Life without rules sounds like paradise to any kid, right?
Jeremy Jacob thinks so.
He can eat what he wants, with no table manners. Even better, pirates have a standing boycott against vegetables.
Ah, the pirate’s life is good. That is, until it comes to soccer.
Soccer isn’t anything like a being a pirate. It’s a game - a game filled with rules.
“And the pirates tell him that pirates don’t play by rules,” Paige Gagliano said. “So, teaching them how to play soccer takes a little time.”
She clicks through photos on her cellphone, landing on a stage set, which immediately attracts pirates to her side.
“This is what your ship is going to look like,” she said. “They’re building it right now in the theater.”
Gagliano’s reference is to the Manship Theatre, which is next door to the Hartley-Vey Studio Workshop, where she’s directing this collection of pirates in Playmakers of Baton Rouge’s production of the musical How I Became a Pirate.
Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman wrote the book, music and lyrics for this production, all based on Melinda Long’s 2003 children’s book.
Young Jeremy Jacob is the main character of this story, which begins on a beach with his construction of a sand castle. He’s a normal, everyday kid, who eagerly vies for his parents’ approval.
Instead, he attracts the attention of a pirates’ ship that suddenly appears in the water - the same ship that will serve as the pirates’ home in the Manship Theatre when the play opens on Friday, June 17.
“The captain recognizes Jeremy Jacob as an exceptionally talented digger, and the pirates are in need of a digger to help them bury a treasure chest,” Gagliano said. “So, he boards the ship.”
That’s when the fun starts, and Jeremy Jacob loves the life until he discovers there’s no one to tuck him in at bedtime. Mom and Dad always tucked him in - always.
Pirates aren’t into that sort of thing. You have to be tough to be a pirate, right?
But Jeremy Jacob is only 10 years old, and well, he’s not that tough.
“This has been so much fun,” Michael Guillot said. “Playing a 10-year-old has been interesting.”
Guillot actually is 16 and will be entering his junior year at Baton Rouge Magnet High School in the fall. This production marks his second with Playmakers. He was in the cast of the company’s spring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Though six years doesn’t sound like a big gap, it’s canyon-sized between the ages of 10 and 16.
“I discovered that it was kind of hard to let loose and go back to being 10 years old at first,” Guillot said. “But once I did, it’s been fun.”
And though he wears a 10-year-old’s standard summer uniform of a T-shirt and shorts, he is bestowed with pieces of pirates’ gear as the play progresses.
Still, the pirates have the coolest costumes in this show. Really cool.
Though Alex Galick’s portrayal of Captain Braid Beard doesn’t emulate that of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow in this story, there are a few similarities. Take the eyeliner, for instance.
“Well, I think eyeliner is standard for pirates,” Galick said.
Still, even in his fire-engine red costume, he bears a striking resemblance to Depp.
“Braid Beard is nothing like Jack Sparrow,” he said. “He’s kind of a peacock. He’s funny, and he’s a swashbuckler.”
“You’ll probably see more of Jack Sparrow in Sharktooth,” Gagliano said.
Sharktooth is portrayed by Playmakers veteran Jason Duga. How I Became a Pirate, by the way, is Galick’s first production with Playmakers.
He’s a graduate of the LSU Department of Theatre’s Master of Fine Arts program, and Baton Rouge theater-goers will recognize him from his performances in Swine Palace’s 2010-2011 productions of Noel Coward’s Design for Living and Shakespeare’s King Lear.
“Going from Swine Palace to doing children’s theater with Playmakers is like working a different muscle group,” Galick said. “It’s like using a different skill set. It’s a lot of fun.”
For Duga, the fun has never stopped. He’s been in several Playmakers productions, including a school tour.
Now he gets to play Sharktooth, who has been a pirate longer than any of the others. He’s also the smartest, as well as the best sword fighter.
“Sharktooth is a rollercoaster,” Duga said. “He’s the scariest pirate on the ship, but he’s also the kindest one, and he has sort of matriarchal instincts. Everyone goes to him.”
And yes, Sharktooth will be able to show off his sword fighting skills.
“There will be sword fights,” Gagliano said. “This is a pirate’s story, after all.”
This presents a challenge for Duga. Not only will he have to fight with a sword, but he’ll also have to dance wearing an eye patch.
“That should look good on a resum? later,” he said, laughing.
And speaking of dancing, choreographer Erica Guiberteau really had no starting point when developing the dance steps for this musical. She’d never seen the show, and it came with no specific instructions.
“I started thinking about Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance,” she said. “I started thinking about their pirate stories, and how they’re just silly. And I started from there.”
Some of the Gilbert and Sullivan references are a perfect fit with the play. Some of the songs even sound as if they were inspired by the operetta duo.
Choreography to other songs simply had to be made up along the way, all of which was difficult for Robbie Wilson at first. He plays the pirate Scurvy Dog, who is in charge of the treasure.
“There wasn’t a lot of direction for Scurvy Dog, so we had to develop him,” Wilson said. “Scurvy Dog brings the treasure chest with him everywhere he goes.”
Which means Scurvy Dog must dance with the treasure chest.
“And I’m not much of a dancer,” Wilson said. “I never have been. But I’ve been able to pick up the steps. They would have been difficult for me without the treasure chest.”
Playmakers fans will recognize Wilson as Scrooge from the company’s past productions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but they might not recognize Danielle Adams as quickly.
She wore a pink wig in her last Playmakers’ production. Yes, you guessed it - she was Pinkalicious. She wears a black wig as Swill, the ship’s only girl pirate, in this production.
“And this is different from Pinkalicious,” Adams said. “The story moves a lot more, the comedy is more involved, and the choreography is more physical.”
Plus, Pinkalicious appealed more to little girls. How I Became a Pirate will appeal to boys, as well as girls. Adults, too, especially those who enjoy soccer. That’s where pirates learn a little bit about the game of life through the rules of soccer.
It’s also where Jeremy Jacob learns that rules aren’t so bad.
And going home is always good.
CAST: Michael Guillot, Jeremy Jacob; Alex Galick, Braid Beard; Danielle Adams, Swill the Pirate; Jason Duga, Sharktooth the Pirate; Steven Bailey, Pirate Pierre; J.P. Delahoussaye, Max the Pirate; Todd Henry, Pirate Seymour Braunschwagger; Robert Wilson, Pirate Scurvy Dog
ARTISTIC STAFF: Paige Gagliano, director; Lisa Smith, music director; Erica Guiberteau, choreographer; Shawn Halliday, set/props design; Karla King, costume design; Louis Gagliano, lighting design; Jim Bussolati, castle construction