The Real McCoy

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by Andrew Moodie   Aug. 24-Sept. 9 Memorial Hall

This play tells the biography of the inventor Elijah McCoy (1843-1929), whose name became a byword for quality, as in “the real McCoy.” The play tries to explain why we’ve all heard the expression and yet hardly any of us know why… And in answering that question, reclaims a fascinating man’s life from undeserved obscurity.

Born in Chatham, ON to runaway American slaves, McCoy showed so much promise as a boy in school that he won a scholarship to study mechanical engineering at Edinburgh University, where he developed an abiding love for large steam engines. After graduation, McCoy moved to the US where locomotives were radically changing the future of the growing republic. Only after emigrating did he learn that no one in the States believed a Black man could be an engineer, and so he was set to stoking boilers and shoveling coal.

Nevertheless, McCoy continued to dream and ultimately devised a solution to one of the greatest obstacles facing steam engines in his day. McCoy’s invention would go on to be sold all over the world, make him a household name and revolutionize locomotion on every continent; so long as he held to his partners’ proviso: to never tell buyers he was Black.

Award winning playwright, Andrew Moodie, last performed on the Festival stage in 2007’s World Without Shadows, and wrote the 1998 hit Wilbur County Blues.  


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