Tompkinsville Premier

Kiersten Tough as Kathy Ann and Jarrod Maclean as Joe Laben
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Tompkinsville will be having its Ontario tour premier performance on April 23 at the Oakville Centre for Performing Arts. The play will tour Ontario and Nova Scotia April 23 to May 3.

Tompkinsville is the story of Father Jimmy Tompkins, Joe Laben, and Mary Arnolds, who together with the mining families of Reserve Mines, Cape Breton would found Tompkinsville, North America’s first cooperative housing project. The project was a part of the Antigonish movement, which helped develop Nova Scotia’s economy by establishing credit unions and other cooperative housing projects.

“It is the story of ten pioneers, who where ordinary men and women, who went forward and fell back, who knew delay and discouragement, but who finally reached their goal and blazed a trail that others may follow if they will,” Mary Arnolds, played actress by Kiersten Tough, explains to the audience in her final monologue of the play.

“I feel that this story is relevant now, immediately right now, in that people who have nothing, who feel powerless, can do a lot by working together, by getting organized and asking themselves how can we can we change something,” said Tough.

A third generation native of Reserve Mines and the great-niece of Joe Laben, Lindsay Kyte wrote the play. Kyte discovered the story and her family’s connection to Tompkinsville in 2007.

“Where I am from in Reserve Mines, everything is named after Father Jimmy Tompkins, the library, the elementary school, the building the Tim Horton’s is in. So I decided that I was going to find out who Father Jimmy Tompkins was,” Kyte said “I went into the Antigonish Library and opened a book called Father Jimmy, and when I opened it, my own great-aunt and uncle Joe and Mary Laben were staring back from the page and I was like ‘What is this story and why are my relatives in it?’”

Kyte developed the play while she attended Liverpool Institution for Performing Arts. The play was work shopped by staff and students during her attendance at LIPA. After graduating from LIPA in 2008, Kyte continued to develop Tompkinsville, working with Ian Sherwood who wrote the music for the play.

The play features emotional musical narrative, and songs performed by the actors and combines East coast humour with historical fact.

Tompkinsville went through several public and private readings from 2008 to 2011.

  • In May 2012 it had a one night performance at Co-Op Atlantic’s Annual General Meeting where the audience were on their feet laughing and crying by the end of the play.
  • In January 2014 “Journey to Tompkinsville”  was the feature of a half hour CBC Radio Documentary

Tickets for the play are available for free online and attendees are asked to pay what they can at the door.

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