Jamie Corwin needs a haircut.
“I want to get it cut real bad,” Corwin, a junior at Flathead High School, said, pointing to the blond hair growing over his ears and down his neck. “But I can’t.”
Corwin says he needs it to play the best, half-crazy, cheese-obsessed, island-marooned pirate possible. Come opening night of FHS’s all-school play, “Treasure Island,” his long locks will be spiked in every direction and tangled with weeds and twigs. “It’s part of being Ben Gunn,” he said.
Since February, more than 50 students have been shaping the school’s version of the classic tale, from practicing lines and writing tunes to perfecting lighting and sound. One of their biggest challenges was creating a set for a play that takes place largely at sea.
Inside the school’s black-box theater, students from FHS’s theater arts class built a 40-foot pirate ship – a task as difficult as crafting a ship in a bottle. Complete with captain’s quarters, a crow’s nest, three masts and unfurled sails, the realistic ship is crafted from wooden blocks, cardboard and paint. The captain’s wheel is borrowed from FHS teacher and theater director David Hashley’s boat.
“It’s amazing what theater magic can do,” Tyler Currier, a junior who plays Long John Silver, said.
While the play’s script came with the words for songs, it didn’t include the music, so the cast and crew had to write their own, often adapting other tunes. One dream sequence is a compilation of 1980’s music like “Jessie’s Girl” and “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” retooled to reflect Corwin’s character’s love for cheese.
“The kids are very talented and resourceful,” director Sabrina Dobson, an FHS English teacher said. “I’ll hand them sheets with scratched-out notes and they’d figure it out.”
The play is an adaptation by Phil Wilmott that closely follows Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, a classic tale of piracy and adventure on the high seas.
With a treasure map in hand, Jim Hawkins, the son of an innkeeper in 18th century England, sets off on a series of adventures in search of the mysterious Treasure Island. Along the way, Hawkins finds himself in the company of a rag-tag crew and eventually discovers that the ship’s cook is really the pirate Long John Silver and that some crewmates are planning a coup.
The story is well known and largely responsible for the common features of pirate lore, including treasure maps with an “X,” schooners, the Black Spot, tropical islands and one-legged seamen with parrots.
“I refer back to being a little kid, when you were playing pirates and searching for treasure,” Currier said of practicing his character.
Currier’s not alone. Several other students said one of the best parts of the play was its fanciful nature – a chance to channel the overactive imaginations of their earlier childhood.
At a recent practice, students practiced sword fighting in the hall, jabbing each other with wooden sticks and duct-taped cardboard. Using wooden legs, vests and raspy voices, they did their best imitations of a motley crew of buccaneers, scalawags and privateers.
Bri Boozell, an FHS freshman, has a particularly difficult challenge: playing a male character. Boozell has the lead role of Jim Hawkins.
“But I’ve never had to play a female character,” Boozell said, noting that her only other acting experience has been in male roles in speech and debate. “I’d like to play a girl someday, though. That would be nice.”
In the end, students said they hope they can pass along the same youthful enthusiasm they’ve experienced practicing the play to the audience during a live performance.
“I hope they (the audience) just want to have a good time,” Boozell said. “It’s not Shakespeare, so don’t expect a tragedy. Just come for fun and a good story.”
If You Go
FHS students present “Treasure Island”
April 2 and 3 at 7 p.m. in the David Hasley Theatre at FHS
Tickets for the show are available at the FHS main office and Herberger’s and cost $7 for adults and $5 for students, children and seniors.
Seating is limited so people are encouraged to get their tickets early.
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