Sofiya Cheyenne: The Extraordinary Participants of Coney Island Side-Shows
Sofiya Cheyenne shares and personally responds to an article detailing the extraordinary (stolen, bought, cajoled) participants of Coney Island side-shows in the 1900s. Sofiya’s source material: Coney Island – Freaks & Shows ((c) 1997 by Jeffrey Stanton) Excerpt: “While P.T. Barnum elevated the ballyhoo of exhibiting side show circus freaks to an art, it was the arrival of Samuel W. Gumpertz at Coney that brought the freak show to the seashore. Gumpertz, a successful Missouri showman, came to the island at the behest of Senator Reynold’s to build and manage a Midget City called Lilliputia for Dreamland’s 1904 opening season. He invited 300 midgets scattered across the continent at various World’s Fairs and circus sideshows to be the permanent residents of an experimental community. The most famous of the residents were the Count and Countess Magri. The countess had achieved her fame years earlier during her first marriage to the beloved midget, General Tom Thumb. Lilliputia was built to half scale to resemble 15th century Nuremberg Germany. The midgets had their own parliament, own Midget Fire Department that responded hourly to false alarms, and their own beach complete with midget lifeguards. While they entertained patrons during the day, they had their own lives and community when the park was closed…”
Sofiya Cheyenne is a Performing Artist, Teaching Artist and Disability Advocate/Consultant. She has appeared on TV shows such as TrueTV’s “At Home With Amy Sedaris”, Netflix’s “StartUP” and Amazon’s “Loudermilk.” Her favorite theatre credits include The Briefly Dead at 59E59, Other World at Bucks County Playhouse, and Guys and Dolls at Theater Under The Stars. Sofiya strongly believes in using the arts as a way to challenge societal norms. She continually invests herself & creates projects that open peoples’ minds to know people with disabilities can have an equal chance on the stage, television and film. She has co written a play “The Gene Lottery” with Kristy Dodson and has played actor, writer, producer and director in two films of her films; “You’re Up” and “Inspiring Women” as part of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. All of her projects hope to break barriers, create social change and amplify the little person’s experience. Sofiya is a passionate educator and public speaker, she has been teaching theatre arts throughout New York City for over 10 years. Sofiya is also the Inclusion Director of Little People of America, Co-Chair of The Dwarf Artist Coalition and part of the Access Advisory Council for ART NY and Disability Working Group with the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers. In all of her work she continually advocates for people of short stature and disabilities on and off the stage.