Sitting half in Stanstead, Que., and half in Derby Line, Vt., the Haskell Free Library and Opera House has long been an international meeting place, where Canadian and American citizens can mingle freely across the border line drawn on the floor — as long as they return to the proper country afterwards.
But the most talked-about meeting in the border-straddling Victorian-style building is one that never happened at all.
When writer Ross Murray moved to Stanstead in 1992, he became fascinated with an outlandish local legend that The Beatles had almost met at the Opera House in the early 1970s to discuss a reunion tour.
The rumour, which has persisted despite a lack of evidence it ever happened, is the subject of Murray’s play, All Together Now, which mixes history and fiction to create a comedic homage to the library and the unique realities of his border town — where in some places — a line of flower pots is all that separates Canada and the United States.
“It really is a magical place, this library itself, because it serves two communities in two countries,” Murray said, before correcting himself.
“No it serves one community in two countries.”
Murray’s play, subtitled The possibly true story of a thing that almost happened, includes some historical town characters, including the local librarian and mayor. The Beatles, like in real life, never make an appearance.
“The play is not ultimately about the Beatles rumour, it’s about people connecting in the library,” he said.
Murray said Stanstead and Derby Line residents are used to being portrayed by journalists and other outsiders, who are drawn to their flower-pot border and commitment to maintaining a community that crosses national boundaries, despite the fact that residents can no longer wander across the border as freely as they used to.