thumbnail of Kaleidoscope; Symphonic drama and historical pageantry
Hide -
This transcript was received from a third party and/or generated by a computer. Its accuracy has not been verified. If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+.
This is a kaleidoscope a series of close ups of the American art scene. Each program in this series brings to you contemporary views of the ever changing and around the American arts through which man interprets today's living and finds expression for his dreams his thoughts and his feelings his media are many. Is canvas the world. And. Then.
I am I am I. Today our program is focused upon symphonic drama and historical pageantry. These new avenues in the American theater are typified by the comedy glory and the Founders who soon found the grounds by fall of the regime which highlight the Jamestown festival in Virginia. The celebration of the 300 50th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in our nation the common glory has for several seasons delighted audiences with the story of the pre revolutionary
days in Williamsburg. It depicts in music dance and drama the spirit aroused the Virginia colony to put off the yoke of British rule. And if I was a columnist through their bitter war struggles into their Yorktown victory the founder's was written especially for the Jamestown festival and opened in May 1957 like the common glory. History itself outlines the plot as the action follows closely the actual events of the first few years of the Jamestown Colony. So if the performances are given in the afternoon the founder's does not rely so much upon brilliant songs and dances like those used in the common glory as it does upon dramatic scenes which seem almost to take one back to the real James down of 16 0 7. A kaleidoscope comes to you today from the amphitheater where the founders is plain. To the average theatre goer this unique stage is indeed a departure from those of traditional play houses. This may be called Nature's own theater for here the sky
is our roof. A forest is our cycle around. The surrounding trees are the walls and the birds the wind and the voices of life itself are our sound effects. The stage is built upon a lake bank encompassed by a stockade representative of the original Jamestown fort. Behind the stage in between it and the forest beyond is Lake Matoaca and afloat within view of the audience is a replica of one of the three ships that sailed up the James River three hundred fifty years ago during a performance underwater cables towed the ship across the lake and thus the audience actually sees the ship sail. Just look at Virginia the line between New York and James Rivers is indeed the birthplace of the republic and the cradle of liberty the very lake shore on which this theater is built is sacred soil. Here the Tribune made Pocahontas herself as walked down the trail that leads through this very amphitheater prideful old power to him Emperor of the Western world and his warriors have
marched to battle the glamorous John Smith and the devout. John ROFF it passed this way and the Faneuil begun. Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson have walked under the very trees which shade our stage. Here backstage this afternoon the cast is making ready for today's performance. Yet today's performance may not go on for the big problem of outdoor drama is whether this afternoon a brisk wind is whipping across like my talk as dark clouds move ominously overhead while we await the making of a decision. We will introduce to you Mr. Howard Scammon director of both the comedy glory and the founders. Mr. Scanlon as director of two of Paul Green's symphonic dramas How would you describe his theatre form. Well it's perhaps best described by the term symphonic drama which Mr. Greene finally decided his dramas should be called. And the fundamental idea is that it's a blending of the arts.
For example he thinks that the story itself can be told through dance through song and through acting through pantomime through the use of the microphone and through all of those. The audience understanding the various medium and seeing it how would you get the storyline what she wants to put across. I know that it is something that you cannot call intimate theater because all of the symphonic dramas of the plays are given outdoors have to compete with regular nature and therefore it takes something which is very very broad such as the amplification of sound to give sound effects and the broad movement of the actors the dance that has a very very telling moment and movement to it. Sorry I don't numerous our productions of this type in the United States today. Well to begin with there are approximately 10 or 12 that are now being given.
For example I can think of of course the last colony which seems to be the forerunner of all of these dramas that of course was written by Mr Green and then some of his other productions of the wilderness road. The founders in the common glory used Kermit Hunter is represented with under these hills Chuckie Jack. Born in the West. And they seem to be more popular possibly in Virginia North Carolina and Tennessee and in some of the other portions of the country. Although I know that Mr. Greene is at several requests from various sections of the country to do this type of drama. Well Mr. Scammon How do you think the founders compares with the common glory and the other dramas of this type. Who are you going to put me on the spot with that. Well it's very difficult to compare or contrast the founders and the common glory and primarily it is because the founders presented in the afternoon and the glory is
presented in the evening. And here in the afternoon you do not have the benefit of the lights that you have in the evening Productions. And although the afternoon show the founder's is one which is very very beautifully costume and yet I think that probably many people miss the lights. Yet as I sit in the auditorium awareness of the trees around the lake the cardinals the Blue Jays it just seem to fly right across the audience. You have all nature to contend with and yet with nature the founder seems to have a better setting common glory. Because I'm partial to that because when that started in 1947 when I started working in various capacities there it seems somehow to be a more glamorous type of production. I'm glamorous in the fact that it is typical of possibly the brilliance of the society of the
revolutionary period the founders completely different dealing with a very very rough time in the settlement of this country. And you're not going to get a definite answer out of me I'm not going to say which one I like better than the other because I like them both. Well let's try to change the founders based more on facts or on imagination. You know I think that it is based on fact. It's certainly dealing you can't get away from the fact that the country had its beginning although the drama certainly has its beginning with the arrival of the people here at Jamestown. And it's possibly one of the reasons why the show is so difficult and the fact that fact plays such an important part. And many times to read about some of the historical events very very exciting. On the other hand to dramatize people starving which certainly was a very very dramatic moment yet to put that on the stage is something which
taxes your imagination. So I guess it is fact and it is imagination but you can do with the facts to make it come alive. Well about these facts what were some of the historical sources used in writing this drama. Now on that I'm afraid that Mr. Green would be the one really to answer but I know that he's gone back and he's gone into the writings of the period. The work certainly of John Smith and their accounts which the historians possibly would you. I know that when he was in England he certainly was at graves and in that he was familiar with the place where Pocahontas is buried. And I'm sure that he has probably used a great deal of research which the audience perhaps does not even realize. I see I understand that music does not play as an important part in the Founders it doesn't POG means other symphonic dramas. Do you feel
efficient any way makes a drama less appealing to the public. No I feel that as far as the founder is concerned in the period that we're showing you the settlement of the country James that there really wasn't too much time to have a great deal of dance and song. I'm not saying that the people did not see and they certainly did. And in this production why we certainly are making use of music to the point that the drug use during the Indian dance. We have seen in which the people repairing the fort and music is used as a background for that. Men's voices singing as they're working and then has a dance. There is after the wedding of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. There is a dance to celebrate the marriage. And this is done in some country style but the dance here seems to grow out of the drama rather than being
superimposed on the drama. And it seems to have a more natural polity to it in the fact that it just grows out of the drama rather than something that is put on as a spectacular number. Making a production in an outdoor theater must have many problems. Did you find that you had a problem without the advantage of light. He has. It's still a problem. For example at the end of the drama we have an attack representing an attack on the outlying settlements and then coming to Jamestown of course the settlers in Jamestown were warned that the Indians were approaching and so they were saved. But nevertheless in order to theatrical eyes and make this attack real you have to have Indians and white people fighting. Now the problem is that usually in a fight someone is going to lose. And many times during a battle or an attack such as that people are going to be killed.
But my great problem of course is to get rid of the bodies after they're killed. It being daylight where are you going to put the bodies you said we can't leave them on the stage at the end of the production. The audience is not going to see them get up and walk away. And so that has been one problem. I think that we're working toward a satisfactory conclusion. I think that the audience gets the sense that there is a great deal of fighting on stage and that there is a loss of life but actually there is only one person after this attack who is really left on stage and he is carried off by the other members of the company. Well Mr. Scanlon what period of the Jamestown settlement does the Founders need. Will it. After the settlement at Jamestown. And as the play opened by we are now already established in Jamestown and it depicts
the really the romance between Pocahontas and John Rolfe. Many people of course I suppose imagine that Pocahontas married John Smith which of course is a great era it was John Rolfe she married and we show through the eyes of John Rolfe who comes and tries to make the people work. And through the devotion and gentleness of Pocahontas how the two tried to keep the colony alive. And it is mainly this story and the struggle and finally the victory in the fact that the colony does seem to be established. We end in 16 22 at which time the attack took place and by that time certainly the women had arrived to James Homes were being established families were being built as it were raised and we all to have the
House of Burgesses being established and setting the way for our present government. Well are there any other historically known characters in this drama besides Pocahontas and Rolf. Yes John Smith is certainly there and the scene in which John Smith appears is possibly meeting the demands of people who come to this area if they come to Jamestown at all they instantly James just connote Pocahontas and John Smith and within the drama itself we do say show the saving of John Smith by Pocahontas because there are other characters you cannot get away from it when you're dealing with a historical situation. So George Yardley and Ralph of course who is the leading figure in the drama Mr. George
Percy gate who was a governor at one time Wingfield who was a governor so that although they are all there on the stage I'm not sure whether the people actually recognized him as being real people or not but they certainly were historically here at Jamestown. One of Paul Green strongest points has been his use of comic relief. Does he use this device in the founder's. Yes there is but it is not necessarily that of a funny man. It is the fact that a gentleman has arrived in Jamestown and he of course is just above the idea of work. His main idea of course is to find gold. Well he digs up several pieces of earth around Jamestown and all he gets is fools. Earth fools gold and yet the comic relief possibly comes in the fact that you see him change from this gentleman who disdains working
who feels that he is above everyone finally becoming a very very solid citizen one who works thrive even and marries settles down and has a family. Will Mr. Scanlan as the director of the founders How do you feel that the public is accepting the drama. Well I think that they are accepting it very very well. It's possibly a new experience to them because I don't know really historically how many outdoor dramas have been given in the afternoon. And I think that people when they arrive certainly all of the actors can see the audience the audience can see the act. And to hear them talk about the reactions of the audience it seems to me that they become very grossed in the drama and they watch the drama quite intensely. Well do you feel that outdoor dramas and pageants such as the founders have a great future in America.
Yes I do because and it would probably have a future if it is done within a certain area. I think probably the reason that the common glory of the founder so successful is the fact that it is within the area where the person coming to visit can see those things and then the afternoon of the evening he can go and see a dramatization of everything. The area Orient orientate the person. And then when he sees the drama he sees that it is much more fitting. For example I certainly would not want to see the common glory being done in any other section of the country. It so basically Williamsburg that the whole setting in the whole town seems to contribute to the actual drama itself. And I think that probably is one of the reasons why within certain areas given a good script that you will find an outdoor drama would be quite successful. Thank you Mr scam and now I see the clouds have lifted and you are going to show this
afternoon. Do you suppose we have time for a scene before the play starts. Possibly the one where the Council meets to discuss whether the group will remain on the island or returned England. In this scene John ROFF goes before the council and persuades the group. Our country needs us and our better cause we have no right to take the lives of the women and children in trust to do our care mistress Yadu. True and I would take my wife away from the horrors of starvation she suffered and the others likewise. I my voice is with Captain Yardley's this enterprise has failed. If I could but see
one single chance of its continuance I would say take that chance. But I say nothing. Nora I grew up in Martin. I was commander of the good ship Benjamin on Roanoke Island with Francis Drake. There I saw all Ralph Lane and I wandered all those deserted their post calling for really crying. We are starving here. Take us away. We took them away and hardly had we left you know Sir Richard Grenville arrived with a supply. If they had but held on I've always got me yet. Captain muffin is right are we not cut Well I-I Johndroe you are not time member of this coach nor you said Johnny Raw fish here at my invitation let him speak. I vote for yielding up to settle yet no matter how many people do you have faith in God but you can all say oh if so we will not give up this colony we will not we will have to find gold. We have faith but no food. Then we prove traitor but now call me outright I am not here have we been brought to this hour of the human
weakness. I will tell you because we have not work sufficient hard you to spy work we show them and work with a rich and fruitful earth making her do for substance work. And we have made enemies of the Indian people here not Britons if they want our friends they would feel they are not our friend. Pocahontas says they yearn for peace. She is off. Friend I believe her. I am we have noted her yarning far white flash unknowing of all her people. A most strange man on normal appetite a strangely gentle heart deplores this spill enough blood between us and in a quick thinking she sees that if we were afraid how people could be taught from our books be taught how to place it bible and all of us together working in a common cause. We would go on to triumph here so I have a plan as a what is it.
Let me go to them with two axes hose saws instruments of peace and say to them these are yours we give them to you freely we will teach you how to use them help you to have been yourselves good homes and clear your feet. What say you want is guns to murder us when I don't know not really heard me gov Gates. What is your pleasure sir. My pleasure would be to cut out and I deduce what gentlemen there may be some reason to say OK by then maybe on a roll I give the due date. Captain Percy you know I would choose men to go with an on off. I know are now good now but certain you are excellent so you will not send innocent men out to be butchered in cold blood. I am not so great a food captain followed you and Sergeant Abbott shall follow after them with men through the woods to protect them. Good night General then. Accident say it.
This has been kaleidoscope production of the teaching material standard of Virginia's Norfolk County Public Schools. Your announcer has been to the middle.
Please note: This content is only available at GBH and the Library of Congress, either due to copyright restrictions or because this content has not yet been reviewed for copyright or privacy issues. For information about on location research, click here.
Symphonic drama and historical pageantry
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-w37kv576).
Episode Description
This program focuses on Paul Green's The Founders.
Series Description
A series of close-ups of the American art scene.
Performing Arts
Jamestown Settlement
Media type
Interviewee: Scammon, Howard, 1911-1999
Subject: Rudolf, Max, 1902-1995
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 4994 (University of Maryland)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:25:00
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Kaleidoscope; Symphonic drama and historical pageantry,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 23, 2024,
MLA: “Kaleidoscope; Symphonic drama and historical pageantry.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 23, 2024. <>.
APA: Kaleidoscope; Symphonic drama and historical pageantry. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from