A Brief History
According to Newfoundland legend, Sheila Na Geira was an Irish Princess who while at sea was captured by the notorious pirate Peter Easton. She fell in love with Easton's lieutenant, Gilbert Pike, and the two settled in Bristol's Hope, Newfoundland c. 1605. The legend had all the ingredients musicals are made of, and Chuck decided he would do just that with the story.
In 1994 he started writing the script and enlisted his father John Herriott, a noted composer/musician, to write the score. In 1995 with most of the score complete, John Herriott passed away and the duties of composing were passed to Chuck's brother Richard, an accomplished pianist and composer. Chuck's other brother Mike would arrange the score.
Chuck received a grant of $11,000.00 for the project from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council to aid in the creation of script, music and design elements with the aim that Sheila Na Geira: A Folk Opera be staged outdoors in Carbonear, NL, throughout the summer of 1997 for the Cabot 500 Celebrations.
Chuck then set himself to the task of amassing corporate sponsorship and convinced four companies to throw in $15,000.00 apiece. He then convinced the Federal and Provincial Governments to ante up. In the end he raised a total of $285,000.00, just in time to start rehearsals, build the set and costumes and start spinning the wheels of promotion.
Everything about the production had to be top-notch. An office was set up and people were hired. Professional actors would fill the main roles, four professional musicians would play his father's music, a professional costume designer was hired, a professional carpenter would build the set... and a team of locals would help out. Forty-five people were hired and set their minds to the task of bringing the legend to life. On July 19th, 1997 the show opened!
The project was a huge success. Audience members would arrive at the local mall, buy a ticket at a kiosk in the mall and then board a waiting school bus which would take you to the site – Dave White's quiet field far from the highway. The first weekend saw and average of four buses arrive at the field – each bus holding 50-60 people. The next weekend the number of buses increased to average of 8-10; and the third weekend 12-14. For the final performance on the fourth weekend, 19 buses drove up the gravel road to the main gate. An amazing 868 people paid to come and see the play that night. Word of mouth had done its job. It was an incredible success.
In 1998 Sheila Na Geira: A Legend of Love and Larceny began a two-year hiatus from the Carbonear festival and local troupes did their best to fill the void with a show based on the same story but with their own script and musical elements - not to be confused with the original production.
During the summer of 2000 the original Sheila was back!
Chuck joined forces with well-known actor Pete Soucy and the two brought the outdoor musical back to life. The result was another resounding success.
The future of Sheila...
The original Sheila Na Geira is currently being reworked. Chuck's brother Mike, a world-renowned musician, is re-working the score while Chuck adds a few more tunes and re-works the second act. The plan is to develop the score and the book and shop it around to producers everywhere.
SHEILA NA GEIRA: A LEGEND OF LOVE AND LARCENY
Written and Directed by - Chuck Herriott
For the production:
Sheila Na Geira was performed on David White’s field, 1 Gunner’s Pond Road, Carbonear, C.B., Newfoundland. The World Premiere was July 18, 1997. The show ran from July 19th - August 16th, 1997.
THE CAST OF THE PREMIERE 1997 PRODUCTION:
SHEILA NA GEIRA ALISON AYLWARD
KEYBOARDS WADE PINHORN
OTHERS WHO GAVE THE PRINCESS A HAND
DRAMATURGE Marion Cheeks
THE MUSIC & SONGS
OVERTURE Music by John & Richard Herriott (M. Herriott arr.)