TUSKET, YARMOUTH CO., NS – People reportedly came from all over the place for the big event in Tusket on that early-summer day nearly 130 years ago.
What brought them to the Yarmouth County village was the launch of the J.Y. Robbins, the largest sailing vessel to be built there.
“We’re talking about the days when a lot of sailing ships were built in Tusket,” said Philip Clairmont, whose latest theatrical production is centred on that day: July 3, 1890.
The play – Le Lancement – is being presented at the Père Maurice LeBlanc theatre in Tusket. It is scheduled to open March 20, with performances also set for March 22, 23, 24 and 25.
Like all of Clairmont’s plays, this one is presented in Acadian French, although there are some English parts too when the scenes involve Foreman Hatfield – the builder of the J.Y. Robbins – and Lyons Hatfield, a merchant and also a shipbuilder at that time.
Aside from offering a glimpse of late-19th-century Tusket – with historical figures such as the two Hatfields (along with reference to Dennis Surette, a local shipwright in that time period) – Clairmont’s new play is a love story.
“We have a sea captain who’s coming from Boston to look at the J.Y. Robbins and probably put an order in for a ship, and he falls in love with a local girl,” Clairmont said.
The production features a 15-member cast. A lot of effort went into providing them with good period costumes, Clairmont said.
The actors perform against the backdrop of three old photographs from the local historical society that were blown up to the size of walls.
Clairmont talked a bit about the day of the big launch in 1890 and the many people who came to see the new vessel.
“It was a Thursday, but they made it kind of a holiday,” he said. “People came from everywhere to see the launch of that huge ship ... There was something like 2,000 people who came.”
Moreover, where the launch was held wasn’t a particularly big place, he said, and, given the horses and buggies that would have been there too, it’s easy to understand how it must have been quite a sight.
“The local (residents) were amazed,” Clairmont said. “You know, all these people, where did they come from?”
Tickets for the play are $10 for adults and $5 for students. They can be purchased in advance by phoning 902-648-2253. Showtime is 7 p.m., the exception being the March 25 performance, which goes at 3 p.m.