(Originally published in The Coast Halifax, Nov. 24, 2016. http://www.thecoast.ca/halifax/tompkinsville-celebrates-cape-breton-history/Content?oid=5817147)
Classic east coast “cultural-isms” abound in Eastern Front Theatre’s latest.
By Lara Lewis
- Jeff Schwager and Laura Caswell as Joe and Mary Laben, with Lee J. Campbell as Father Jimmy Tompkins.
November 23-December 4
Scotiabank Studio, 1593 Argyle Street
After its debut tour last year, Tompkinsville is coming home. The play, written by Lindsay Kyte with music by Ian Sherwood, has been developed since 2007. In 2015 the show premiered in Oakville, ON, before touring across Ontario and Nova Scotia.
While performing in a show at Festival Antigonish, Kyte came across a familiar name—Tompkins. In her native Reserve Mines, NS, she remembers “practically everything” being named after a mysterious Mr. Tompkins.
Tompkinsville is the culmination of her research. It’s the story of a Cape Breton community that bands together and forms the first English language credit union in Canada and the first cooperative housing project in North America, led by father Jimmy Tompkins.
For Kyte, it’s more than history, it’s a lesson in genealogy. She discovered that her own great aunt and uncle were instrumental in its completion. They feature as two central characters.
The story of a small rural community facing incredible odds is a tried and true subject in the oeuvre of Nova Scotian theatre. With musical numbers like “Herrin’ and Potatoes,” it’s sure to cater to classic east coast tastes.
“It’s the story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” says Kyte, before citing the value of “cultural-isms” of the east coast.
Kyte’s reasoning for choosing to adapt the story for the stage is that “it’s the story of people who begin in one place and end in another.” Her assuredness of the plot structure is sure to translate easily to older theatre patrons.
Excitingly, there have been some last minute changes to the creative team and cast, including direction by the skillful Martha Irving and what is likely to be a characteristically energetic performance by Jeff Schwager.