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‘Faces of Fort Royal’ play tells of French plot to overthrow the English in St. John’s, early life in former capital of New World

The French and English battled over a host of places and territories in the New World.

Seeking land rights and the bountiful natural resources for their respective monarchs was a bone of contention for both as they tried to establish land and resource holdings in North America. Starting in the early 1600s, explorers representing both nations arrived in a host of settlements and laid claim to the land and all it offered in the name of its respective rulers.

A part of that history swirls around the community of Plaisance — known today as Placentia, located on the historic Cape Shore — and its occupation by the French at the turn of the 17th Century.
The community was an early French capital of the New World and the cast of the Placentia Area Theatre d’Heritage (PATH) re-enacted that settlement and plans by its inhabitants to overthrow St. John’s and take all it bounty back to France for the king.
This historical fiction, titled “The Faces of Fort Royal,” takes place in 1696 and tells the tale of Captain D’Iberville (Zack Newhook) travelling to the town of Plaisance to help defeat the English in St. John’s.

The show is presented at Castle Hill National Historic Site, located on a seaside hill above the Town of Placentia. First built in 1693, the site is home to ruins of Fort Royal’s earthworks, stone walls and artillery batteries as well as six smoothbore cannons.
Thousands of authentic artefacts have been unearthed onsite — cannon balls, fishhooks, tools, ceramics and more. Interactive exhibits at the Visitor Centre further unveil Castle Hill’s war-torn history.

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Re-envisioning the O’Reilly House Museum in Placentia

Using this fortified colony as a base, France secured its fishery on the Grand Banks and in times of war used it for staging attacks on the English settlements.

The most famous attacks are Pierre Le Moyne D’Iberville’s bloody invasion of the English shore in 1696 during King William’s War.

During the invasion, d’Iberville and his forces destroyed 36 settlements and captured over 300 boats, 200,000 quintals of cod, and 700 prisoners in four months. D’Iberville’s Newfoundland campaign was cut short when he was ordered to go to the Hudson Bay.

In the play, D’Iberville, a dashing captain, with plenty of knowledge on how to overthrow the English, battles with Governor Jacques-Francois de Brouillan (Shawn Bruce) on the correct course of action to achieve success … and drawing the not-so-subtle attention of socialite Madame Ozanne le Marde.

After several failed attempts to overthrow St. John’s by sea attacks, D’Iberville devises a plan to take the English stronghold by land. Reluctantly, Brouillan agrees with the plan.

After he achieved his goal, Broullian, unable to secure the bounty and move it out of St. John’s decided if he couldn’t have it, no one would and burned it to the ground.
The re-enactment ended for the season on Friday.
“This place has a fascinating history,” Darren Ivany, who plays Father Jean Boudain in Faces.

“The disputes between the French and the English and the French history that is here is amazing.”

“When I started here, I was not as aware of the history of the French in Newfoundland and Labrador as I should have been,’’ he said.
“It was an integral part of our interesting history.”
Ivany has been part of the Faces performance now for five years and enjoys being part of telling the history of the Placentia area, but also being part of the ensemble that does it.
He is the lone professional actor in Faces, done almost entirely with local performers and musicians and produced by Connie Newhook, the artistic director of PATH.

Maggie Follet, who has also been part of PATH performances over the last five years, gets to tell the history in the role of Ozanne le Marde.

“She is not the nicest person and would rather be anywhere else in the world than here,’’ Follett said in describing her character.
“Madame le Marde comes from society in France and feels this settlement is below her. I guess you could call her a high-class witch,’’ she laughed.
While her character is a married women, she has eyes for the dashing Capt. D’Iberville and would jump ship to be with him in an instant.
In many of the scenes she not so subtly flirts with him, in front of her husband Augustin le Marde, played by Jackson Davis.

Follett has just completed her second year of studies at Memorial University where she is working towards degrees in English and communications studies.
The cast included:
Captain Pierre le Moyne D’Iberville - Zack Newhook
Father Jean Boudain - Darren Ivany
?Governor Jacques-Francois de Brouillan - Shawn Bruce
Andrè Valliers - Robbie Pomeroy
Jean Pichot - Liam Ryan
Madeline Pichot - Paula Milley
Therese Pichot - Katie Hann
Marie Aubert - Laura Milley
Ozanne le Marde - Maggie Follett
Augustin le Marde - Jackson Davis
?Phillippe Durand - Lucas White
The Basque, Croise - Rylee Barry

samuel.mcneish@thetelegram.com

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