In 2008, Joe Forbrich built and sailed his 16-foot sailboat Jenny from Long Island to Martha’s Vineyard to spend the summer apprenticing as a boatbuilder by day and working by night as an actor at The Vineyard Playhouse. It was on this trip that he first heard the story of the Essex, and blissfully caught between the nautical and theatrical worlds, the idea for his play - the true story of the destruction of a whaleship by a vengeful leviathan - was born.


Cast of  The Whaleship Essex  at the Vineyard Playhouse's Monday Night Special series. Photo by Jeanna Shephard    Jeanna Shepard    

In May 2013, after several years of table reads and refinements, THE WHALESHIP ESSEX debuted in a public reading for a packed house at The Players Club in New York City with a cast that included Peter Gerety, Mickey Sumner, and Tom Hanks. 

In July of the same year, the work was read again, this time on Martha's Vineyard, as part of the Vineyard Playhouse’s Monday Night Specials series.


Developmental Showcase

A successful fundraising campaign was run to raise funds to achieve a theatrical “proof of concept,” a series of 12 developmental showcase performances to inspire future partners to see the possibilities of the piece.  THE WHALESHIP ESSEX found its sea legs in March, 2014.  Directed by Peter Zinn.  Photos by Todd Ivins and Sechrest.Co.

Martha's Vineyard Playhouse - "World Premiere"


June 19th - July 12th, 2014 - THE WHALESHIP ESSEX played to packed houses on the newly renovated Patricia Neal Stage at the Martha's Vineyard Playhouse.  Directed by Peter Zinn.






Shattered Globe Theatre - "Midwest Premiere"

September 5th - October 12, 2014 - Critics rave about Shattered Globe's production of THE WHALESHIP ESSEX, directed by Lou Contey.  Photos by Emily Schwartz.