Through the years we have have hosted a lot of historical reenactments in Annapolis Royal. We have had the landing of the French, the landing of the Scots, the baptism of Membertou, the Nova Scotia Pony Express and the British capture of Port Royal to name but a few. Another event which has had a few reincarnations through the years is the Theatre of Neptune. Written by the Parisian lawyer Marc Lescarbot, the Theatre of Neptune was the first European theatre production in the new world. The play was written to celebrate the return of Samuel de Champlain from an exploratory voyage along what is now the New England coast. The play was staged on the waters of the Annapolis Basin with the actors standing in canoes. Neptune emerges from the water and sings the praises of the European adventurers.
When we last held a reenactment of the Theatre of Neptune in 2006, there was a touring company who had a production lampooning the original play. I suppose that they had a point to make but, then as now, I felt that they had chosen a fairly slow moving target for their attack. Is the Lescarbot play in any way politically correct to a modern sensibility? Nope. Do the European characters display an unjustified cultural superiority at the expense of the Mi'Kmaq? Of course they do. Is this a piece of theatre that would be remembered if it was not a first for the New World? Probably not. Is it a great play? Not really. Is the play an interesting and important historical document that should be seen and interpreted as a historical document? Most certainly.
This collection of images comes from the Annapolis Heritage Society's Tommy Rose Collection. While they are undated, I believe that these were taken at the 350th anniversary of the play which would have taken place in November 1956. The original images were slides and they show some signs of deterioration. When slides break down the first colour to fade is usually red. This leaves the image with a blue tinge that you can see here. While the play may have some flaws, I hope to be at the 450th anniversary of the Theatre of Neptune in 2056.
All for now,