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New Light On Virginia's First Documented Africans
Poesies: Finding Love in Jamestown and Early Virginia
Cockacoeske Shines in TENACITY
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Jamestown Settlement Presents “Mother Tongue,” an Original Play Inspired by ‘TENACITY’ Special Exhibition

WILLIAMSBURG, Va., April 18, 2019 — Jamestown Settlement is proud to present the premiere of “Mother Tongue,” an original play written by Abigail Schumann, that explores the stories of three women of Jamestown – Matoaka, Anne Burras Laydon and Angelo – as they come together to consider if, and how, the future will remember them and why it matters.

This new production will take the stage in the Robins Foundation Theater at 7:30 p.m. on May 10-11 and May 16-18. Written in support of Jamestown Settlement’s special exhibition “TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia,” a legacy project of the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution, “Mother Tongue” blends historical content with modern perspective.

“It is unlikely that these women met in real life, but the play allows us to bring them together and explore how they might have connected with each other,” said Peter Armstrong, senior director of museum operations and education for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. “It presents these women with a stage and a voice to talk about their lives, the ways in which they were different and more importantly the ways in which they were the same.”

“Mother Tongue” playwright Abigail Schumann is special exhibitions programs manager at Jamestown Settlement. The recipient of eight regional Emmy awards for script writing, directing and producing educational history programs, she has created plays and performances for museums and historic sites for more than 20 years. “Using theater as a way to animate the stories of women featured in the exhibit reminds us that their lives weren’t just lived in the line or two history may have recorded about them. Their lives were as complete and as complex as our own,” she said.

  • Matoaka, also known as Pocahantas or Amonute, the daughter of Powhatan, paramount chief of more than 30 Virginia Indian tribes, is played by Heather Doré Johnson. Heather has spent most of her theatrical career as a performer and dance director at The Little Theatre on the Square in Sullivan, Illinois.
  • Anne Burras Laydon, who arrived in 1608 at the age of 14 as one of only two English women in the colony at the time, is played by Michelle Smith. Michelle holds a Master of Fine Arts in acting from the University of Iowa, and since graduating has performed on numerous stages across the United States.
  • Angelo, who arrived in Virginia in 1619 and is the first African woman mentioned by name in the historical record at Jamestown, is played by Shalandis Wheeler Smith. Shalandis received a Bachelor of Arts in theatre from Norfolk State University and is very active in Richmond’s theatrical scene.

The facts of each woman’s life are drawn from the historical record where available, while supplemental invention (such as childhood memories) is used to propel the narrative. Interweaving forth-wall scenes with direct audience address, the three women, who did not interact in real life, meet in a timeless space to compare their experiences and reflect on the meaning of their lives.

Jamestown Settlement’s “TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia” will be open to event attendees each evening at 6:30 p.m. prior to the start of the play. “Mother Tongue” is made possible by Dominion Energy. Admission to this special nighttime performance is $20, with event details and tickets available at historyisfun.org/mother-tongue.


Jamestown Settlement features expansive exhibition galleries and films that connect visitors with the lives of the Powhatan, English and west central African cultures that converged at 17th-century Jamestown, and historical interpretation in outdoor re-creations of a Powhatan Indian village, 1607 English ships and colonial fort. Jamestown Settlement is a stage for special exhibitions, events and programs in conjunction with the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution, honoring the 400th anniversary of key historical events in Virginia in 1619. The “TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia” special exhibition, a legacy project of the 2019 Commemoration, explores captivating and little-known stories of Powhatan Indian, English and African women in 17th-century Virginia, and is accompanied this year by more than a dozen public lectures, special events and performances.

Located on State Route 31 near the Colonial Parkway in James City County, just southwest of Williamsburg, daytime admission to Jamestown Settlement, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily year-round is $17.50 for adults, $8.25 for ages 6-12, and free for children under 6. Residents of York County, James City County and the City of Williamsburg, including College of William and Mary students, receive free admission with proof of residency. A value-priced combination ticket with the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is $26.00 for adults and $12.50 for ages 6-12. A separate ticket is required to attend this evening performance and is available for purchase for $20 at historyisfun.org/mother-tongue.

For more information, call (888) 593-4682 toll-free or (757) 253-4838 or visit historyisfun.org/mother-tongue.

Registration Open for Summer History Camps at Jamestown Settlement & American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

WILLIAMSBURG, Va., April 3, 2019 – Registration is now open for summer history camps at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, offering hands-on fun this summer for young people age 4 through fourth grade. “Broadside” summer history camps immerse children in 17th-century colonial Virginia and the American Revolution through stories, games, craft activities and visi

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American Revolution Museum at Yorktown and Jamestown Settlement History Museums Experience Decline in 2018 Visitation, Revenue

WILLIAMSBURG, Va., February 28, 2019 – Paid visitation in 2018 at Jamestown Settlement and American Revolution Museum at Yorktown living-history museums operated by the state’s Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, totaled 533,730, a decrease of 12.6 percent from 2017. Admissions revenue amounted to $5,652,533 in 2018, down 9.9 percent. In 2018, paid attendance at the American Revolution Museum at Yor

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Jamestown Settlement to Present Tenacious Women Lecture Series as Speakers Expand on ‘Tenacity’ Special Exhibition Themes

WILLIAMSBURG, Va., February 27, 2019 – Jamestown Settlement, a museum of 17th-century Virginia history and culture, will present a “Tenacious Women Lecture Series” on Thursday evenings from March through November in conjunction with the yearlong special exhibition “TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia.” The eight-part lecture series features scholars, curators and authors speakin

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‘Military Through the Ages’ Event at Jamestown Settlement Features Centuries of Military History in One Weekend With Special Salute to Women’s Wartime Roles

WILLIAMSBURG, Va., February 22, 2019 — In just one weekend, visitors can experience centuries of military history during Jamestown Settlement’s time-honored “Military Through the Ages” event on Saturday and Sunday, March 16-17. This year’s event will feature a special salute to women’s roles in the military and their contributions during times of war. “Military Through the Ages,” held at Jamest

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Jamestown Settlement Presents ‘After Angelo: Celebrating Black Women in America’ on February 23

WILLIAMSBURG, Va., January 25, 2019 — African-American women, from 1619 to today, are honored as Jamestown Settlement presents “After Angelo: Celebrating Black Women in America” on February 23. The legacy of Angelo, the first African woman mentioned by name in the historical record at Jamestown, and African-American women in Virginia are celebrated with a day of music, dramatic performance and his

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Jamestown Settlement & American Revolution Museum at Yorktown Present ‘African-American Cultural Heritage Month’ in February

WILLIAMSBURG, Va., January 25, 2019 — Throughout February, Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown will present “African-American Cultural Heritage Month,” featuring a variety of programs that reflect and honor the significant contributions and achievements of African Americans in our nation’s history. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first recorded African

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‘Blast From the Past: Artillery In The War of Independence’ Special Exhibition Extended to March 3 at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

 YORKTOWN, Va., January 4, 2019 — The “Blast from the Past: Artillery in the War of Independence” special exhibition at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown has been extended through March 3, 2019. Visitors can experience artillery used on all fronts of the American Revolution by American, French and British forces through interactive experiences and artifact displays. “Blast from the Past,

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