Project Description

QUEBEC COWBOY – The Ballad of Will James

As a boy growing up in Quebec in the late 1800’s, Ernest Dufault always dreamed of being a Cowboy in the American West. Join him as he hides his french origin, changes his name, and becomes one of the most famous Cowboy Artists and Writers of all time: Will James. Based on a true story.

Full length musical (3M, 1F) in development.

2015 –A one act version was workshopped at the Suncor Energy Stage One Festival at Lunchbox Theatre
2015 –A full length version was workshopped at the Port Stanley Theatre new play festival


It was while reading Canadian Songwriter Ian Tyson’s biography that I first came across Will  James. Tyson and countless others were inspired to become Cowboys based on the writing of Will James and his youth in the Montana wilderness where he was raised by the french speaking Beaupre. It was only after Will’s death that it came out that he was actually born in Quebec only arrived in Montana when he was 18, having completely invented “Beaupre” to explain away his french accent. I’m fascinated by this man’s story, how he kept his secret to himself and betrayed even his wife, and the importance he felt in constructing the image of the Cowboy and an American West that was already fading by the time he got there.

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This show received support through the Ontario Arts Council Theatre Creators’ Reserve program.