GARDINER – The Open Book Players will present the world premier performance of “Worlds Afire,” written by Maine author and poet Paul B. Janeczko, Feb. 9, 10 and 11 at Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center.

This literary work is based on the tragic but true event of the July 6, 1944, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus fire in Hartford, Conn. During the afternoon performance on that fateful day, fire broke out in one corner of the big top and spread quickly, leaving 168 people dead, mostly women and children, and more than 500 injured in a matter of minutes.

“More than anything else, I wanted to give a voice to the people whose lives were forever changed by the fire. And to give those who perished a chance to speak as well,” said Janeczko, explaining his purpose and inspiration for writing this production.

The cast includes several familiar and talented local actors: Frank Omar, Dan Duniho, and Bob McIntire, all of Hallowell; Mike Clements and Peg Acheson, Gardiner; Judith Chase, Monmouth; Chris Chivington, Pittston; Cindy Turcotte, Bowdoinham; and Gwenyth Fraser, Litchfield. Duniho is also the music director and composer of some original music being introduced for this production.

“Worlds Afire” is directed by Walter R. Stump, Ph.D., theater professor and published playwright from the University of Southern Maine. Stump is assisted by Lucy Rioux, artistic director of the Open Book Players. The show crew includes Lyn Ballou of Winthrop, Katie MacLagan of Litchfield, and Robert and Kay Demers of Gardiner.

There will be a reception after the Feb. 9 performance, an opportunity to meet the author for a brief question-and-answer session.

Reservations are recommended for all three performances.

Go and see

WHAT: “Worlds Afire”

WHO: Open Book Players

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 9-10, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11

WHERE: Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center in Gardiner

TICKETS: $7 for adults, $5 for students and seniors

CALL: 582-5717