Planned production would tell 'rounded story' of Mayflower voyage.
MASHPEE — One of biggest regional producing theaters in the United Kingdom wants Wampanoag tribe members to take part in a “major work of community theater” aimed at retelling the story of the Mayflower’s voyage to Massachusetts in part through the eyes of the Wampanoag people.
Theatre Royal Plymouth plans a piece that would include script and music and would ultimately be performed in the U.K. to commemorate 400 years since the creation of Plymouth Colony, according to a statement issued by the company.
The theater group will meet with tribal citizens Thursday at Mashpee Public Library to recruit members who are interested in early Colonial history, as well as “aspiring singers, dancers, musicians and actors,” the statement says. Tribe members who get involved could book an all-expenses-paid trip to the U.K. in the spring of 2020. The invitation to participate in the production and tonight's meeting is open to all Wampanoag, not just the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.
Theatre Royal Plymouth is looking to showcase the finished production inside the Lyric, a 1,300-seat auditorium in Devon, Plymouth. The theater is the group’s biggest venue, and the show will make use of its “full production value,” according to Mandy Precious, director of engagement and learning for Theatre Royal Plymouth.
The project is still in the early stages and “nothing’s been written,” Precious said. The group is seeking input from the tribe to offer a more historically accurate picture of the meeting between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans some 400 years ago. Tribe members will have the opportunity to tell their history, she said.
“This is not our story to tell,” Precious said. “In order to make sure we tell the most rounded story possible, we need to meet with the (Wampanoag) community.”
The Wampanoag nation, tracing its roots on the American continent back some 12,000 years, had long flourished in Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island until the arrival of English settlers in the early 1600s. After outbreaks of diseases brought by the Europeans and frequent warfare, more than 40 percent of the Wampanoag tribal population had perished by 1675, with many remaining males sold into slavery, according to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s website.
Plymouth 400, a nonprofit organization that helps to connect arts and culture organizations in the U.K. to similar groups here, helped arrange the meeting between the tribe and Theatre Royal Plymouth. Plymouth 400’s executive director said the organization was committed to ensuring that any retelling of early Colonial history take the plight of the Wampanoag people properly into account.
“The Wampanoag story would be told by the Wampanoag people, not white people,” Michele Pecoraro said. “In other words, we’re not going to censor their history.”
Paula Peters, a tribe member and member of the Mashpee Advisory Committee of Plymouth 400, spoke highly of Theatre Royal Plymouth’s project after initial reservations.
“I approached the idea with a bit of skepticism at first but have been encouraged by the amount of sincerity of those who want to be inclusive of the Wampanoag voice,” Peters said, “and a theater presentation could be a great way to bring that voice to life.”
Theatre Royal Plymouth is under the umbrella of the U.K.-based Mayflower 400, which works with Plymouth 400 to bring programming that honors the legacy of passengers and crew who made the journey to America to venues across the U.K., the U.S. and the Netherlands.
The Mashpee meeting will run from 5 to 7 p.m., and food and drink will be provided.
— Follow Tanner Stening on Twitter: @tsteningCCT.
Editor's note: The original version of this story included information about who could participate in the community theater project that required clarification. The story has been clarified.