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Piedra Vista High School theater presents 'Pirates!’

Abigail Gladden and Chris Fercik playing the parts of Theodore Thud and Clunky Bones Pirate in Piedra Vista High School theater program’s production of “Pirates! Theodore Thud and the Quest for Weird Beard.” (Courtesy Melissa Souers)
Children’s show presented for the first time since pandemic

Piedra Vista High School theater will present its children’s show, “Pirates! Theodore Thud and the Quest for Weird Beard,” for elementary school students during daytime performances and for the public during evening performances Friday and Saturday, March 3 and 4, at Turano Chrisman Performing Arts Theater.

Once an annual event, the children’s show has not been presented since before the COVID-19 pandemic. The last children’s show was presented two weeks before schools shut down in response to the pandemic in 2020.

Theater Director Melissa Souers said that in 2021, when schools were operating remotely, theater students performed an online-only animated play with students recording voice-overs for the characters.

In 2022, school administrators gave permission to hold a children’s show, but several factors prevented the production. Many elementary schools at that time were not allowing field trips because of COVID-19 exposure concerns. Social distancing requirements still in place for events reduced capacity of the 750-seat Turano Chrisman theater to 250. Low attendance expectations and reduced theater capacity made the financial aspects of putting on the play unfeasible, Souers said.

In place of the children’s show in 2022, Souers opted for a student-written and directed performance where senior students wrote and directed several one-act scenes geared toward children and families. The scenes were performed for the public that year in several evening performances.

“Pirates!” will be the first full-length play many of the actors have had the opportunity to participate in as Piedra Vista theater students. The performance is also open to other students interesting in acting and theater production. Auditions and technical spots were opened up to students not part of the advanced acting and technical production classes. Introductory theater students, who are not eligible to participate in the state theater competition, are also able to participate in the children’s show.

“This makes it a great recruiting tool,” Souers said, “because these shows are generally a lot of fun for the students to participate in and it encourages them to continue with theater.”

“Pirates!” was written by Joshua Mikel and is presented by special arrangement with Playscripts Inc. The story follows Theodore Thud, who falls down a sinkhole while playing pirates with his friends and finds himself in the middle of a real pirate adventure. In order to return home to the real world in time for ice cream with his buddies, he must find the legendary pirate Weird Beard and save him from a Clunky Bones Pirate’s murderous plot.

The children’s show is the most expensive production of the year for the theater program, according to Souers. The cost of performance rights depends on whether the play is a musical or not, ticket price, the type of organization purchasing rights and how many times the play will be performed. Musicals, especially Disney brand shows, are always more expensive, Souers said, but schools get a discounted price for most plays.

Total cost of children’s shows over the nine years Souers has taught at the high school have ranged from about $5,000 to $15,000. Funding for the rights to perform the play and for the student’s scripts come from student fundraising efforts, sponsorships and tickets sales of the previous year’s play.

“Pirates!” is not a musical, and costs have been on the lower end of that spectrum this year. Souers said the play has been a lot of work for the students, creating sets and costumes, as well as rehearsing. The play is very active and requires a lot of energy, Souers said, but the students have embraced it and she expressed her pride in their efforts.

“This play a lot of fun, with lots of audience interaction,” Souers said. “I think kids and families who come to see it will have a lot of fun with it.”

“Pirates!” is family-friendly and for all ages, with a run time of about 45 minutes.

The daytime performances are prearranged for elementary school children only and are not open to the public. The evening performances, however, are open to everyone in the community and will be held at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 3 and 4, at the high school’s Turano Chrisman theater. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 seniors and students. Tickets may be purchased at the box office before each show.

Cast of “Pirates!” Pictured: Jadyn Saunders, Aisha Garcia, Grace Woodall, Gavin Roberts, Jenna Lytle, Bella Burnham, Bridgit Cox, Violet Fitzgerald, Carson Jobe, Darian Descheeny, Alora Hall, Emma Williams, Abigail Gladden, Darian Beasley, Matt Evans, Robert Stirman, Mariah Romero and Chris Fercik (Courtesy Melissa Souers)