A PIRATE'S LIFE FOR SHE Comes to UMaine School Of Performing Arts This Week

Performances are scheduled to take place at 7:30 PM on February 23-24 and March 1-2 and at 2:00 PM on February 25 and March 3.

By: Feb. 22, 2024
A PIRATE'S LIFE FOR SHE Comes to UMaine School Of Performing Arts This Week
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The University of Maine School of Performing Arts is taking to the high seas with the latest production from its Division of Theatre and Dance.

A Pirate's Life for She, written by Amie Root and directed by D. Granke, will grace the Hauck Auditorium stage for six shows. Performances are scheduled to take place at 7:30 PM on February 23-24 and March 1-2 and at 2:00 PM on February 25 and March 3.

The play is a queer-friendly nautical romp packed with action and friendship and plenty of laughs, with a sea shanty or two in the mix as well. Additionally, one could make the case that those same descriptors (minus the shanties) match the relationship between Root and Granke.

"Amie and I know each other from the Society of American Fight Directors," Granke said. "[This show] is full of her spirit and some of our mutual friends were the rough basis for certain characters."

Granke - who performed in the first workshop production of the show - is excited to bring "A Pirate's Life for She" to the Hauck stage. It's an opportunity to celebrate the stage combat lineage that brought Granke and Root together.

"There is a certain fascination with the swashbuckling movies of the Errol Flynn/Douglas Fairbanks era," said Granke. "The stage combat lineage that we come from is rooted in replicating that style and panache. It's a modern treatment of that attitude and style that is more inclusive of different expressions of humanity than those older flicks that are deeply tied to gender roles."

Root echoes Granke's thoughts on A Pirate's Life for She and the play's more modern spin on the gender roles and attitudes traditionally inherent to this genre of storytelling, speaking to her reasons for writing the piece.

"When I was a young actor I auditioned for Pirates of Penzance," Root said. "Because of the plot's reliance on gender, myself and many of my fellow femme and genderqueer actors were not cast.

"We had all the skills to be excellent singing pirates," she continued. "But we were relegated to a different crew due to our gender. Pushing the boat on and off the stage as we watched the show go on without us. That is when I decided to write A Pirate's Life for She."

Root wanted to create something that was inclusive while still maintaining the freewheeling joyfulness of the theatrical works that she loved.

"I wanted to build an epic adventure tale with songs, love, humor and camaraderie where actors of my community could play," she said. "Theatre can be a place for both audience and actor to heal and gain community. A Pirate's Life for She is a celebration of all those in my community who make up a singing, shenanigan-loving, misfit entourage of artists."

That sense of camaraderie and inclusivity is a large part of why Granke wanted to bring this piece to the UMaine stage. To them, it's about giving students an opportunity to explore theatrical representation in a relatively uncommon manner and have experiences onstage for which the canon doesn't necessarily allow.

"I really hope the students find it fun and empowering," said Granke. "One of the other reasons we picked this play is representation. Amie wrote this play because the opportunities for women to use stage combat skills is lacking in the repertoire, particularly for this style of swordplay."

Granke spoke to the challenges that the play's dynamics present to students. They note that this is a very different style of acting than that to which the students are accustomed, requiring speedy patter for dialogue and a broader, more expressive style of physicality - all while swordfighting and singing along the way.

"This play also features LGBTQ+ storylines, characters, and themes," Granke added. "Queer theatre often has themes that are linked to LGBTQ+ trauma. There's nothing wrong with that, of course - that is a part of the lived experience of the LGBTQ+ community. However, I think it's important to also have material that celebrates the LGBTQ+ experience and represents it without trauma."

To that end, the School of Performing Arts is joining with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to present a panel discussion about LGBTQ+ representation in the arts following the performance on February 23. The panelists will include Rosalie Purvis, assistant professor of theatre and English at the University of Maine; Jonathan Berry, artistic director of Penobscot Theatre Company; and members of the cast.

Both Granke and Root believe strongly in the values put forward by this production, but they also recognize the power and impact of joy. By bringing the two together, a unique and empowering experience for artists and audiences alike is achieved.

"This story for me is a love letter to everyone who has felt unable to join in the joy of those around them, who have considered giving in to their demons and giving up, and to those who make up their crew who won't let them drown," said Root. "It's for the people who love us, and pull us from the water, just for showing up no matter our grief or constitution."

"It's about the importance of your found family and how they are there for you through thick and thin," added Granke. "The audience should expect some groaningly bad puns, some really good ones, and a world that is in the style of a Victorian melodrama or swashbuckling romance. I hope the audience leaves with a smile on their face, a song in their head, and a yearning for a little bit of adventchaaaaaar!"

"A Pirate's Life for She" runs from February 23 through March 3 at Hauck Auditorium and is made possible with generous support from the Alton '30 and Adelaide Hamm Campus Activity Fund. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased here; students get in free with a student MaineCard.




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