Sunday, May 25, 2014

Treasure Island by Ken Ludwig from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson

L - R Elena Browne, Sanna Legan, Isaish Strum

By Joe Straw

During the night a little girl in the audience in a pitch perfect and very clear voice said: “I really hate it when they swear on stage, Momma.” The actor on stage, caught off guard for a moment, lifted his head, smiled and went on about his performance.

Of course there was not what you would call “swearing” in this version of Treasure Island just the normal pirate speak, arr! - Narrator

Here’s where it all begins, the seriousness of it all, acting in junior high, and high school. This particular venue was the New Roads School in the Capshaw-Spielberg Center for Arts & Educational Justice building and inside the beautiful Ann and Jerry Moss Theatre.  

Treasure Island by Ken Ludwig from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson was presented by the Spectrum Drama Program on Wednesday May 14, 2014 and directed by Elisa Schultz and Emily Stroll.

“The Spectrum Drama Program is an all-encompassing theatrical experience for middle school students, high school students, and alumni diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  Together with their neurotypical peers, students learn acting, improvisation, voice, speech, movement, and dance.  This ensemble-based program promotes cooperative and creative collaboration.  Students are encouraged to step out of their comfort zones, develop their own voices, and take artistic risks in a safe and supportive environment.” – Program Note - Author unknown

This night was a special night, the performance - a one shot deal. And this little troupe will move on to bigger and better things because there were some fascinating performances. Possibly jumping the rum here, but more on this later.

Watching the directors, Elisa Schultz and Emily Stroll, was almost as fun as watching the show. Downstage center, in the audience, they kept vigilant eye on each set piece on stage whispering:  “No, move back.  Bring forward!  Stage left!  Stage right!”  Just to make sure the cardboard palm trees were placed in the right place and in the right light.   They also cringed when the actors barely avoided the scrim coming down upon them as they were scurrying along moving set pieces.  At times the directors stare at each other, and at other times they covered their faces.  Still, not much went wrong on this night and for that they gave each other high fives.  The night was a successful one and at times very beautiful, moving, and funny.

L - R Sanna Legan, Isaiah Strum

Ahoy!  Ye scurvy dogs!

The play starts off in the seaside village of Black Hill Village with Jim Hawkins (Sana Legan) son of the local bartenders at the Admiral Benbow Inn, and the narrator of the story.  

Pirate Billy Bones (Isaiah Strum) crashes the Inn and demands his rum! Already grog blossomed and loaded to the gunwalls, Bones wants to live his life to the fullest with rum and only rum, in a pewter mug no less, much to the dismay of Dr. Livesy (Christopher Madkins) who parleys a lesson in overly abundant consumption of that hearty drink.  It is hardly a concern to Bones who fears nothing, but only one thing, one man, the uniped picaroon scallywag Long John Silver (Shaydon Golub).

But Bones is a wanted man and there are pirates out there who know he has possession of the treasure map.

Captain Flint (Christopher Madkins) and his mates want the chest and eventually the mother load.  Not pirate enough to get the chest, Flint sends a blind pirate named Pew (Elena Browne) who approaches Bones with a black spot, a piece of paper with the threat that Bones should meet Flint’s demands and turn over the chest, or else.  

That doesn’t work. Bones is not about to strike colors and brushes aside the threat.  Flint comes back with cutlass in hand to plunder his sorry carcass.  But Bones, being inebriated as he is, defeats him and sends him on his way. Probably exhausted from the fight, Bones suffers a stroke, shivered his timber violently one last time, and dies.

Hardly fazed by the dearly departed Jones, Jim Hawkins reaches into his chest and pulls out the money for the bar and inn tab, also he finds a treasure map. Intrigued by the map Jim takes it to Dr. Livesey and Squire Trelawney (Pheiffer Bier).  Squire Trelawney devises a plan to commission a schooner, the Hispaniola, and hires a captain, Alexander Smollett (Beau Zinman) for the hunt.   

Unfortunately Smollett turns around and hires the one-legged Long John Silver to run the galley.  Accompanying Long John Silver is his parrot – who sadly lies flat on his shoulder and appears to be dead, or sleeping soundly.  

Long John Silver in turn hires his cronies and they furl sails to the Caribbean.

And so the very workable Admiral Benbow Inn, wonderfully designed by Sean McGarry, Set Designer, now becomes the Hispaniola Schooner with the main topsail cracking tight against the wind and against the backdrop of very powerful sailing music catching the pleasant breeze as the coxswain steers off to parts unknown.

But, lo and behold, corruption and mutiny were on the mind of that one-legged Long John Silver, including orders to give no quarter (murder) the captain and the crew when they reach shore.  Jim sat next to the barrel and in his stillness he listened to the wicked conniving dastardly scheme of a not so incapacitated pirate.  

There were some very nice performances on this night.  The costumes were incredible.  Odd that no one was given credit for that job in the program. The hearties were all in their element.

Pheiffer Bier does an amazing job as Squire Trelawney and has a wonderful presence on stage.  He is tall, thin, and has a very good look suitable for working in television or feature films.    

Elena Browne plays Jemmy Rathbone/Blind Pew/and Parrot.  She excels in all of these roles and will make a very fine working actress.

Danielle Bryan will have no problems with her voice as she let out a scream that startled everyone in the theatre. She plays Widow Drews and Cut Purse.

Noah Dardashti plays Justice Death and Tom Morgan.

Shaydon Golub also has a very powerful voice and plays Long John Silver and Jim’s father.  An interesting characterization of Long John Silver, Golub moves his left arm up and down like a conductor, possibly because the parrot was on his right shoulder.

Sanna Legan plays Jim Hawkins and does a very fine job.  On stage she is an incredible listener and reacts with very nice timing. Legan also has a strong and commanding voice.

Gabriel Levine plays three different roles Israel Hands, Bailiff and Calico Jack.

Christopher Madkins plays Dr. Livesy and Captain Flint.  Madkins is statuesque and has very nice presence on stage with a very workable stage voice.  

Ayan McNabb plays Jim’s mother and Josiah Bland.

Wills Price takes a funny turn as George Merry, Reverend Mainwaring, Beggar and Job O’ Brien and will stop at nothing to get the job done.

Spencer Scheps-Brown plays Ezekiel Hazard and Cabin Boy. He appears very young and has a good look.

Isaiah Strum plays Billy Bones and Ben Gunn and is incredible in both roles. His voice is manicured and nuanced to the setting and the place.  He was also very funny in the Ben Gunn role.

Clarke Victor plays Anne Bonny.

Beau Zinman has a very good look and does a fine job with Captain Smollett.  He also plays Black Dog.

There are many things to learn being a young actor.  For the stage, the voice is critical, and most of the students are more than halfway there. Next is finding a creative objective and carrying that objective from the moment an actor arrives on stage to the moment the actor exits.

All in all, it was a successful outing, and a very successful night!  The sound system in the theatre was incredible and the music was perfect.

Congratulations on a job well done.

Other members of the crew were:

Fight Choreographer:  Elisa Schultz
Music Instructor:  Scott Thomas
Technical Director:  Sean McGarry
Sound Engineer:  Jim Watson
Stage Manager:  Caitlin Leong
Stage Manager:  Elizabeth Nordenholt
Assistant Stage Manager:  Django Marsh
Assistant Stage Manager:  Nolan Windham

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