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The Great Whorehouse Fire of 1921 by Linda Wood Edwards

A Christmas Carol – Keyano Theatre Company
Photo Credits

True story re-imagined about an enterprising madame and a town matron. A story passed down in local histories, of a group of townswomen who banded together to defend their families by burning down the brothel. 

Genre: Drama

Acts: One

Time: 60 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.


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.

Royalties: Yes

Productions: This drama with comedic themes (or comedy with dramatic themes) was first produced at the 2018 Edmonton Fringe. Linda Grass starred as Smith, and Sue Huff Starred as Hastings, with David Cheoros directing. The run was produced by Maa & Paa Theatre, which focuses on stories from Alberta’s history. All eight performances were sold out.

The Great Whorehouse Fire of 1921  2018
Linda Wood Edwards

Playwright Bio: 
Linda has been producing her plays since 2005. She is delighted that Northern Light Theatre did the first professional run of The Great Whorehouse Fire of 1921 in November 2021 (co-written w/David Cheoros for Edmonton Fringe 2018). Other plays include Three Nights to Forever (2020), Trail and Error (2016), Spring Alibi (Adelaide AU 2015; 2005, 2014; Washington DC 2006; Yukon 2007; Sask. 2012); Never Let the Crew See You Cry (2013+tour), Four in the Crib (2012, 2013, High River 2018), True Grid (2007, 2010), Support Ho’s (2009), Beans & Rice (2006, Sask. 2017), Gibberish v. Genius (Canmore, YEG 2018), and Almost the Pioneer Brewing Company (Canmore, YEG, Fort McMurray 2018). Linda’s plays have garnered sweet accolades including two Sterling nominations.

David Cheorosw co-produces MAA & PAA Theatre with Karen Simonson; bringing hidden gems of Alberta history to the stage. Past MAA & PAA productions include: Letters from Battle River (toured Alberta); Witch Hunt at the Strand (expanded and presented to acclaim by Workshop West Theatre); Bible Bill: A Gospel Musical; Never Let the Crew See You Cry (selected by Theatre Alberta to tour the province); and Invisible Child (Ringwood Award for outstanding new Albertan play).

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