Playwriting contest winner staged

World premiere on North Haven

Jul 21, 2014
Photo by: Dagney C. Ernest Waterman’s Community Center on North Haven is adjacent to the ferry landing.

North Haven — The world premiere of “The House of Broken Ships” by Thomas Emerson, winner of the Virginia B. Toulmin Playwriting Contest, will take place Thursday through Sunday, July 31 thru Aug. 3, at Waterman’s Community Center. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; and 1 p.m. Sunday.

The play is a dramatic, gothic tale of a remote island family whose troubled legacy brings murder, mystery and rivalry to the locals. The time is the roaring ‘20s, but the place is a small island off the coast of Maine, trapped in its past. Into this isolated world of secrets and ghosts comes a young woman from Boston to work for a prominent family. Curious, she tries to unravel the dark mysteries that surround both house and community, but lifting the burden of the past has unexpected consequences.

The production of “The House of Broken Ships” play is the culmination of a two-year process. North Haven Arts & Enrichment received a remarkable grant from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation to be used in the creation and production of an original theatrical work. A playwriting contest was launched, and aspiring playwrights were invited to anonymously submit their proposed work. Themes relating to small community life were required, and judges were selected from theatrical, publishing and academic sectors, all professionals with strong personal ties to North Haven. Three finalists were selected to receive a stipend to develop their script into a full-length play. Emerson’s play was the winning entry.

Thanks to the NHA&E team and assistance from the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab Listserve, more than 20 applications for director were received from as far east as Paris and as far west as California. The highly qualified Kappy Kilburn was selected, fresh from her glowing success at Penobscot Theatre Company in Bangor. The groundbreaking theatrical experience combines the best of local and imported talent to create a compelling and magical experience, capturing the unique and universal themes of island living.

It’s a mileau the playwright, son of Jon Emerson and Eileen O’Connor, knows well. Emerson, 25, grew up on North Haven and is. He graduated from North Haven Community School and Hampshire College, where he majored in ancient history and film. Currently he is a graduate student at UMass/Amherst studying maritime history. As a North Haven student, Emerson participated as actor, designer or both in many NHA&E dramatic productions. However, his pièce de résistance was his work with his brother, Chris, on “Little Shop of Horrors,” for which they constructed the many renditions of Audrey II and acted in the show, as well.

Kilburn is the producer and co-founder of Directors Lab West and was associate director of artistic development at Pasadena Playhouse. She has a broad repertoire of experiences and is particularly devoted to new play development. She excels as a dramaturgical director and enjoys working with playwrights to bring their stories to life. Most recently, she completed a production of “God of Carnage” at the Penobscot Theater Company.

A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Waterman’s Community Center includes a 134-seat theater and is located adjacent to the ferry landing. The organization has a history of producing original and adapted plays including works by John Wulp, Cindy Bullens and Susan Minot, as well as an adaptation of Deerhoof’s “Milk Man” album. Last year’s show was another world premiere, “Red Eye of Love (the musical)” by Arnold Weinstein and Obie and Tony awards-winning Wulp, directed by Tony award-winning Ted Sperling, with sets by artist and Vinalhaven resident Robert Indiana.

For tickets (the matinee takes place between boats), visit watermans.org.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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