NORTH HAVEN — This summer, the island hosted an original dramatic production written by native Tom Emerson.

“The House of Broken Ships,” a Gothic play about the elderly and seldom-seen matriarch of a grandiose house, is drenched in island culture. Set in the 1920s, the play touches on issues like suicide, mental illness, and small town secrets, all of which still resonate with contemporary audiences.

Directed by Missouri and Columbia graduate Kappy Kilburn, it is a performance that off-islanders didn’t mind the buying a ferry ticket and donning practical footwear to see.

“The story starts when our organization, the Waterman’s Community Center, received a grant from the Virginia Tolman foundation in New York to put on a new work,” explains programs coordinator Bill Kilroy. The grant allowed Waterman’s to offer prize money for an original script writing competition. All submissions were anonymous, so no one could claim bias when a writer who was brought up on North Haven won.

“Tom Emerson is an island boy,” Kilroy said. “He grew up here, he went to school here, he’s currently getting his masters in maritime history at UMass Amherst. The fact that his script won, and that he’s got this connection with the island,” he said, “that’s sort of what makes it special.”

The Virginia Tolman Grant also allowed Waterman’s to hire professionals in the field. The group found its director, Kilburn, through Lincoln Center’s Director’s Lab. She has worked in Maine before.

“I could tell that Kappy really understood it,” Emerson said of Kilburn. “So I just told her, ‘I’m gonna let you go with it.'”

And so she did, even though mounting a production on an island isn’t always easy. “You think out of box in new ways because you have to,” said Kilburn. She remembered an incident on which she needed to rewire a plug, and the locals directed her to J.O. Brown’s Boatyard. There, after Kilburn told a worker her problem, he put the wire on a tree stump, took out an ax, and chopped it. The fix worked perfectly.

Actors, designers and crew were drawn from both the year-round and summer communities, both equally dedicated.

“For some reason, in the community, it’s really important to everyone,” said Greg Quinn, who was the male lead. “People will lose money to participate in these shows.”

Bill Trevaskis, who oversees progams at Waterman’s, said it’s helpful having the writer of the play present at rehearsals. “Usually they’re too famous or dead,” he said with a laugh.

Kilburn and her costume designer, Kevin Koski, took inspiration from these dedicated islanders. Kilburn remembers rehearsals where she and the cast would be discussing characters in the play, and then accidentally fade into discussing real North Haven characters.

“If I feel stumped at any moment,” explains Koski, “I can just walk down to the docks and watch people.”

This small town attitude is captured exquisitely in Emerson’s writing.

“Instead of just writing about the island, I’m using the island to write about people,” he said.

The characters speak in a language that seems to come straight from the mouth of a New England seafaring grandfather. Cutting the ropes from lobster traps as a form of warfare, ancient family feuds, rich community folklore and salty humor are all too real to anyone who has experienced a fishing village.

Emerson wanted to show a darker truth beyond what brings the tourists.

“It’s very quaint, it’s very lovely,” he said of North Haven and the fictional island depicted in the play. “But the more you get to know the people, you start seeing the ugly side. And I think it’s kind of a microcosm for the way the world works in general,” he said.

“These people are story tellers,” said Kilburn.