Hymn to the Chesapeake

by Robert P. Arthur
  • 95 Minutes
  • 5 Males, 5 Females, Max/Min 10


This award-winning, full-length play with music is filled with the poetry of the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Robert P. Arthur weaves fragments of conversations and traditional melodies to portray the love and heartbreak of its watermen and women–the love of the sea, a mother for a child, a man for a woman.  Easy to stage with a variable cast, this haunting drama can be performed easily by high school, college, community, and professional theaters.



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  • Review Script 11.00 Watermarked PDF Download
  • Hardcopy 13.00 Printed Copy Mailed to You
  • Class/Group Study Pack 90.00 Printable PDF
  • Multi-Copy PDF 80.00 Printable Cast Script PDF

Performance Fee $80.00 A Production License Fee Per Performance (mandatory for all performances)

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Play Details


At heart, this musical is a love story on the coastal waters of Eastern Virginia. In and out of time past, present, and future, Tom falls in love with Annie Drummond and revisits his past and his loves–of Annie and of the sea.

We fall in love with the lives, humor, and hardships of the watermen of the Chesapeake Bay, hardened to hard times but committed to life on the Shore.

Hymn to the Chesapeake opened at the Trawler Dinner Theater on the Eastern Shore and has had over ninety performances in Virginia and Maryland, as well as performances in Washington, D.C., New York City, and St. Petersburg, Russia.

Readings using material from the play possibly exceed the number of actual productions and include readings for libraries, museums, universities, colleges, and literary festivals, as well as the Poetry Society of Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The poem/play won Port Folio magazine’s Most Innovative Theater Award. For its creation, the author, Robert P. Arthur, won the Christians in Theater Arts Award.

From the Play

Cast List:

Tom Thatcher, a man in his late thirties
Grandpa, a man in his early sixties
Annie Drummond a woman who plays from sixteen to twenty-five
Aunt Kate, a woman in her sixties
Fishermen, all ages (two or three suggested)
Fisherwomen, all ages (two or three suggested)

Note: Parts in script designated for Fisherman and Fisherwoman are suggested character and voice changes by the author. Directors should determine number of Fishermen and Fisherwomen to be used and designate specific assignments. Also, all of the principle characters may double as Fishermen or Fisherwomen. Hymn can be successfully performed with as few as five cast members and as many as sixteen.

Place: The Eastern Shore of Virginia. A large farmhouse with a porch upstage center. Rocking chairs and planters are scattered about on the porch. Rain slicks for fishing are hanging on the porch railings. The place has not been well maintained, but it’s livable. There is an old pier reaching into the Chesapeake down stage left. Near the pier are crab traps, baskets of clams, nets, oyster shells, etc. At down stage left there is a garden. The scene begins with a dark stage

Play Excerpt:

Fisherman: I remember
When the big freeze came
and left the Patuxent sheeted
in fields of ice
and off the Virginia capes all the dredges
by necklaces of white

Fisherman: I remember
the gusts of freezing rain
the motionless tributaries
the swollen James
the ice breaker Annapolis
chuffing in its track

Fisherman: I remember the big ships—
Kate Darlington
and City of Norfolk–
trapped by the ice’s mass

(Stage grows darker)

Mother’s Voice: Tommy! Tommy. Come in from the weather.
As if from a silence, as if from deep water
and the bootblack cold parlor in the back
of our house, my mother’s voice, surfacing
now, in memory, now dissolving…
Tommy, oh Tommy boy!
Tommy, oh Tommy boy!

Tom: Like ice. My mother listening at night in the cold parlor.
I remember I remember (Sound of foghorn)
Smokey Joe steaming out
in flakes of snow big as a hand
trailing smoke from his stack
Perry of the Love Point Ferry”
to the rescue
from the chill of Love Point
to the balladeers of Baltimore . . .
through the inky dark.
Tom: I remember I remember

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