LAKE GEORGE - The first several days of the Last of the Mohicans Outdoor Drama, staged in the interior courtyard at the historic Fort William Henry through the weekend, hosted sellout crowds.
This strong, positive response demonstrated not only considerable enthusiasm for the drama, but that the long-awaited production, envisioned to be a permanent local attraction, may indeed have a bright future, its sponsors said.
The audience was treated this weekend to an action-packed presentation complete with cannon and musket fire, characters bearing fiery torches, Native American drumming and dancing, live horses, and special effects including pyrotechnics providing an illusion that the Fort itself was ablaze around the audience.
Luisa Craige-Sherman, a board member of the production team, said that she and others involved with the show, were happy with the enthusiasm with which it was received.
"The audience was just enthralled it it," Craige-Sherman said, noting she had to shut off Internet-based ticket orders often daily because of the strong demand. The drama, written by director/playwright Michael Dufault, is based on James Fenimore's classic book by the same name.
Dufault has been working on writing the drama for the past eight years, lining up financing for the show, and seeking a venue and sponsors.
He has been aiming to establish the show as a permanent tourist attraction, like Tecumseh has been in Ohio since 1973, and how The Lost Colony has beena staple for visitors to North Carolina since 1937.
His effort has a new momentum, considering this weekend's shows were the first full-length presentations of the drama, and they were received so well, he said.
"There was tremendous energy between the performers and audience, they fed off one another," he said. "At this point, we don't have a venue lined up, but after this great response, we definitely know we'll be back again next year - multiple weeks definitely, rather than one."
Without a doubt, the special effects that are only possible outdoors made the drama a spectacle. But one of the most compelling aspects, however, was that the drama was performed at the very location where the historic battles occurred. The novel was based on events of the French and Indian War, which included the bloody siege of Fort William Henry in 1757.
In introducing the drama production nightly to the audience before the showings, Dufault told the spectators that where they were sitting in the courtyard of the Fort, the battles indeed played out 253 years ago.
Dufault referred to this aspect Monday.
"This is our story. Much of it is fiction, but it's set against historical events that occurred in our community," he said. "This is the hallowed ground where our men fought and died. This is our community story we can share with tourists that are coming from around the country and from all over the world."
Craige-Sherman offered a similar point.
"The Last of the Mohicans drama not only provides entertainment through drama and spectacle, but educates the audience through historical fact."
Although there are a number of other outdoor dramas offered across the U.S., this is the only one that's been presented on the very ground the depicted events occurred, she said.
But Dufault said that selling out 350 seats was considerably different than filling 1,200 seats over an eight-week summer run, which is his aim.
"We still have a long road ahead of us to become a large-scale professional outdoor drama," he said. "But it's certainly encouraging considering what the initial run has now shown us."
Call 668-5755 or see: www.lastofthemohicansoutdoordrama.org to participate in volunteer work to launch upcoming productions.