Anne Bonny on the Horizon
Playwright Liz Shipe is telling a story from out of the past. “All of the characters,” she says, “even though they are inspired from history, are highly fictionalized.” The story she’s telling is that of Anne Bonny--a character found in Captain Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates. Published in 1724, the book quickly became quite popular, helping to form contemporary concepts of piracy on the high seas.
Shipe is far from the first person to fictionalize Anne Bonny. The character has made appearances in numerous different pirate stories over the course of the past 300 years or so. The fact that, “Captain Charles Johnson,” is a pseudonym with no definitive identity lends some question as to the historical accuracy of the book. That being said, the character of Anne Bonny is a clever one: a fiery red-haired Irish pirate from the 18th century--one of the few women ever recognized in the occupation. It would make for a fascinating stage drama.
“I wanted to tell a fun, fast paced story with high adventure,” says Shipe. She’s inspired by old Hollywood depictions of piracy: Captain Blood and Against All Flags and so-on mixed with more contemporary heist movies like Oceans 11. “At the center is Anne and her greatest goal is creating her name and standing out in a world that isn't really ready for her yet.” Shipe says. “It's a play about fight and struggle. Some of those fights are big, loud, and filled with swords and guns. Other fights are smaller, using only words, but most of the biggest fights of this show are the internal conflict almost every character has between what they want and the sacrifice they'll have to make to get it.”
For the “big and loud,” of the actual action, Shipe and company are relying on show’s director Christopher Elst. A noted fight choreographer, Elst has worked extensively with the cast of the show. “The cast took part in 2 workshops that I taught in stage combat to prepare for the show,” says Elst. “There was a 1-week workshop in single rapier (think swashbuckling pirate) and a 1- week workshop in unarmed.” Actors working on the show were able to certify in rapiers with Dueling Arts International. Not a bad addition to the resumes of the actors in question. “Growth in craft for artists is important to Theater RED,” says Elst.
Swordplay and fisticuffs make it to Wisconsin Lutheran College this month as Theater RED presents Bonny Anne Bonny runs Oct. 28 - Nov. 12 for ticket reservations and more information, visit Theater RED online.