A brand-new play titled The Frenchman explores how an obscure Frenchman changed the course of Virginia’s history. It is a remarkable story that no one has told before — except for the six historians who made its main character, Pierre du Tubeuf, their life’s work. The Shoestring Theatre Company premieres the play this weekend.
In a remote corner of Southwest Virginia, Pierre du Tubeuf staked his claim to build his colony of St. Marie on the Clinch River — a new French settlement far from the threats of the French Revolution. With letters of introduction from Lafayette and dreams of building a new coal enterprise in Virginia, du Tubeuf was forced to leave part of his family behind in France. Pierre and his fellow French settlers survived a deadly sea voyage only to have their servants abandon them upon their arrival to Virginia. But the nightmare was only beginning. In Russell County, Pierre found that nothing was as he had been promised.
“This is a remarkable true story that changed the course of history in southwest Virginia,” said Amelia Townsend, director of the play. “The land where Pierre dreamed of a French colony became Virginia’s newest state park in 2021.”
This original work brings a stellar cast to the stage: Camilo Eraso as the visionary Pierre du Tubeuf, Janet Devine Smith as Marie du Tubeuf, John Geddis as the Marquis de Chaulier, Danny Seal as Charles DeSpada and Thomas Jefferson, Edgar Johnson as Simon Perchant, Evan Zimmerman as Francois du Tebeuf, Wendy Labenow as Louisa, and Lydia Matson as Eusebe. Matson also is costume designer. Jon Roberts, an award-winning sound designer and projectionist, is production designer. Original 18th-century music was provided by a trio of high school brothers from Big Stone Gap, VA. The Sons of Liberty specialize in 18th-century music.
The Frenchman makes its world premiere August 27 – 28, 2021, at 7 p.m. outdoors at Veterans Amphitheatre, adjacent to Fairfax City Hall, 10455 Armstrong Street. Tickets are available in advance and on the days of the performance. Additional performances will be September 11 in Fairfax at St. Leo the Great Catholic School (includes dinner) and September 18 in Herndon at ArtSpace. Purchase tickets online.
Shoestring Theatre Company, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, shares the authentic culture of southwest Virginia to life through original stories that are presented across the Commonwealth. Shoestring Theatre Company is generously supported by the City of Fairfax, the Fairfax Commission on the Arts, the City of St. Paul, VA, the Knights of Columbus, and the Four Winds at Oakton.