Arts and Entertainment

Jill Johnson tells Rebecca Ebey’s story at WICA

Jill Johnson tells the story of Rebecca Ebey in “Rebecca.” - Contributed photo
Jill Johnson tells the story of Rebecca Ebey in “Rebecca.”
— image credit: Contributed photo

A present day islander stumbles into the history of another and revives a passionate Coupeville story.

Storyteller Jill Johnson tells the story of Rebecca Ebey in her premiere performance of “Rebecca,” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 23 on WICA’s mainstage.

Johnson stumbled across the diary of Rebecca Ebey at the Island County Historical Society Museum in Coupeville. After three years of gathering the story of Rebecca’s journey from Missouri to what was then called the Oregon Territory during the Great Migration of 1851, she has created a full-length theatrical production made vivid through the voices of the people met by Rebecca and her family along the way. The production includes authentic Oregon Trail music, choreography, photographs, sound effects and lighting.

“The production has been fueled by my growing excitement at the power of this story,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the story revolves around Rebecca Ebey, her husband Isaac and their two young sons who all settled on Ebey’s Landing in Coupeville in 1852.

“I’ve read lots of pioneer journals, but this one is unique. It reveals so much about Rebecca and the early settlement of Whidbey.”

A grant from the National Storytelling Network helped Johnson complete her research at the Special Collections Library at the University of Washington into the correspondence between the Davis and Ebey families. In September 2011, Johnson wrote:

“I can see it now… the land. It stretches out — bands of green, yellow, and black: squash fields, hay stubble, and black earth, ringed by forest and shore. For centuries Native Americans gathered camas root and nettles on this prairie and then burned it… year after year, layer after layer of ash, rich in nutrients, which became the farms and fields of Ebey’s Landing. I stroll down the road, munching apples from a tree near the Ferry House. The wind whistles in my ear and I can hear the surf sounds below. Rebecca heard those same sounds; yesterday was the 158th anniversary of her death. Now… for just a moment… it is almost as if we share this landscape together.”

Although the production is a one-woman show, Johnson said it would not have been possible without the many people who helped her to bring Rebecca Ebey’s story to life and to whom she is eternally grateful.

“I hope the audience will grow to like and respect Rebecca as much as I do and come away with new ideas about what it meant to be a pioneer settler on Whidbey Island,” Johnson said.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for youths, seniors and military. Call the box office at 360-221-8268. WICA is located at 565 Camano Ave., Langley.


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