Drawing from the true events surrounding the life of the Irish Pirate Queen Gráinne (Grace) O’Malley, this story tells the tale of two strong females striving to rule in a male dominated society. Lee’s Summit High School produced this US Amateur Premiere production of “The Pirate Queen” on November 13-14 & 20-22, 2015.
This adventurous tale is based upon the life of 16th century Irish chieftain and pirate, Gráinne O’Malley. Gráinne stands as one of the last leaders of the Irish clans to resist Queen Elizabeth as she attempts to complete her father’s (King Henry VIII) conquest of Gaelic Ireland. In love with the sea from a young age, Gráinne (Grace), wants nothing more than to be able to sail the open seas as a pirate like her father. However, a woman on board the ship is bad luck for the vessel and crew, so Grace is not allowed to sail.
To be with both her loves, Tiernan and the sea, Grace disguises herself as a young boy and becomes a stowaway aboard The Pirate Queen. After saving the ship from capsizing, the crew discovers who Grace is. Although Grace should be punished for sneaking aboard, her father cannot bring himself to punish her. After all, she is pursuing her dreams and saves their lives. To unite the clans, Grace marries Donal, despite her love for Tiernan. Tiernan vows that he will be therefor her no matter what. Later, Dubhdara is injured in battle and Grace is named captain of The Pirate Queen.
Grace proves to be a powerful leader who stands strong against Queen Elizabeth as they try to overtake her Ireland. Not happy having a wife who’s more dominant and commanding than he is, Donal arranges for the English to take her custody during their baby’s dedication. In the fight that ensues Donal dies at Tiernan’s hand.
While imprisoned, Ireland falls to England, clan by clan. Tiernan comes to offer his life in prison in exchange for Gráinne’s so that she may be with her child. The offer moves Queen Elizabeth and agrees to the trade allowing Grace to return home. When she arrives she finds her Ireland pillaged and women abused at the English soldiers hand. This drives her to return to the Queen’s court, despite knowing it could mean her imminent death, in order to plead a truce. Hearing Gráinne’s plight, the Queen agrees to a truce and releases Tiernan back to the woman he loves.
Lee’s Summit High School staged the first amateur production of this show in the United States! The director and students had memorable and fun experiences learning to do Irish dances, choreographing complex sword fights, and singing beautiful Gaelic songs. In addition to the fun of the experience, the students had a great chance to learn about a portion of history that they weren’t as familiar with in an exciting way!
The costuming for this show was beautifully elaborate and quite an adjustment especially for the actors who had not performed in costumes as complex as this show required. Lighting was colorful and set the mood in a powerful way while the ships deck, scenically, was an area the students particularly enjoyed. The ship of the deck was minimal yet creative in a way that really gave the feeling of being on board the ship, with a moving sail and all. The Pirate Queen was truly both a fun and educational experience for all.
Production for this show was designed and carried out by students and adults alike:
DIRECTOR: Micah Hensley
SET DESIGN: Joe Breeden
LIGHTING DESIGN: Micah Hensley
SOUND DESIGN: Rachel Sims
COSTUME DESIGN: Georgianne Huckfeldt
PROPERTIES: Taylor Snyder
Dramaturg: Lindsay Lillig
Fight Choreographer: Richard Buswell