Strathspey Place Players (a subcommittee of Strathspey Place Board of Directors), along with support from the Nova Scotia Department of Culture, is bringing John Archie and Nellie, a musical based on a real Cape Breton love story, to the Strathspey Place stage Friday and Saturday night. This show will transport audiences to an old-time evening of entertainment in Glencoe Mills.
Featuring well-known local songs such as “There was an Old Woman from Mabou”, “Fare Thee Well, Love”, “Cape Breton Barbarian”, “The Island” and many others, this play is sure to please the crowd. Written by Brenda MacLennan-Dunphy and performed by brave, local performers including Lisa Cameron, Barry Fougere, Lori Shaw, Charlie MacKinnon, Joyce MacDonald, and Keagan Campbell, with Margie Beaton on fiddle as “Old Theresa”, this show full of square dancing, singing, laughs, and romance has it all.
The story, about MacLennan-Dunphy’s own grandparents who met and married in January 1915 after only knowing each other for a matter of days, was written a couple of years ago, but is only making it to the stage for the first time this weekend.
“I wrote it in January 2009 when I was substituting at Dalbrae and my daughter’s group wanted to do a musical,” says MacLennan-Dunphy. “I had always thought that my grandparent’s love story (they met at Christmas time in Skye Glen, and were married on January 15th, 1915 in Sydney), was interesting, especially with the history both would have had to work through to decide to marry in such a short time. Their baggage–her illegitimate daughter, and his first marriage out west–is the basis of the play.”
“Everything happens within one evening, at a square dance in Glencoe,” she explains. “I think it is a unique presentation, of a rather more common, if not talked about, reality for people of the past. The songs help to tell the story, and they will also be songs that folks will be glad to hear again in a meaningful setting. The square sets reflect the traditional square set that was used in the past, before we were so lax about letting more than four couples in a set. When I decided to place it at a square dance, and thought about the characters who would have been coming in the door to the dance, the play wrote itself. Then, I decided which songs would fit the characters, and it just came together as if it was always meant to be. I have tweaked language, and changed a few things here and there, but the core of the play was set very quickly. We couldn’t get enough interest from the male population to do it at school, but I put a copyright on it in August 2009 and decided to wait until the right time to do it…which is here, and now.”
John Archie & Nellie makes its debut this weekend at Strathspey Place. Tickets are $15 and $12 for members.