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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, November 13, 2008

BKW and Hilltowns Players live A Pirate’s Life, riding waves of laughter

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — The Hilltowns Players and students of Berne-Knox-Westerlo will set sail for Treasure Island this weekend, eye-patches and all.

Craig Sodaro’s A Pirate’s Life for Me, with music and lyrics by Bill Francoeur, goes up Friday at BKW High School. Students from the high school and middle school will be joined by a group of more seasoned performers from the local Hilltowns Players theater troupe.

A Pirate’s Life tells the story of Sarah Huffington, a proper lady from an aristocratic background who craves some adventure in her life.

Sarah’s father, Lord Huffington, is in pursuit of a notorious pirate by the name of Bluebeard, who has been stealing his ships. After seeing a “wanted” poster with Bluebeard’s face on it, she decides to become the Pirate Queen, and seek out a Pirate King to replace her current love interest, Roger Goodman.

Upon learning of Sarah’s newfound interest in the treasure-hunting type, Roger makes it his mission to become the man she desires. Their respective quests lead them to Treasure Island, home of Bluebeard.

Song, dance, and absolute mayhem ensue.

The show is being directed by Penny Shaw, a preschool teacher who has been with the Players since their inception more than 25 years ago.

“I know the audience is going to love it,” Shaw said. “There’s a very lighthearted moral: Sometimes, you have to miss something to know how important it is to you. Sarah goes on this adventure halfway around the world and realizes what she truly wanted all along was right at home.”

There are no children present in the original script, but Shaw found ways to work them into the action.

“The life of any theater company is in the youth, and we need to keep them interested and coming back,” said Shaw. “So, as I read the script, I would find places where we could include children. This time around, the children don’t have speaking parts,” she said.

“We added some physical comedy ourselves,” she went on. “Once the actors become comfortable with their parts, they start adding to it and creating, and think about what the audience would like. I’m always impressed with the cast’s creativity, and it’s one of the things I always look forward to with directing — to see what their take is on the character. Sometimes, it totally surprises me,” she said.

Though Shaw finds great pleasure in directing, bringing her vision to life was not without its challenges, she said.

“It’s community theater, so it’s not a paid cast,” Shaw said. “This is not their job, so there are always conflicts with work schedules, and with children’s extracurricular activities. We were just talking the other night about how there isn’t one particular time of year when we won’t have these kinds of conflicts with work and everything, and that’s the hardest part — getting everyone there at the same time and getting things started,” she said.

Shaw grew up in Michigan, but raised her kids in Berne. “They went to school here, we live here,” she said. “When we moved out here and they started the Hilltowns Players, I decided to give it a try, because I just had to walk down the street to the school — we were that close.” She’s been involved with the Players ever since, and has directed five of the group’s last six shows.

“Last year, we did The King and I for our 25-year celebration,” she said. “In 2005, I directed Beulah–By–The–Sea, a musical that I wrote. It’s a western comedy that takes place out in the Midwest, far from any sea. I also directed Café Murder, a dinner theater, last spring.”

When she’s not working in the theater, her work with children continues offstage as a preschool teacher at the Bethlehem YMCA. “I’ve worked with kids throughout my adult life,” she said.

Hilltown pirates

Hilltowns Player Danielle LeClair plays Sarah Huffington, the play’s female lead.

“Sarah tries to be a tough pirate, but she’s always going to be a proper lady at heart,” LeClair said. “She decides she wants some excitement, and that’s when she sees the ‘wanted’ poster for Bluebeard,” she said.

“My crew and I capture a captain and threaten to throw him to the sharks if he doesn’t tell us how to find Bluebeard,” LeClair went on. “This leads us to Treasure Island, where Bluebeard lives, and we run into Captain Blood’s crew. We all end up on the same island, looking for treasure.”

She eventually learns that Captain Blood is in fact her aristocratic lover, Roger. By this time, she is known as the Pirate Queen.

“It is so much fun, and there’s a lot of physical comedy,” said LeClair of the play. “We have a hard time not cracking up when we look at each other.”

LeClair has been acting since fifth grade. Her last role was the female lead in Father of the Bride with the Hilltown Players four years ago, and she has performed with the Players in such dinner theater shows as Final Dress Rehearsal.  She is now a mother of two, and does theater when she has time.

Sarah’s counterpart, Roger Goodman, is played by fellow Hilltowns Player Jeffrey Van Iderstine. His first show was last year’s The King and I, and he was in last spring’s Café Murder with several other Hilltown Players from the cast of A Pirate’s Life.

“It’s so much fun,” he said. “This cast is just awesome to be a part of.”

Roger is ready to propose marriage to Sarah, when he hears that she is in search of someone more dashing. His butler, George, convinces him to become a pirate and go after her, and Roger becomes Captain Blood.

“He’s a bit of a sissy,” Van Iderstine admits of his character. “His tutor, Long John Sliver, tries to teach him the ways of a pirate, but the sissy in him always comes out,” he laughs.

Keeping it in the family

There are two families with at least four members each in the cast of A Pirate’s Life. Two generations of the Rue family will be on stage, along with three generations of the Osterhout family.

Long John Sliver, Roger Goodman’s pirate tutor, is played by Bob Rue.

“He’s the most realistic pirate, and he’s hired to teach Captain Blood to be a pirate in order to win the fair hand of Sarah Huffington,” said Rue. “He’s very gruff — a real pirate, and can’t understand the ways of these pirate wannabes,” he said.

A Pirate’s Life is Rue’s third show with the Hilltown Players. He took part in last year’s performances of The King and I and Café Murder with Van Iderstine.

“Everybody here is so much fun, and it’s great to be in a play with my wife and kids,” Rue said.

His wife, Ann Rue, in addition to portraying the character of Shirley, is also producing the play. Shirley and her counterpart, Laverne, are based on the hit TV show Laverne and Shirley, which ran from the late ’70s to the early ’80s. “We’re just a couple of crazy ladies,” she said.

The Rues’ daughter, Jessica Rue, plays a Junior Pirate, and their son, Scott Rue, plays Smudge. Scott is a sophomore at BKW; Jessica is in sixth grade.

“He’s part of Bluebeard’s crew, and is a very talented painter,” Scott said of Smudge. “He shares the second-in-command role with Dandy, with whom he has a very close friendship.” Dandy is played by BKW junior Lydia Gerardi.

Scott calls Smudge a devious man, always looking for a fight, “which is part of why he always makes fun of Dandy,” he said. “He also sucks up to Bluebeard a lot.”

Lord Huffington, Sarah’s father, is played by Will Osterhout.

“He’s out to capture Bluebeard, who has been stealing his ships and costing him a fortune,” said Osterhout. “He, like everyone else, eventually gets stranded on Treasure Island. He’s captured by Bluebeard, and finds out his daughter, Sarah, is also on the island,” he said.

“Lord Huffington likes to think he’s brave,” said Osterhout. “When he’s put ashore on the island, he says he wants to protect his wife. But underneath, he’s a coward.”

Two of Osterhout’s children and three of his grandchildren are in the play’s cast. His daughters are Amy Anderson and Teri Osterhout-Paton — both pirates. Teri’s daughter, Brienna Osterhout, is playing the part of Parrot — a pirate who thinks she’s actually a parrot. Brienna is a senior at BKW.

Anderson’s twin sons, Tyler and Kyle, are pirates in opposing crews, one in Captain Blood’s crew, the other in the Pirate Queen’s crew.

While he hopes his descendants will carry on the theater tradition, A Pirate’s Life is Will Osterhout’s final show, after two decades with the Hilltowns Players. “It’s getting tough for me up there,” he said.


A Pirate’s Life for Me will run at Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School on Friday, Nov. 14, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 16, at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, with a $2 discount for senior citizens and teens, and $6 for children ages 12 and under.

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