Folk opera returns to county stage for first time since 2003 at Macaulay Museum Monday after playwright reacquires production rights from Mirvish
At one time, there was hope that Minerva was going to be for Prince Edward County what Anne of Green Gables was for Prince Edward Island.
During the late 1980s, playwright Suzanne Pasternak was living at Long Point and was deeply invested in the maritime culture of South Marysburgh.
Pasternak’s research uncovered the story of Minerva McCrimmon, a ship’s cook at age 19 who saved over 20 members of her crew after her ship, the barley schooner David Andrews, went aground near Four Mile Point, N.Y. in a bad snowstorm in April 1880. Her research also uncovered tales of Moses Dulmage, a local son who died in a wintery gale two years earlier whose body had washed up on Lake Ontario’s south shore. Both are buried in the South Bay Cemetery near the Mariners Park Museum.
Pasternak weaved her tale and it premiered before over 300 people Nov. 1, 1990 on the anniversary of Dulmage’s death. It was one of the early shows to be staged on the revived Regent Theatre stage.
The playwright and historian said she received some great feedback from audiences over the years, but she struggled to find her big break.
“Clearly, the audiences young and old adore the true character and story of Minerva,” she said. “I would get sponsors here and there every time it was performed, but no real backers or arts organizations who would mount it.”
After David Archibald served as musical director, local composer Tom Leighton succeeded him in 2000 and he also joined in composing and arranging music for the production. The Minerva they developed had three full sold out shows at the Regent in 2003.
At that time, Pasternak felt she was onto something and she took the show to Mirvish Productions in Toronto. She recalled arriving with a script and a badly recorded CD in hand. They company optioned the rights to the show the next year and Pasternak and Leighton continued developing it for a major urban audience with playwright Jim Betts and director Kelly Robinson.
Pasternak said it was with great disappointment the production never made the stage in Toronto. Since, the rights were returned to Pasternak and Leighton.
Now, Pasternak said she is finally bringing the show home where it belongs.
On Monday, there will be a dramatic reading plus a chance to hear original music from a brand new, expanded script that Pasternak has been working on for the past year. Some 30 years in the making, the story now includes two additional characters: South Bay sailor Henry Whattam and Lydia Ostrander.
For the reading, Pasternak has secured a talented cast of notable county actors and musicians, including Pat Larkin, Alec Lunn, Paulina and Bill McMahon, and Codie and Cori Goodman.
The show will begin at 1:30 p.m. Tickets for the performance are $10 for adults and $2 for children.