Created by CHRIS HANRATTY and SHIRA LEUCHTER
Written by KEITH BARKER, CHRIS HANRATTY, SHIRA LEUCHTER, and JORDI MAND
Directed by CHRIS HANRATTY
Performed by KALEB ALEXANDER, KEITH BARKER, SHIRA LEUCHTER, AND MICHAELA WASHBURN
Scenogrpahy by TREVOR SCHWELLNUS
Sound Design by SAMUEL SHOLDICE
Costumes and Prop Design by ERIN FRANCES GEROFSKY
Choreography by MONICA DOTTOR
Production Management by SARAH 'PIP' BRADFORD
Stage Management by LAURA COURNOYEA
Translation by MARJORIE TRUDEAU
It’s late. Let’s say it’s after sunset. October 7th 1804. Apparently there’s a moderate breeze from the northwest. And the boat? That boat was speedy in name only.
Hastily built in 1798, the 80-foot Speedy already had dry rot. It was so rotten that its captain refused the assignment to sail it that night, and only relented under threat of a court martial.
So he sailed it under protest.
The boat carried some of the most important citizens of the day. It was headed to Newcastle from Toronto’s harbour (modern day Queen’s Quay) to try a case against Ogetonicut, a Chippewa man who was to stand trial for killing a white fur trader. The white man had murdered Ogetonicut’s brother, Whistling Duck, in 1803. Governor Hunter promised a quick trial, but no justice was ever served. And so the following year, Ogetonicut took his revenge. And justice followed more swiftly this time.
This trial could have changed history. Many thought that Newcastle would eventually replace York as the capital of Upper Canada; York was considered unseemly because of its large constituency of criminals and sex workers.
But the ship went down. Maybe it was trecherous weather, or the mysterious Sophiasburg Triangle or maybe it was the rumoured curse that Ogetonicut’s mother, Bitterskin, had placed on the men who were taking her son away. In any regard, Newcastle was deemed too difficult and dangerous to travel to. And so York remained the capital of the Province.
At least 20 passengers were lost on the Speedy, including the judge of the court of the King’s bench, various solicitors and their slaves, a high constable – the first known Ontario police officer to have been killed in the line of duty, a land surveyor, an interpretor, two children, and of course Ogetonicut. Also lost were six hand-written copies of the Constitution of Upper Canada.
All that was found of the wreckage was a compass box and a chicken coop.
The Speedy has been taught at the University of Toronto as a part of the English Department’s course Literature for Our Time, and in the drama department at the University of Windsor.
Professor Denise Cruz recently published an article on The Speedy titled Archival Performances: Collaborative Theater and Approaches to Indigenous History in American Literary History. You can read the abstract here.