Written and directed by the Tabard Theatre’s founder and producing artistic director, Cathy Spielberger Cassetta, Homeward Bound: An Orphan Train Journey makes its world premiere at the Tabard’s San Pedro Square stage this Friday.

The plot of Homeward Bound is rooted in the journey of thousands of orphan children sent by the trainload across America in the first decades of the 20th century in search of better circumstances. The aim was to place these children with farming families so that they might live a life on “farm-lease,” as opposed to the chaotic and squalid streets of turn-of-the-century New York City.

Homeward Bound focuses on six orphan girls and their attendant who have been placed upon one of those fateful trains. On the trip, the orphans learn more about each other and connect until they resemble a family, only to face the uncertainty of finding homes—and more importantly families—out West.

Besides the orphan’s gracious attendant, played by Joyce Taylor, the cast is composed entirely of children and teenagers. Angelina, played by Chloe Allen, is the boisterous New Yorker—fiercely independent but also deathly afraid of rejection; Mabel, quiet and theater-obsessed, is played by Sarah Dorsey; Hazel, played by Ashley Wilson, is a girl still in denial of the extravagant life and family she lost; Brigid, played by Ginger Hurley, gives the standout performance as the exuberant but cynical Irish girl; Elizabeth (Emily Anne Goes) is the quiet, considerate older sister to Rosie (played by her real life sister, Samantha Goes), who is as innocent as she is poetic.

The show is an eclectic mix of media. The set is minimal, save a few chairs for the train ride. Historical, sometimes tragic images slide across three projection screens, Ken Burns style. Narration, video and live music are occasionally deployed, but in no discernible order. At times it’s hard for the audience to stay on top of the overall focus. Is it a musical? A play? A history lesson?
Homeward Bound: An Orphan Train Journey is still a work in progress—but a compelling work nonetheless, and worth a visit.

Homeward Bound: An Orphan Train Journey
Sep 25-Oct 11, $15-$40
The Tabard Theatre