'Sanctuary: A Bird Masque' gives wings to 100 years of environmental conservation in Granite State
August 21. 2013 10:13PM
NEW STAGING: A centennial performances of “Sanctuary: A Bird Masque” will take place at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish on Sunday, Aug. 25.
THEATER WITH A MESSAGE: “Sanctuary: A Bird Masque,” first performed in New Hampshire in 1913 (shown above), resonated with the dawning environmental consciousness of the time, coinciding with the growing popularity of Audubon Bird Societies and the movement to create a National Park system. In 1918, President Wilson, who had attended that theater show, signed the Migratory Bird Act.
This weekend the national parks of Vermont and New Hampshire pay tribute to that pivotal production, which took place at the opening of the Meridan Bird Sanctuary in Meriden in 1913 and drew President Woodrow Wilson.
After its 1913 performance, "Sanctuary" was performed with author and Cornish Colonist Percy MacKaye's encouragement by amateur theater troupes across the country. Its popularity arose not only from its colorful bird costumes and lively verse dialogue, but from an underlying social and environmental message about the rampant hunting of wild birds for their feathers, which were used by the fashion industry in popular women's hats.
"Vermont and New Hampshire are synonymous with natural beauty and defense of the environment," Fitzpatrick said. "Ecological goals are very important to this region."
"I think it's important for Americans to know about our cultural history," said Meyers, who also is director of Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site's long-running concert series.
In preparing the music, Meyers discovered manuscripts in the Dartmouth College archives of the four songs written for the 1913 production by Cornish composer Frederic Shepherd Converse. Meyers also arranged incidental music using other contemporary pieces composed by musicians associated with the Cornish Colony.