DAVIDSON – Vito Abate, director of Davidson Community Player’s “Treasure Island,” got a headache just looking over his cast’s crammed after-school schedules as he tried to work out rehearsal times.
This month, 21 middle and high school students will bring Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous novel to life in a one-act play full of swashbuckling sword fights, rowdy pirates, and of course, a quest for hidden treasure.
“Pirates as we think of them, I really think came from this novel,” Abate said. “It’s very challenging to make this a one-act play because the story is so huge, but I think we capture the excitement and adventure of it all.”
In the story, a young boy named Jim Hawkins discovers a treasure map left behind by an old sea captain who dies in his parents’ inn, The Admiral Benbow, in England. Inspired to find the island housing the treasure, Jim enlists the help of older friends, and they plan an expedition to set sail for riches.
“Unbeknownst to them,” Abate said, “their crew is largely made up of pirates who also want the treasure. So it’s really the struggle between the two groups, and of course, when they finally get to the island, there are surprises for everyone.”
One surprise the crew finds when its ship hits the island’s sand is a character named Ben Gunn. Gunn, played by 13-year-old Luke Santos in the play, is a half-crazed man who served on the crew of Captain Flint, the man who originally hid the treasure. Jim finds out that Gunn was marooned on the island years before.
“He’s insane, like animal because he’s been living in the wild with islanders who have strange customs, and he ends up meeting Jim Hawkins, who is the protagonist of the story,” Luke said. “Ben Gunn tries to help Jim out, so he can get back home to England.”
Santos, a seventh grader at The Community School of Davidson, said he loves the novel and is thrilled to be acting in the first play he had to audition to join.
By the time the curtain goes up, Luke will have rehearsed roughly 90 hours to perfect his role.
“It’s pretty intensive, but it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “The best part is learning more about acting, having fun with it and meeting new friends.”
Luke said this acting opportunity sparked his curiosity, and he plans to audition for other performances.
This is Abate’s first attempt at directing a Davidson Community Player’s show, and he wants to get it right. He has made sure that his cast is able to rehearse all together a few times before opening night, despite their conflicting schedules.
“It’s important to have that cohesion, and I think it’s paid off,” he said. “I think they’re becoming a company and a team.”
Want to go? Watch “Treasure Island” at Armour Street Theatre, 307 Armour St., Davidson, April 13, 14, 20 or 21 at 1 or 4 p.m. or 7 p.m., April 19. Tickets cost $10 at www.davidsoncommunityplayers.org or by calling 704-892-7953.