TEA offers updated take on classic adventure tale 'Treasure Island' in new production

Brit Ward pens adaptation of classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The Theater Ensemble Arts production of "Treasure Island" will be presented at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25 through Sunday, Aug. 28 at the Lions Wilderness Park Amphitheater.
  • The production continues Sept. 1-3.
  • Chuck Holmes is directing the production.

FARMINGTON — It's been several years since Chuck Holmes directed a production for Theater Ensemble Arts, Farmington's community theater company.

So when he talks about "stretching his legs" as a director again, it's a little ironic that he chose to do so in the form of a seafaring adventure.

Holmes is leading the company's production of "Treasure Island," an adaptation of the 19th century Robert Louis Stevenson adventure novel written by veteran TEA director and actor Brit Ward.

"It's a classic novel, a classic story," Holmes said. "Almost everybody knows the 'Treasure Island' story. But Brit Ward has brought this story into the 21st century."

Ward's adaptation changes some significant elements of Stevenson's story while nevertheless adhering to the plot. Chief among them, Holmes said, was his decision to change the main character — a boy in his middle teens named Jimmy Hawkins — to a girl of a similar age, Jen. He also added a handful of female pirates.

"It's an updating of the classic story in an all-inclusive sort of way," Holmes said.

Brandy McCoy and Dan Cabrera rehearse a scene from the Theater Ensemble Arts production of "Treasure Island" opening Thursday, Aug. 25 at the Lions Wilderness Park Amphitheater in Farmington.

This is the latest adaptation of a classic work that Ward has undertaken on TEA's behalf. He also has penned adaptions of Shakespeare's "Scottish play" for a film called "The Tragedy of Macbeth" and written a play called "Sherlock Holmes and the Sinister Trio" that is based on the famed Scottish detective.

Holmes acknowledged that the company may have found its niche with such adapted projects.

"I think we have, and Brit is extremely talented," he said.

Abigail Gladden, left, and Stephanie Lewis are featured in the Theater Ensemble Arts production of "Treasure Island" opening this week at the Lions Wilderness Park Amphitheater in Farmington.

Ward's "Treasure Island" script also differs from the source material in that it includes a significant amount of levity, Holmes said.

"Oh, yes, there's quite a bit of humor, a lot of funny lines," he said. "It's not a stuffy story. On a lot of levels, it's also about relationships between mother and daughter, and between friends."

But, at its heart, "Treasure Island" is a pirate tale, and that's what prompted Holmes to agree to direct the project when no one else among TEA's usual roster of directors was willing.

Avith Grolley, left, Amanda McCaleb, Talon Holmes, Dan Cabrera and Kevin Tschetter appear in the Theater Ensemble Arts production of "Treasure Island."

"I said, 'Wow, we're pirates — let's go!'" he said, laughing.

The company's production certainly looks the part. Holmes' wife, Michelle, spent hours and hours "sewing her fingers to the bone," he noted, to outfit the crew in period costumes, so audiences can expect to see a lot of puffy shirts — and puffy pants. The set even recycles the leftover ship from the recent Four Corners Musical Theatre Company production of "The Pirates of Penzance." The only thing missing is a parrot.

"I wish," Holmes said.

Thomas Smith, left, Jeremy Orr, Stephanie Lewis and Abigail Gladden appear in the Theater Ensemble Arts production of "Treasure Island."

But tracking down a talking bird was the least of the director's concerns as he became immersed in leading "Treasure Island." Holmes said his previous experience at helming theater productions all involved much smaller casts — only three or four actors — as opposed to the 15 performers in this show.

Initially, he said, the task of directing so many actors was a little overwhelming.

"My head was exploding," he said. "I don't mean my mind was exploding — my head was exploding."

But Holmes quickly settled into the job and now expresses a growing sense of satisfaction at how his cast and crew have come together in recent weeks. The only drama in this production, he noted proudly, is onstage, where it belongs, and not backstage, where it can be a destructive force.

Brandy McCoy and Ben Burns rehearse a scene from the Theater Ensemble Arts production of "Treasure Island."

Leading the cast as Jen Hawkins is 16-year-old Abigail Gladden, who made her TEA debut last summer in "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

"She's an amazing young lady with lots of talent," Holmes said.

The rest of the cast features a healthy mix of newcomers and veteran TEA performers, including a handful of actors who had stepped away from the company for a few years before returning for this show, led by Dan Cabrera in the role of Long John Silver.

Other cast members include Stephanie Lewis, Wray Lewis, Jeremy Orr, Ethan Franklin, Thomas Smith, Ben Burns, Brandy McCoy, Daniel West, Avith Grolley, Kevin Tschetter, Amanda McCaleb, Bryson Howard and Talon Holmes. The crew is made up of Frank Lawrence, Natasha Hastings, Alana McCaleb and Jacqueline Ball.

Abigail Gladden stars in the Theater Ensemble Arts production of "Treasure Island" at the Lions Wilderness Park Amphitheater in Farmington.

The Theater Ensemble Arts production of "Treasure Island" will be presented at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25 through Sunday, Aug. 28 at the Lions Wilderness Park Amphitheater, 5800 College Blvd. in Farmington. The production continues Sept. 1-3. Tickets are $10 and $12. The Aug. 28 performance is free. Call 505-326-2839.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.