'From the Heart Of The Wreck' Premieres On Cape Rep Stage

By: Jennifer Sexton-Riley

Topics: Local Theater , Local authors , Local History

Kirsten Peacock.

      A pirate. A witch. A shipwreck. A love story. What more could anyone possibly want?
      How about all of that and more in a world premiere on the Cape Rep stage?
      “From the Heart of the Wreck,” conceived and written by Cape Rep's Nick Nudler and Kirsten Peacock, explores the fascinating local tale, part history and part folklore, of 18
th century English sailor turned notorious pirate Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy and the mysterious “Witch of Wellfleet” known as Goody Hallett. Through storytelling, humor and song, the many-threaded tale of swashbuckling adventure, seafaring romance and yearning for faraway love giving way to supernatural revenge is told in interwoven versions of stories inspired by the “Prince of Pirates” and his long-ago lady waiting on the shore.
      Nudler and Peacock had long wished to create a theater piece for Cape Rep when Producing Artistic Director Janine Perry and Associate Artistic Director Maura (Mo) Hanlon asked if they had heard the story of Sam Bellamy, Goody Hallett and the wreck of the Whydah Gally.
      “I hadn't heard the story, and when we looked into it we jumped at the idea,” Peacock said. “We love how all of the story dynamics stem from both local folklore and history. There's something magical about the fact that you can touch things that are part of this story.”
      In the course of their in-depth research of the story and its source material, Nudler and Peacock visited the Whydah Pirate Museum in West Yarmouth, where the remains of Bellamy's ship the Whydah Gally, which sank in a nor'easter off the coast of Wellfleet in 1717 and was found and recovered in 1984, represent the largest collection of pirate artifacts recovered from a single shipwreck anywhere in the world.
      “We had a magical experience at the pirate museum,” Nudler said. “To see the giant model of the ship, to realize how fantastic it was and how it went down. For us, seeing these very real, tactile things that were brought up from the ship – things like a pewter plate with someone's initials etched in with a knife – it's so beautiful to feel a connection to the real people who experienced this. The history is so astounding.”
      Peacock said she felt moved to tears by the artifacts they saw, in light of the tragic sinking of the Whydah Gally and the many lives lost.
“It brings humanity through time,” Peacock said. “It's such an incredibly impactful experience to see the score marks on a plate of someone's eating. These people were real. The story of theater is that we tell these ancient stories that are timeless, that remind us of our humanity. We will pass on, but we are alive and together now to experience their story. People experienced what I am experiencing now. It takes us briefly out of our own lives.”
      Nudler and Peacock spoke with authors who have delved into the history of Bellamy, Hallett and the wreck of the Whydah Gally as they researched the stories and created “From the Heart of the Wreck.”
      “We talked with Josh Delaney, who wrote 'Pieces of Eight: Piracy, Witchcraft and the Great Spirit of Colonial Cape Cod,’ as well as with Kathleen Brunelle, author of ‘Bellamy's Bride: The Search for Maria Hallett of Cape Cod,'” Nudler said. “We were so struck by all the many versions of the story.”
Peacock said that the pair began to accumulate the varying stories chronologically as best they could, then began auditions for a collaborative group with whom to work the material into the finished script.
      “We like working best in a collaborative format,” Peacock said. “We wanted to find folks who could help us craft it, and we didn't want to make too many decisions without everyone's voice in the room.”
      Nudler explained that by relying heavily on a collaborative method of storytelling creation, they are able to leave open the possibility that many different versions of the stories may exist simultaneously, allowed to expand and remain open, rather than choosing just one.
      “What is the truth of the story?” Peacock said. “The thing I love is carving as much space as I can for both the Hallett story and the Bellamy story. The Bellamy story usually follows a hero arc, exciting and swashbuckling, whereas hers is so much conjecture, so many different versions. We really are aware and relishing the opportunity to present the myriad ways her story is told, and what that does to the ghost of Hallett. We are kind of unable to pin her down, and there's something really fun and magical about that. How do you explore something you don't want to put in a box? As an actor, it provides a fun and exciting challenge.”
      Nudler and Peacock expressed their delight about how the atmosphere of Cape Rep's physical space, with exposed wood beams so reminiscent of the timbers of a ship, invites audiences into a spooky, intimate sensory experience of the story. Their intent is to embrace this existing environment and lean into it, bringing the audience into the story as soon as they enter the space.
      “In that way, the audience becomes an essential part of the story,” Nudler said. “Together we experience this uncovering of the story, story kernels under layers of retellings, and we go back in and mine it for the kernels of humanity. Even if you think you know and love this story, be prepared to be surprised.”
      “From the Heart of the Wreck,” conceived and written by Nick Nudler and Kirsten Peacock, features Coleman Churchill, BT Hayes, and Ari Lew, along with Nudler and Peacock, with lighting design by Susan Nicholson, and stage manager Tori Mondello. See it before it hoists anchor Sept. 10.