(Posted Jan. 14, 2021)
By Theresa Hennis, Staff Writer
London High School’s performing arts students are gearing up to present “Treasure Island,” a play based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novel of the same name written in 1883.
Due to COVID-19 safety concerns, the play is not open to the general public, with only families of the participating students permitted to attend the performances scheduled for Jan. 23-24.
“‘Treasure Island’ is one of my favorite stories about a kid going from a young adult to an adult, maturing along the way and learning for himself which adults he can trust,” said Scott Blanton, London High School English teacher and play director.
Playwright Phil Willmott’s version of the play is the first adaptation inspired by real-life female adventurers.
“The female pirates learn to stand up against the male-dominated society of the 1800s,” Blanton said.
Willmott changed the gender of several of the central characters without compromising Stevenson’s classic novel.
“I really appreciate the girl power that goes into the role,” said senior Alicia Skinner, who plays Lady Trelawney. “A lot of my lines involve empowering women and that women can do anything and are as good as men. My character defies the typical role of the time. She is supposed to be a certain way because she is a noble lady, but she doesn’t believe in that. She thinks she should have just as much fun and adventure as men. I love the role.”
Another unique aspect of the play is that it includes interaction with the audience.
“We’re limited in how we can do that. There will be a little audience interaction, with social distancing,” Blanton said.
The school’s theater department has presented “Treasure Island” in the past, but this time a larger cast is on board. Blanton said he liked the idea of spreading out the lines to allow more students to participate.
With limited rehearsal time due to COVID-19, this shorter version of the play, which runs just over an hour, fit the bill. Blanton found a creative way around fewer chances to rehearse in person, holding the first month of rehearsals online through Google Meet.
“Our goal was to memorize the lines and hit the ground running when we could get on stage, and the students met that goal,” Blanton said.
Others filling lead roles in addition to Skinner are senior Luke Peart as Long John Silver and sophomore Anthony Holfinger as Jim Hawkins.
One costume challenge was fashioning a peg leg for the Long John Silver character.
“We looked online for practical advice on how to make one, strap it on, and hide the strap,” Blanton said.
For set design, the students are trying their hands at building a ship deck for a backdrop, and Blanton is pulling a treasure chest from his own home storage.
“You know you’re an amateur when your furniture is on stage more than you are!” he laughed.