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Jean-Claude Vézina Par Jean-Claude Vézina

Mercredi, 15 janvier 2014

Eaton Corner Museum puts on new play

By Rachel Garber

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It is 1839. In the prime of his life, a young man breaks his ankle badly. It never heals properly, and the blood vessels atrophy. Finally, in 1847, doctors are forced to amputate his leg.

The operation took place in Eaton Corner, and it made medical history. A team of doctors performed the first major surgery in Canada using ether as anesthesia. That much is in the history books, but the story of William Stone, the man whose leg was amputated, has never been told. Until now.

The story of Stone and his community is the stuff of a new two-hour play written by Marlene Lowry of Sawyerville, and acted by a cast of 20 actors.

Five years ago, Lowry said, Sharron Rothney asked her to write the play. Lowry consulted Sharon Moore at the Eaton Corner Museum, and read Rev. Sherrill's journal. In the mid 1800s, he was the Congregationalist minister in Eaton Corner, in the very church which is now the Museum. His record of the operation, of the Stone family, and of life in his community helped make the play historically accurate. Most of the characters are based on real people of that era.

But Lowry didn't quite finish writing the play five years ago. "Things happen," she said, "and you have to put it aside." Then Rothney asked to read it, and her excitement led them to form the cast and start rehearsals last August. Co-producers are Lowry (director) and Rothney (casting and wardrobe).

The play was refined during rehearsals. "So many people had a hand in it. It's not mine, it's ours," said Lowry. "I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to work with. Everybody is just pitching in. There's not one person who hasn't contributed something good to the play."

The leading roles - William Stone and his wife Olive Stone - are played by Neal Hancock and Bethany Rothney. Hancock is a student at Bishop's University, in his last year in politics. He's enthusiastic about his character. "Will Stone is a bootmaker. He's a guy with a sense of humour, considering all that happens to him."

Bethany Rothney - granddaughter of Sharron Rothney - plays Olive. She is a student in liberal arts at Champlain College. Other cast members have familiar names. Many are from Sawyerville, and all are Haut-Saint-Franciscans. Six musicians and a stage crew of six support the cast.

The show premières at the Sawyerville Community Centre on Saturday, February 15. One performance is at 2 p.m. and another is at 7:30 p.m. They will be performed in English. Admission is $8, and proceeds go to support the Eaton Corner Museum. Space is limited, said Pat Boychuck, so it's advisable to reserve tickets in advance. To do so, call 819-875-3182, or email

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