Interview with Madeline George '96, playwright of Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England

Madeleine talks about the origins of the play and the themes of queer love and alternative kinships. Madeleine George is a Cornell alumni class of '96, and the playwright of Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England. Madeleine chatted with us over Zoom from her home.

I'm Madeline George. I am a Cornell alum. I graduated in the class of 96 and I'm a playwright. I'm the playwright of Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England.

Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England is a comedy, first of all, about a May, December love triangle.

So it's about the Dean of a small liberal arts college who just as she's getting involved with a much, much younger girlfriend has to invite her ex-partner of many years to live with them because the ex-partner is sick.

And at the same moment on the campus of this liberal arts college, there's a small benighted, natural history museum, which the trustees have decided needs to close and go away so that they can put a new dorm in that space.

And that is, it creates unexpected friction in the community, and it causes a massive headache for the Dean who is the sort of protagonist of the play.

It's a convergence of a number of interests of mine, but it was initially sparked by the fact that in my small town, where there was a very sort of significant little college, there was a natural history museum on that campus that I used to go to constantly as a kid in which I loved.

It was so weird. It had mammoth skeletons, it had saber tooth tigers. It had a giant clam.

It had all these rocks and geodes, and yet it was very under visited and at a certain moment that college decided to, to close it and renovate that building and turn it into a, I believe into a dorm or another kind of building.

They preserved the artifacts and moved into a new space. But in my memory, when I learned that that music team was gonna be closed, I suddenly, because even though I hadn't visited for 20 years or something, I suddenly had this sense, like I have to, I have to take the bus back to my hometown and chain myself to the door.

Like it's so beautiful and special and nobody appreciates it. I have to protect it. I have to save it. And that impulse is sort of the germ of the play.

And it has its center, this queer kinship relationship between, and among these three women at very different points in their lives facing very different things who, even though they shouldn't make a family, make a family together.

And I think that that is something about queer life that I adore and cherish this idea that at the margins of society, where traditional methods of family forming aren't available to you, you have all the…you're, of course you're excluded.

And yet you also have like free reign to create whatever kinds of kinship structures you want.

The play was originally performed in 2011. This was 10 years ago now.

So, the marriage debate was different then, but, you know, I think for a lot of us gay marriage, wonderful as though it is, and significant though it is for a lot of people, you know, the risk or the downside is that it suppresses them, this, that kind of creativity and that, that openness, that had been available to queers because it was the thing, the only thing, the only way to make your, to make your families.

So I guess it's a little bit of a meditation on that. Like what good does marriage do, but also like, how might we, how might we alter those forms so that they can fit as many different configurations of love as exist.


Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England opens on November 12th at 7:30 p.m., with additional performances on November 13th, 19th, and 20th at 7:30 p.m. Seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis. The event is free and open to the public. Campus visitors and members of the public must adhere to Cornell’s public health requirements for events, which include wearing masks while indoors and providing proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test. 

*Please note the actors will perform without masks. All other crew and patrons will remain masked for the performance.

"Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England" is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of Samuel French, INC. WWW.CONCORDTHEATRICALS.COM

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Madeleine George