"This show examines what it means to be human and to feel all the things that humans feel and experience all the things that humans feel but have outsiders impose labels on you that make you essentially subhuman," says Trinity Street Players artistic director Ann Catherine Zárate of the musical Side Show.
"And so it plays with those ideas of 'Who's an insider? Who's an outsider? How do we all function together?' And ultimately, 'What does it mean to live in community and to feel and experience love and friendship?'"
Side Show is the story of Daisy and Violet Hilton, a pair of conjoined twins born in England in 1908 who would go on to become a sideshow and later vaudeville act in America. “It just follows their life and times,” says director Eric Vera. “It talks a lot about their childhood, how they grew up, the men that exploited them, and how they kind of coped with it and got through it together.”
Zárate plays Daisy, and Sarah Zeringue plays Violet. She says that playing sisters who are literally joined at the hip presents some unique challenges. “Ann and I have known each other for a long time, so that’s really, really great. I can’t imagine doing it with an actress who I don’t know,” she says. “The thing, I think, that as a performer is most challenging for me is that you can’t follow all of your natural instincts on stage. You can’t just move whenever you want to. Just keeping your balance sometimes is hard. We also dance conjoined.”
For all involved, acknowledging and respecting the Hilton’s humanity was paramount. “I just kept reminding everybody, ‘Remember that these were real people, so we need to take care of them like they were real people,” Vera says.
“They had the same emotions, they went through a lot of the same stuff [as me],” Zeringue says. “Of course, their life was a lot more difficult than my very privileged life. But it was easy to connect to [Violet].”
“[Side Show’s] main overarching theme is about trying to be like everybody else and wanting to be loved just like everybody else,” saysVera. “And it constantly brings up this question about who are considered ‘freaks’ -- and we use the word ‘freaks’ with quotation marks – and what makes us different. And those differences sometimes make us more similar than we can even imagine.”