Responses from the audience
We took in The Grand Design
last Saturday at the Poe
theater and want to congratulate you on a great production. We (and
obviously all of the audience) thoroughly enjoyed the show. Julia, your 4
years of research really paid off.
All our best,
Ruth and I attended the performance of your play Friday evening and found
it both very enjoyable and extremely compelling. First of all
congratulations on your research, music and the end result- it was a
I am very intrigued by this incredible story of survival
and would like to read the Sarah Porterfield autobiography if you could tell
me where it might be found. So far Google has failed to deliver a source.
[Editor's Note: Sarah's entire account is printed in the Story of the Grand Design
booklet.] Click here to order
I did so enjoy what I am calling your folk opera, The Grand Design
. It was
wonderful. I particularly enjoyed the dialogue song between Captain Rowan
and the minister. It was almost like a recitative but accompanied.
was intriguing, the music was inspiring and well
played...Congratulations! I am so glad I came to the performance.
We were THRILLED with The Grand Design
and very touched about being introduced - Carole in particular did several spontaneous audience "interviews" about Grand Manan.
Your cast was outstanding, too - we were particularly taken by the two principal young women, the captain, John Bear Mitchell and "Mr Gamble" [Carl Johanson] and his lovely voice.
Congratulations on a fantastic production!
Love to you both
Director, Grand Manan Museum
How proud you must be feeling! The Grand Design is wonderful theater! You have given many, many people an exceptional theater experience. You have every right to paddle around on cloud 9 for quite a while.
I am stunned by your accomplishments.
In the first place, the long, painstaking research in
primary sources is amazing. I bought the booklet of your resources,
Julia, and am savoring the details,
a little at a time. Such a gut-wrenching story!
The music is superb and so appropriate to all the settings
and situations . . . the lullaby, hymns, folk tunes, and original
compositions. The directing
was really classy: the shipboard scene, the canoe paddling, and
especially the symbols of dying . . . the veils slowly covering the
It was wonderful
to hear the Passamaquoddy legend. The photographs were sparkling! I
came away feeling chilled to the bone after viewing the winter
you and your fellow musicians, were outstanding in your skill . . .
the wonderful strings, flutes, percussion, and pure clear voices.
Also the techies who
coordinated the visuals. I was mesmerized, and would like to
experience it again and again. It is the best theater I've seen in
It was touching to see
Isabel's descendants in the audience.
Your Grand Design deserves to go beyond Lincoln County,
for many reasons. It is so fine. It should receive awards. Be
Bravo to you both!
Sally J. Woolfe-Wade
It was superb..... I have this feeling that The Grand Design
will have a long and prosperous voyage...... Many Thanks
I wanted to say how much we enjoyed the performance tonight. On so many levels this was a magnificent production.
I am not one of the descendants from that event, but I can relate. I have lived my entire life wrapped up in the like situations and experiences of my people. I heard stories when I was growing up, about hard life in maine, Canada and etc, etc. I could relate to your production on so many levels.
Thank you for taking the time to bring history back to us and let us see our "ancestors" in person. ( feel the music, that's for me)
I went to the opening performance of Grand Design
last evening. What a treat that was! I learned so much and it helped me appreciate what brave and strong people they were. I appreciated all your research to make it historically accurate. I can't imagine all the effort it took to get to last evening. Congratulations! I hope that you will be able to present it in many venues to a wide audience. Thank you so much....
(From a descendant)
It was an amazing show.
I've alternatively wept, and sung the hymns to myself, and eaten mussels today, and reflected on the hunger of the shipwrecked folks, and wondered in amazement that perhaps it was caring for the baby that kept them alive.
I loved your play, and all your research and art and lovely folk music.
My mother is just like Isabel, impulsive and charismatic and strong
and when she says it is time to go, we just go.
So we departed.
But she has already written to me today to say that she hopes to meet you in Round Pond or Friendship in the summer this year.
It was a beautiful show.
I haven't finished thinking all about it
and processing what it means for me.
And even as I type, I find myself crying a bit.
There are several things about Isabel's strength that I always remember.
I didn't see them in the play as much as I imagine them in my mind.
I'll write to you more about them, when I don't have children calling to me from their beds upstairs to go and sing lullabies.
Thank you again.
History on Stage in a Profound Performance
Lincoln County News: 05/16/2007
By Nancy Wilson
The Grand Design is a fascinating true story of emigration, abandonment, and survival under the most impossible conditions. Written by Castlebay, Julia Lane and Fred Gosbee, it chronicles the tale of the ship, Martha and Eliza. It left Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on July 28, 1741, with its 200 passengers, bound for Philadelphia. After 11 weeks, a storm wrecked it on the shore of Grand Manan Island, early in winter. Lane and Gosbee turned this compelling story into an intriguing stage production, directed by Griff Braley, of the Heartwood Regional Theater Company. This production is eclectic; it includes projected backdrops, that give a sense of the survivors¹ surroundings on Grand Manan, where they were stranded after the shipwreck; narrators, among them Don Carrigan, as Cyrus Eaton, who wrote an early chronicle of the event, tell the story, with song and dance interspersed; and actors act it out as it moves along. This combination makes for a most interesting evening of historical fact.
The music for the play is, appropriately, Celtic; some of it traditional Scots-Irish tunes, and some composed by Lane. In addition, John Bear Mitchell, of the Penobscot Nation, contributed traditional Passamaquoddy songs and drumming to the production (this was especially appealing).
Grand Design opens with hope, as the emigrants leave the oppression of Ireland for the New World; they look forward to building a new life for themselves and their families. When the ship is wrecked, the captain (Paul Hodgson) and crew row the passengers ashore and abandon them, without food or shelter. While several of them have died on the ship, many more of them die, later, from starvation and deprivation; those who are left do not have the strength to bury the bodies. One particularly moving death scene employed the cello (Doreen Conboy) for background music.
The captain, with his crew, takes the longboat to New Harbor; at one point, he returns to Grand Manan to plunder what¹s left on the ship. For an exorbitant price, he takes a few of the healthy survivors with him, steals their clothes, and sells them into service.
Ultimately, spring arrives; those who are left welcome it. With spring, also, come some Passamaquoddies; the remaining victims are, at first, frightened of them, but the Indians bring a letter to the fort in St. George, which results, finally, in full rescue. A happy wedding ends this profound performance.
Grand Design is a complex production; the set represents both the ship and Grand Manan Island; the projections depict the island quite effectively, in different seasons; live music from the small orchestra enhances the production; and the combination of story-telling (narrative) and acting, along with the dancing make it all worth seeing.
Actors include: John Strong, Alex Braley, Sarah Winglass, Lesley Yates, Carli Jo Storms, Emily Bell-Huerth, Katie Meuse, Sage Landry, Jen Hodgson, Holly Marting, Kellie Gardner, Carl Johanson, Kent Cooper, Coady Robson, and Luke Kalloch. The musicians, who contributed so much (as well as a song sung by Julia Lane) are: Julia Lane, harp; Tamora Holtz, violin; Fred Gosbee, violin, percussion, and whistles; Doreen Conboy, cello; and Jim Stewart, percussion and pipes.
Kellie Gardner developed the choreography; many others gave of their time and energy to set design and painting; sewing costumes; and generally managing everything to make Grand Design success.