The Weed: a new play by Anne Rouse
Anne Rouse’s new play The Weed explores the circumstances behind the first ever American play, which was ordered to be performed in court to see how many laws it broke. Director John Knowles explains.
The Bear and the Cub was the first American play. We know it existed because in 1665 the actors were ordered to perform in front of Virginian magistrates. The charge against the cast is unknown, however, in that year the performance of a play was a crime, as was violating the Sabbath. Performing a play on the Sabbath would have been double indemnity. Defaming the person or character of his/her majesty or their representatives in the colony was also a crime.
The Bear and the Cub performance took place against a backdrop of war with the Dutch, a crash in the all-important tobacco trade and widespread indentured servitude – in effect, slavery. The big sell to the public back home was of a ‘Golden Virginia,’ where riches were to be made, but the reality on the ground was mosquito-ridden swamps and poor soil which was robbed of its nutrients by tobacco and slavery.
The Weed explores the mystery: who put on the play, for what reason, and what happened to them all in the end?
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