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Just got back from Grand Manan Canada, where we performed the "Grand Design", a multimedia musical storytelling (say that 10x fast) of a shipwreck in 1741. The story has all the elements of a soap opera -- desperate immigrants, a dastardly captain, a minister watching in despair as his flock dies of starvation, a young woman whose faith brings her through, a practical young mother who focuses on survival, and lastly, the courageous Passamaquoddy who tell the story of their people and rescue the last survivors.

It's all true, and it happened on the island of Grand Manan. Descendents of the survivors live along the coast of Maine.

When we did the show in Damariscotta, the kids were taken aback when 4 generations of descendents showed up on opening night. They realized that this wasn't just a play, it was the story of real people.

In Grand Manan, the players were even more affected. They knew what it would be like to overwinter on the island, with only dulse and mussels to eat. The 17-year old girl who played the young mother wept as she told of the death of her husband. The woman who read the Passamaquoddy legend was already knew their story, but now it was being told to everyone, not as some bit of quaint anthropology, but as part of a noble heritage and history.

It was wonderful. There is no community theatre on the island, so this production was unusual. That the community could pull something like this together so quickly -- most didn't see the script until the evening before the performance, and we only had one full rehersal -- was simply amazing. We had more than 10% of the island population there.

More than just showing how they could do something like this, the production pointed out to the kids that their island - their history - was something that people off-island were interested in and valued.


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August 2016

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