“Well I was walking on the boardwalk one evening and noticed the boat-shaped playground,” recalls actor/writer/director/bagpipist, Jana Gillis. “I thought it would be the perfect place for someone to do a children’s pirate play. The set was already there!”
The East Bay native is spending the summer home after completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Acting at the Grenfell Campus of Memorial University in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland. Local theatre audiences will remember her from Pizza Passion and her one-person show, Pipe Dreams (about being a piper outside of a tourist gift shop) both part of the Cape Breton Stage Company’s Summer Theatre Festival in 2010.
“So I decided to get some people together and produce it. I actually had the set, cast, and closing song before I even started writing the play,” Gillis says. “We all met and had a sort of brainstorm about our characters and the kind of story we wanted to tell and I went home and put it all together.”
The cast includes Bhreagh MacNeil, Megan MacDonald, Matt McMaster, Brad Murphy, and Allison Haley, directed by Gillis for the Out of A Box Kid’s Theatre company.
The play has two performances scheduled during Sydney’s Action Week on Tuesday, August 7, and Wednesday, August 8, at 10:30 am both days at the playground on the Boardwalk (behind the fire station). There is no admission price but donations will be accepted to cover production costs.
Gillis offers a caution to her young audience, “I do think a real pirate may show up, I heard that someone by the name of Pirate Jenny has been looking around Sydney for some new recruits to help her find a treasure a pirate queen stole from her. I think the treasure is somewhere on the ship in the playground. Everyone better come out dressed up in their favourite pirate swag to help her out!”
For Gillis and her cast, performing outdoors isn’t a challenge but an opportunity.
“One of the great things about theatre is that a stage can really be anywhere,” Gillis says. “You don’t necessarily need a huge theatre, giant sets and fancy lights to tell a good story. Imagination is all that is required, especially in children’s theatre. I think it’s my favourite genre. There is something so pure and wonderful about it, and a really good kid’s show can bring out the child in all of us.”
Gillis goes on to say, “I firmly believe that the best learning comes through play, and when you’re having fun you do your best work. In writing and directing for young audiences you have to make it fun, engaging, and interactive. Something that you can do with theatre that you won’t get in a film is that ability to interact. No pirate is going to walk out of a tv screen and get you to join his crew, but this is something you can do in theatre. The audience can be part of the story.”