As the smash-hit musical Come From Away enters its final weeks in Melbourne, we share the story of one of our 2019 Foundation Studies students, who comes from the tiny town at the centre of the storyline.
How did a girl from the outskirts of Gander – a tiny town on a Canadian island in Newfoundland – come to enrol at Trinity College’s Pathways School?
It was by chance that a student recruiter from Trinity was visiting her brother in Gander, where she was invited to dinner at Katherine Stacey’s home. After a night of chatter, Katherine, then 17, was hooked on the idea of living and studying in Melbourne and joined Foundation Studies in January 2019.
By another coincidence, 2019 was the same year the smash-hit musical Come From Away opened in Melbourne.
The musical unfolds the remarkable story of how Gander shot to fame in the week after 9/11, when it took in 6700 passengers and crew from 38 jumbo jets that had been diverted from US skies. The passengers (‘come-from-aways’, as the Newfoundlanders call anyone not from the island) were from 20 countries, plus states across the US – effectively doubling the town’s population within hours.
The townsfolk stepped up to feed, shelter, entertain and care for these unexpected guests and their hospitality became world famous. This included Katherine’s parents, who rotated people through their house all day to eat, shower, make calls and do washing. Her father, who ran a hunting lodge, would take groups of 12 to 14 out to see the woods and surrounds, and the last group of the day got to stay in their home. Her mother hosted sing-a-longs to entertain the guests, while juggling care of Katherine, who was just five months old at the time.
Given her homeland connection, Katherine was invited to the Melbourne premiere of Come From Away. ‘I felt proud watching it as that amazing community is my community,’ says Katherine. ‘It’s crazy that such a small place is now a world-wide story, and it’s pretty cool to be from there.’
Come From Away closes 8 March 2020.
Image: Katherine Stacey with her friend at the premiere of Come From Away in Melbourne.