In 1912, Phippsburg, Maine, experienced a financial recession. The town wanted to rejuvenate the economy by becoming a tourist destination. But just across from the picturesque harbor was Malaga Island, a mixed-race village that included a number of former slaves. Deemed an impediment to progress, the state of Maine evicted the residents of Malaga Island and destroyed its vibrant community in the process.
This historical incident is the basis of Cheryl L. West’s new lyrical/realist play, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, which is having its world premiere at Children’s Theatre Company. The story is told through the relationship of Turner Buckminster III, a minister’s son who is new to town, and Lizzie Bright, a resident of Malaga Island.
“I am as excited by this as anything I have produced at CTC,” says artistic director Peter Brosius, who is also directing. “It’s important for our community,” he insists, considering certain parallels to the destruction of the African-American Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul when I-94 was built.
Brosius admits that the story is disturbing, but he says it’s couched in the tender story of a friendship, making it funny and touching, if ultimately heartbreaking. “What’s exciting for us is to use a moment in history as a true teaching moment about the contemporary world.” March 13–April 8. Children’s Theatre Company, 2400 3rd Ave. S., Mpls., 612-874-0400, childrenstheatre.org