair.

But there was no investigation, no charges laid. Hastings disappears from annals of Big Valley, Alberta. A story passed down in local histories, of a group of townswomen who banded together to defend their families by burning the brothel to the ground. But we found no records linking the action to any specific women. So we made this up. the play dives into this seamy, darkly funny story, pushed to the fringes of mainstream history. Moving beyond the stereotypes, we look at the uneasy intertwining of prostitution and “proper” society, and the ways that women support and sabotage each other. This historical drama is laced with humour and heart.

Royalties: Yes

Productions: The Great Whorehouse Fire of 1921 premiered at the Edmonton Fringe in 2018, co written by Linda Wood Edwards and David Cheoros and produced by Maa & Paa Theatre. The play’s first professional run was by Northern Light Theatre in November 2021.

The Great Whorehouse Fire of 1921  2021
Linda Wood Edwards

Playwright Bio:

Linda is thrilled that Northern Light Theatre opened their season with The Great Whorehouse Fire of 1921.
Linda has been producing her plays at the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival and beyond since 2005. The Great Whorehouse Fire of 1921 premiered in 2018 as a MAA and PAA Theatre (David Cheoros) production. Select plays include Three Nights to Forever (Edmonton 2019), Trail and Error (Edmonton 2016), Spring Alibi (Adelaide AU 2015; Edmonton 2005, 2014; Washington DC 2006; Yukon 2007; Saskatchewan 2012); Four in the Crib (2012, 2013, High River 2018), True Grid (2007, 2010), Support Ho’s (2009), Gibberish v. Genius (Canmore, Edmonton 2018), and Almost the Pioneer Brewing Company (Canmore, Edmonton, Fort McMurray 2018). Linda’s plays have garnered some sweet accolades including two Sterling nominations.


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