CHASING CHAMPIONS: The Sam Langford Story
featuring Jacob Sampson, Marty Burt, Zach Faye & Micha Cromwell
Written by Jacob Sampson, Directed by Ron Jenkins
Stage Manager Jane Creaser
Eastern Front Theatre and Ship's Company Theatre are thrilled to announce that Jacob Sampson's award-winning play, Chasing Champions: The Sam Langford Story will be made available to venues from 2018.
The touring version of the production will be produced/booked by Eastern Front Theatre.
Chasing Champions was created by Ship's Company Theatre in 2016 and went on to win six Theatre Nova Scotia Merritt Awards, including Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Production. The play is currently being remounted in Halifax by Eastern Front Theatre.
Natasha MacLellan, Artistic Producer of Ship’s Company Theatre couldn’t be happier with the trajectory of the play. "Since the moment I read the first draft of Chasing Champions, which was a 15 page, one-man show back then, it was obvious Jacob was onto something really special. And throughout its development the play kept evolving, getting better, richer and deeper. Ship’s Company is incredibly proud of this finely crafted show, which has brought us much acclaim and joy. We are thrilled that EFT will bring it to the world. Chasing Champions is in the capable hands of Jeremy Webb, who with his years of touring experience, is just the person to make sure as many people as possible hear Sam’s story.”
Interested venues and theatres can contact Eastern Front's Artistic Producer, Jeremy Webb to enquire about availability and touring specifications.
EFT's Artistic Producer, Jeremy Webb is pleased to see Chasing Champions live on. "During the run in Halifax, every day I got messages and comments from people suggesting that the play should tour. At EFT, we had been planning to move into that field with shows that we produce," he said today. "Thanks to the creativity of the team at Ship's Company last Summer, I am thrilled that we will be in a position to make sure Sam Langford's story is seen and heard by more audiences."
Eastern Front Theatre and Ship's Company are currently working together to create a package for interested venues and theatre companies.
A story of endurance, fortitude, friendship, and hope, Chasing Champions is a fighter’ story from a time when race and sport were colliding head on.
Pound for pound, who was the world’s greatest boxer? Many boxing historians would argue in favor of Sam Langford, a lesser-known fighter born in Weymouth, Nova Scotia, in 1886.
After almost three hundred recorded bouts, Langford retired at the age of 43 and passed away in 1956, just two months before his seventieth birthday, and only ten weeks after being enshrined in the Boxing Hall of Fame. “Don’t nobody need to feel sorry for old Sam. I had plenty of good times. I been all over the world. I fought maybe 600 fights, and every one was a pleasure!”
Jacob Sampson and a small ensemble cast bring to life the boxing world of 1910s and 20s; the danger and reward of surviving by your fists, and breaking the mould society has set for you. Chasing Champions takes you on the journey of Sam Langford's boxing career. It also uses flash back and a flexible timeline to explore the fighter’s life as a child growing up in Nova Scotia and what forged him into one of the greatest fighters who ever lived. Chasing Champions is a physical experience that brings the audience into training and the ring, from the corner to the mat, and pays tribute to a great man who was almost forgotten.
- Outstanding Lead Actor Male - Jacob Sampson
- Outstanding Supporting Actor Male - Marty Burt
- Outstanding Lighting Design - Leigh Ann Vardy
- Outstanding New Play (NS) - Jacob Sampson
- Outstanding Scenic Design - Garrett Barker (Set) and Corwin Ferguson (Projections)
- Outstanding Production - Ship's Company Theatre
Photo Credits: Full cast by Jennifer Harrison (taken for the World Premiere at Ship's Company Theatre); photo above shows Jacob Sampson as Sam Langford (taken by Dave Risk.)
Watch an interview on Global TV's Morning show by clicking here: GLOBAL STORY
Director Ron Jenkins
Set Design Garrett Barker
Lighting Design Leigh Ann Vardy
Sound Design Joe Micallef
Projection Design Corwin Ferguson
Costume Design Cathleen McCormack
Legendary fighter Sam Langford boxes again in Chasing Champions
Nova Scotia playwright Jacob Sampson's first play is an epic boxing drama about Sam Langford. The early 20th century Weymouth Falls boxer was known as the greatest boxer never to have a title due to racism and other legendary fighters' fears he'd beat them.
Written by Elissa Barnard for LocalXpress
Jacob Sampson wrote Chasing Champions and stars as title character Sam Langford in the epic drama at Eastern Front Theatre in Halifax, April 19-30.
Jacob Sampson grew up just a 40-minute drive from the birthplace of legendary African-Nova Scotian boxer Sam Langford.
Yet the 28-year-old playwright had never heard of Langford until three years ago.
Called “the Greatest Fighter Nobody Knows” by ESPN, Langford had a turbulent life of racism and resilience, says Sampson, whose play Chasing Champions is restaged April 19 to 30, 2017, in association with original producing company Ship's Company Theatre, at Neptune's Scotiabank Stage in Halifax.
“The drama of his life made it easier to tell the story but what drove me to tell it was my lack of knowledge. These stories are not being told and I spent all of my education in the Valley but I did not know about these legends,” says the Acadia University graduate.
He grew up in Coldbrook not far from Langford's birthplace of Weymouth Falls, near Digby, and also not far from Horton, home to African-Nova Scotian hero William Hall, the first black person and first Nova Scotian to receive the Victoria Cross, and not far from Lockhartville, where Ben Jackson, a Civil War hero, is buried in an unmarked grave.
As a boxing fan, Langford's story drew him when he was looking to write a one-man show. Voted Nova Scotia's athlete of the century in 1999, Langford was born in 1883 and had a difficult relationship with his father, a fisherman and a fighter.
“At a very young age, at 14, he walked to Boston. He'd work at logging camps, brick factories, different farms and ranches and slowly he made his way down the East Coast,” says Sampson.
Langford worked as a janitor at a boxing gymnasium at the Lenox Athletic Club, started boxing himself and won the amateur featherweight championship of Boston at age 15.
Nicknamed the Boston Bonecrusher, he was small in stature but fought from lightweight to heavyweight, defeating many world champions. However, he never got a shot at championship titles due to the colour bar and the refusal of Jack Johnson, the first African-American world heavyweight champion, to fight him.
Johnson was controversial in the African-American community for not fighting black boxers. He said he could make more money fighting white boxers as Americans searched for the “great white hope,” says Sampson. Johnson also feared he'd lose to Langford.
“Langford boxed some of the greatest fighters we still talk about today,” says Sampson. “Jack Dempsey said, 'I feared no man but Sam Langford.' "
In spite of never winning a title and ending up blind and penniless in New York, Langford was not a bitter man.
“He was always just happy to have whatever he had at the time. A sportswriter found him in Harlem and the quote that always stuck with me was, 'Nobody need feel sorry for ole Sam. I've been all over the world, I fought 300, maybe 400 fights, and every one was a pleasure. As long I have my guitar and my friends, I'll be just fine.' "
Langford faced the racism of the 1910s and 1920s — only about 40 years after the end of slavery — differently from Johnson.
“At the turn of the century, it was rough for people of colour all over the U.S. and Canada,” says Sampson. “Jack Johnson was very vocal and defiant. Sam was defiant in the ring but outside the ring he was very diplomatic and very well-spoken.”
Langford never denied Weymouth was home and went back to reconcile with his father. “Many people didn't know he'd reached the heights of boxing until he came home and shared the stories. I've spoken to his great-granddaughter and the family has always kept roots in Weymouth.”
Chasing Champions had its world premiere at Ship's Company Theatre, Parrsboro, Aug. 3, 2016.
Sampson plays Langford in Chasing Champions and has been training for a year and a half. “My grandfather was a boxer, my father has always been a big boxing fan.”
His father wanted him to learn boxing as a young man but “Mom wasn't a huge fan,” says Sampson. “I became a football player instead.”
Both his parents encouraged him to pursue the arts. “I was the class clown and they pushed me towards drama camps.”
His first production was as a Grade 8 student in The Miracle Worker at the Atlantic Theatre Festival. After graduating from Acadia, he spent four seasons with Shakespeare by the Sea, playing roles including Oberon/Theseus in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Borrachio in Much Ado About Nothing.
Sampson also played Rev. Richard Preston in San Family Production's Settling Africville, was artist-in-residence at Nova Scotia's Maritime Museum in February 2013 and now teaches full time at Bedford Academy where he developed the elementary drama program.
Chasing Champions also stars Marty Burt, Micha Cromwell and Zach Faye in a variety of roles and is directed by award-winning Edmonton director-playwright Ron Jenkins, originally from Sydney.
“Ron loves the sport of boxing. He has a lot of energy and he's passionate about the story. It's a phenomenal team. We're all really invested in Sam's story and we're all wanting to do it justice.”
Sampson also got help from two authors in writing this play, Boston writer Clay Moyle (Sam Langford: Boxing’s Greatest Uncrowned Champion) and Halifax's Steven Laffoley (Pulling No Punches: The Sam Langford Story).
“They were very, very gracious with the material from their books. They were invested in Sam's story so both of their responses were, 'Anything we can do to get Sam's story out there we will.' ”
Sampson was thrilled that Ship's Company artistic producer Natasha MacLellan, a friend, read a draft, invited him and Burt to workshop the play at a winter writing retreat and made it part of last summer's season.
“I'll always be grateful to the Ship and Natasha for taking that leap, you know, on a first-time playwright. I can't believe it's happening.”
From EFT: We are thrilled to bring this play to a Halifax audience and to have Jacob and his castmates revisit this important script.
On the creative team are: director Ron Jenkins, sound designer Joe Micallef, lighting designer Leigh Ann Vardy, costume designer Cathleen McCormack, set and props Garrett Barker, original stage manager Ingrid Risk with apprentice stage manager Alison Crosby, Eastern Front's Stage manager is Jane Creaser.
The cast & director: (from left-right) Jacob Sampson, Marty Burt, Micha Cromwell, Zach Faye and Ron Jenkins.
Chasing Champions is produced in association with Ship’s Company Theatre, Parrsboro.