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It’s about the history

Enjoy a Jamestown history lesson in the meadow

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As most of you know, I’m a big history buff. And, well, I sort of like theater too, so when there are times to mix the two, I take notice.

There was “1776” at Tacoma Little Theatre last year, “Anne Frank” earlier this year at Lakewood Playhouse and a smattering of quasi-historical plays that used fictional characters in real-life events to bring the past alive. Off the top of my head, there were “Big River” and “Addy,” dealing with the fall of slavery, and “Boston Marriage,” which shined light on a time in America when homosexuality wasn’t seen by some as a sign of the coming of the end times.

Anyway, Encore! Theater is staging “Pocahontas,” a musical with book by Vera Morris and music and lyrics by Scott DeTurk. The show is directed by Encore’s own Kathleen McGilliard with musical direction by Tina Stobbe and Jenifer Rifenbery.

The theater wanted to stage the show as a way to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown, which was marked earlier this year with a visit from the queen of England to the Virginia shores. Jamestown, if you slept through history class in high school, was the first English settlement in the United States.

With a large cast of children and adults and staged on the natural background of trees, the show seems like a perfect way for this piece of history to be seen.

The rhythmic beat of Native American drums sets the stage for this enduring legend of the 11-year-old Pocahontas, who strives for peace between her tribe and the English settlers who founded Jamestown. This version of the story is much closer to the historical representation than other productions.

When most folks hear the words “Pocahontas” and “musical,” they think of Disney and talking raccoons and singing pine trees. This show isn’t that view at all. This play is from Pioneer Drama and has nothing to do with Disney.

“It is a more historically accurate version of what actually occurred at Jamestown,” McGilliard says.  “I am not sure when the Disney version came out, but I understand that there was considerable distress regarding the accuracy of the movie.  Pocahontas was 11 years old and John Smith 28.  Although Disney and legend have Pocahontas marrying John Smith, she actually married another colonist, John Rolfe, and moved to England with him.”

McGilliard opted to stage the show as a way to not only try in some small way to set the record straight for people on the whole Pocahontas question, but she also wanted to stage a show that all ages could act in as well as enjoy.

People often ask why I like history so much, and I tell them that I can’t find the sort of rich characters and odd events in fiction the way I can by reading stories of the past. Such is the story of Pocahontas.

The show runs at 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday will run through July 1 with performances at the theater’s out of doors venue in the meadow adjacent to Impact Church International at 4819  Hunt St. Northwest in Gig Harbor. 

Theatergoers are encouraged to bring picnics and lawn chairs as well as coats, blankets and bug spray since the stage is outdoors and the site gets a bit chilly when the sun goes down. Tickets are available at the site and are $15 for adults, $11 for military, seniors and teens, $8 for ages 7-12, and children through 6 are $6. For more information, call 253.858.2282 or go to

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