The Unfortunates




In Development



About Us



The Unfortunates

Based on the provocative, poignant, true story of Mary Jane Kelly,
Jack the Ripper's final victim.

Mary walks into the Ten Bells pub, looking to sell her last possession. Instead of finding a bar full of regulars, there is only one lone stranger. Will he buy what she's selling, ensuring her safety? Or will he turn out to be Jack the Ripper…

The Unfortunates, winner of the 2010 Susan Glaspell Award, received its world premiere in 2012 at Centenary Stage Company. The critically-acclaimed play made its New York premiere at the 2013 New York International Fringe Festival. After overwhelming praise for the FringeNYC run, including a being named a Critics' Pick by Time Out NY and a sold out run, The Unfortunates was invited to extend into Fringe Encores: SOLO IN THE CITY at the Baruch Performing Arts Center.

Audiences are drawn to the now age-old, tawdry tale of the first serial killer cum tabloid celebrity, and leave with the surprising true story of his victims. From the world premiere's talkback series, audience members drew parallels to the subjugation of women internationally and domestically, universal fears of victimization, and media coverage of violent crime. Janine M. Torsiello of Morrisbeats noted in her review: "A highlight of that talk-back came when a woman in the audience thanked the playwright, Aoise Stratford, for giving the women who were the Ripper's victims back their lives. Indeed she did that very well, and because of that, this is a production not to be missed."


From Aoise Stratford, Playwright

I first came to this material almost by accident when I was working on a scene for another play. I knew about Jack the Ripper of course, who didn't? But I hadn't thought I'd write about it. When I read the list of things that had been found on Catherine Eddowes body, her thimbles, and spoons, and pipes and pennies, I felt then, as I still feel now, a profound sense of wonder and sadness.

That was what drew me initially to the story; that inventory somehow brought Cath Eddowes into three dimensions for me in a way I couldn't shake loose. So much that is written about these women is really about "Jack" – a person who, paradoxically we still don't really know anything about. But, I thought, we know who these women are. Or, better put, we might yet know who they were.

I started to worry at it then: dog at a bone. What might it mean, not to die this way, but to live this way? What might truly matter? What kind of culture makes celebrities of people once they've been murdered, but ignores them when they're alive? How can we put a life back together from such trinkets? And what might we learn in the process of trying? Then the Virginia Tech shootings happened and the papers went to town with details about the victims' deaths and what the killer had eaten for breakfast. Something in the horror, fear, and pervasive morbid fascination of that story made it possible for me to sit down at last and write this one.

This play doesn't want to be overly romantic about sex workers in Victorian London; the truth is many of them were vagrants; alcoholics, in and out of trouble with the police. But it is also the case that Mary Jane Kelly could read and write and liked to sing. Cath Eddowes had a sense of humor and could sew. I would like us to see that side too. So in a sense this play hopes in some small way to recognize these women—and the many others who have vanished into obscurity—and to explore the still relevant questions of how social attitudes and conditions shaped both their lives and our reaction to their loss.

The Creative Team

Diana Cherkas (Mary Jane Kelly)
Diana Cherkas originated the role of Mary Jane Kelly and her entourage at Centenary Stage Company in 2012, having performed in the Women Playwrights Series reading in 2010. Diana also had the honor of originating the roles of Lucy in Left Handed Hofner (American Globe Theatre); Lucy in Haunted House (Audax Theatre Group); Lady Anne in The Dueling Princess (Estrogenius Festival); Margaret in The Naked People Play (Mobtown Theater, published in 2007 Best Ten-Minute Plays). Other regional theatre credits include: Loose Knit, the American premiere of A Laughing Matter (Centenary Stage Company); Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 (Bickford Theatre); All's Well That Ends Well, Macbeth (Baltimore Shakespeare Festival); Rough Magic (Rorschach Theatre); Sherlock's Secret Life (Pioneer Playhouse). TV/Film: I'd Kill For You; A Haunting; Incredible Human Machine; My Little Demon; Mudvayne: Nexus.Life.Death; Modern Love is Automatic, Nightwing:Escalation.

Aoise Stratford (Playwright)
Aoise Stratford's work has had more than 100 productions in ten countries world-wide. She is the recipient of several playwriting awards for full-length plays and has been nominated for an American Theatre Critics’ Association New Play/Steinberg Award for Somewhere In Between. She won the Susan Glaspell Award for The Unfortunates, which was also a Time Out NY Critics Pick and touted as one of Backstage’s ten shows not to miss at the NY Fringe Festival. The Solo Chicago production of The Unfortunates resulted in a Jeff Award nomination for best solo performance. Her short plays have also won her numerous ‘best playwright’ awards and been produced at Looking Glass Theatre, City Theatre, Lakeshore Players, Stage Door, The American Globe, Manhattan Theatre Source, The Kitchen Theatre Company, The Exit Theater and many others. She has been a finalist for the Actors’ Theatre of Louisville’s Heideman Award and had several short plays published in anthologies. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild, and is represented by Beacon Artists Agency, NY. She currently teaches playwriting at Cornell University. Recent projects include a guided headphone play Storm Country for The Cherry Arts, a new piece being developed with the Hangar, and The Vampyre of The Grotto, a contemporary/classical Gothic drama.

Ryan Scott Whinnem (Director)
Ryan Scott Whinnem founded The Mobtown Players and ran it for eight years in Baltimore. He received his MFA from Catholic University in 2009. He also founded Bright Alchemy Theater in Washington DC, which is dedicated to devised works centering around mystical(ish) themes. In New York, his theater company Vacant Lot Theater is devoted to doing unexpected theater in unconventional spaces ( He has directed about half of Shakespeare's canon. His favorite productions include New York Masque by Stephen Spotswood, A Child's Drawing of a Monster by Erik Ehn, Accidente înspăimântătoare pe terenul de joacă (Gruesome Playground Injuries in Romanian) by Rajiv Joseph and Comedy of Errors by Wiliam Shakespeare and Red Hood: Once Upon a Wartime by Jeffrey Sichel and Ksusha Litvak.