Mar 31

Lunchbox Theatre Creating Their Own Ridiculous Nation

by Jenna Shummoogum · 1 comment

Post image for Lunchbox Theatre Creating Their Own Ridiculous Nation

In 1948, a Washington lawyer and two Nova Scotian fishermen bought an island off the coast of Nova Scotia and declared it a sovereign nation. At some point they declared war on the Soviet Union. I’m not making this up.

When a Calgary playwright heard about this story, a script was born.
“A friend of mine handed me this article on micro nations,” AJ Demers says, “as soon as I saw it was a Canadian story, it just sort of caught my eye.” This script then evolved into a play entitled Whimsy State that is going to see its premiere at Lunchbox Theatre.
“It’s a very fun story,” explains director Pamela Halstead, “a slice of Canadian history that a lot of people don’t know about.”

People actually did that? Bought an island, declared it a nation, and got away with it?
“You couldn’t get away with something like that today,” Demers says, “I love the fact that they took this plan to a whole international level.” And there are papers in museums in Nova Scotia, depicting this story, though there seem to be many different versions of the tale. “There is no way to confirm a lot,” Demers explains, “we know it happened, we know that they were in the Moscow press, that’s on record. But some stuff isn’t. Everyone seems to have a different version of the story, [depending on] who tells it.” And Demers and Halstead tried to get the facts straight. They perused the archives in Nova Scotia themselves, doing some firsthand research. It’s good to “get a feel for the ocean, the coast, the people…the way things happen out there,” Demers says, “firsthand research has been invaluable.”

It’s not only nailing down the facts that have been a challenge, bringing this story to a set has its unique challenges as well. “It changes location a lot,” says Halstead, “we’ve made it so that those changes are smooth and part of the insanity.”
“One of the big challenges was trying to get a Nova Scotian dialect,” Demers exclaims, “trying to find the language.” Halstead helped him out though, as she’s originally from the East Coast, “[she] really helped me out with a little bit of regionalism, to make it sound quite true,” Demers adds.

Both are quick to praise the cast involved in the show. “The cast is amazing,” Halstead says while Demers talks about how it’s “really nice bringing together two opposite ends of the nation.” Two members of the cast are also from the East Coast.

It’s always fun to find out more about our own history, especially the completely outrageous. “You think that no one would do that, nobody would go to that end to do these things, but they did,” Demers states.

“Oh what?” Demers exclaims when asked about what he’s personally looking forward to in the remainder of the theatre season, but he finally settles on Alberta Theatre Projects’ Mary’s Wedding. “Direct competition with me!” he jokes, “but not at lunchtime.”

Whimsy State opens at Lunchbox Theatre on April 2nd and runs until the 21st. Take back your lunch!
Tickets are available online or at the door.

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