A genre-bending performance work adapted from Nellie Bly’s ‘Ten Days in a Madhouse’

Told from the perspectives of two dueling versions of Nellie Bly competing for control of the story, nellie/nellie is a music-dance-theatre work featuring original music inspired by torch songs, turn of the century Americana, and chamber opera. Based on famed “stunt-girl” journalist Nellie Bly’s sensationalist 1887 exposé ‘Ten Days in a Madhouse,’ Antigravity transforms this text into an interdisciplinary work exploring the tension between yellow journalism and news-making for positive change.

Originally published serially, ‘Ten Days in a Madhouse’ lays bare the horrific treatment of the women imprisoned in the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island, known today as Roosevelt Island in New York’s East River (the asylum building is now a luxury apartment complex). nellie/nellie examines the achievements of the feminist ground-breaking stunt-girl journalists at the turn of the 20th century, the ethical quandaries of yellow journalism, and limitations of institutional systems of mental healthcare. The historical text is used in verbatim excerpts throughout the performance.


nellie/nellie was performed in a workshop production in the 2014 FringeArts Festival, Philadelphia PA, produced by Antigravity Performance Project in Broad Street Ministry’s historic Sanctuary space.


Co-Creators and Performers: Johanna Kasimow, Andalyn Young, Alex Kryger, Francesca Montanile, Ilse Torlin Zoerb, Alicia Crosby, Sara Vanasse, Michael Costagliola, and Michael T. Williams

Director – Michael T. Williams
Music, Lyrics, Orchestrations, Sound Design – Michael Costagliola
Additional Songs & Lyrics – Ned Riseley
Poet/Words – Kyle Dacuyan
Producer – Megan Thibodeaux
Media Director – Johanna Kasimov
Assistant Director/Lighting Designer – Noah Levine

“Extraordinary physical performances… The fearless dance ensemble rolls, leaps, collides, contorts, and slams into the walls and pillars of the Broad Street Ministry’s sanctuary… I was blinking back tears at the end.” – Broad Street Review

“Imagination and whimsy… Their balanced use of space and sounds left me with a maddening desire to see what’s next for Antigravity.” Phindie