Theatrefolk - The Drama Teacher Resource Company

Theatrefolk Featured Play – Treasure Island by Todd Espeland

Welcome to our Featured Play Spotlight. Adapted by Todd Espeland, Treasure Island is a thrilling journey to Skeleton Island, complete with easy staging (including Silver’s peg leg) and gender flexible options.

Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest… Pirates sponging for rum, treasure maps filled with pieces of eight!

Join Jim, Long John Silver and the rest of his scurvy crew for this classic pirate adventure. Available in full-length and one-act versions.

Yo, ho, ho!

Why did we publish this play?
A good adaptation is worth it’s weight in gold – or in this case, a treasure chest full of ‘pieces of eight’! Todd Espeland has put together a theatrical, character-driven adventure out of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s classic novel. I loved every moment. Add to that is Todd’s fabulous solve of Long John Silver’s peg leg!

Let’s hear from the author!

1. Why did you write this play?
I was hired to be the new Executive/Artistic Director of the Fort Wayne Youtheatre and was asked if I had ever written a play because someone needed to do an adaptation of it. It was getting thrown into the deep end of the pool. It was a great time. I like the adventure story aspect of it and I got a chance to craft some very theatrical moments in it.

2. Describe the theme in one or two sentences.
There is a strong theme of moral ambiguity in the story. The characters often find themselves in situations where there is no clear distinction of good and evil and many characters in the story have both good and evil traits, like Long John Silver.

3. What’s the most important visual for you in this play?
I like the visual of Jim, near the end of the play, standing up to the group of pirates. I love the image of this small kid, facing down this group of men who want to do him harm.

4. If you could give one piece of advice for those producing the play, what would it be?
You don’t have to be literal. You don’t need to have a ship on stage, or an island. You can create set and atmosphere with light and a few well selected set pieces and items. Youtheatre produced this play on a minuscule budget in a black box. We transformed the space each scene with some well selected set pieces and light. Use your imagination. Transform your set pieces. We used several old trunks in the show that we transformed from seating in the Benbow Inn, into boxes aboard ship by opening them and pulling ropes out and them made them into hills on the island by covering them with fabric and jute.

5. Why is this play great for student performers?
The characters are accessible. Their needs are very clear. Plus they get to stretch as actors because they have to find the dual natures in each character. Silver is a bad guy who is capable of doing evil things but he genuinely like Jim. Benn Gunn might seem like a guy crazy from being on the island but he is the smartest person in the play. This is also a great play for female performers. We deliberately played with the gender of some of the characters so that women would get a chance to play these strong characters. There were women pirates. Ann Bonny was one. So why not mix it up a bit and let everyone play these powerful characters.

Products referenced in this post: Treasure Island and Treasure Island (One Act Version)

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