The revival of the play “A Tale of Blackbeard” after a 20-year hiatus is the talk of Ocracoke. CLICK HERE TO VIEW SLIDE SHOW
comments powered by
original musical by former islander Julie Howard, the show had four
preview performances in May and will begin its summer run Monday nights
at 8 p.m. June 9 through Aug. 11.
“I’m having a blast,” noted Trish Davis, who never acted before and who plays Euphemia, one of the female leads.
That’s the general feeling of all the cast members.
Tolson, the head daytime chef at the Flying Melon Café, is Blackbeard
and also a first-time thespian, who is having a great time stretching
“I wrote on the audition sheet ‘not a singer,’ and, five minutes later I was Blackbeard,” he said.
grabbed it with both horns. I have big shoes to fill, following
the legendary Dave Frum, Gary Mitchell and David Senseney.”
was it,” noted co-director/choreographer Desiree Ricker about Tolson’s
appearance—tall and commanding, with a dark beard to boot.
of Tolson’s costume is a necklace of dolphin teeth he calls a “mystical
trinket” that Senseney and Philip Howard had crafted. Tolson was
12 when he found the necklace in 1993 on the South Point beach. Since
the community knew that Senseney had lost it, Tolson returned the
necklace and forgot about it.
“Opening night, there’s a package from David and a two-page letter,” Tolson said. The letter related how Senseney had lost it.
“And you found it,” Senseney wrote in the letter. “Please wear it on stage.”
“The hairs on the back of my neck stood up when I read that,” Tolson said. “It gave me the chills.”
Opening night of the May previews was great, Tolson said. “It kind of set the bar.”
“It was the best opening night I’ve ever had from a cast,” added director Charles Temple.
crafting of the show is kind of mystical itself in that author-composer
Julie Howard, though an English major and music minor in college, had
never composed much of anything before or after this work.
was all because of Danny Garrish,” said Howard, who was married to
islander Philip Howard in the 1970s when the play began. “The PTA was
doing little skits and variety shows and at one of the cast parties,
Danny said, ‘What we need is a play about Blackbeard,’ ” she explained
The late Garrish ran the Community Store and was an
Ocracoke icon, she said. There were 500 people living on the island and
a tourist industry was afoot.
“He was a great singer and
had a good stage presence,” she said. He played Blackbeard’s cook,
Ezekial, played this time by Bill Cole. Katy Mitchell plays the
boarding house cook.
“I worked on it in the fall and winter of
1973 and ’74,” she said about creating the piece. At night, while
she lay in bed before falling asleep, the music and lyrics would come
to her and she’d write it down the next day. The well-crafted songs are
catchy and clever—the kind of songs one can easily pick up and hum
along, and the dialog links the songs. She still works from
handwritten music on the electronic keyboard she uses for accompaniment
as musical director.
The only real characters in the play
are Blackbeard, who was killed off Ocracoke Nov. 22, 1718, by Lt.
Robert Maynard, and Euphemia Curtis, who really had a boarding house on
Ocracoke but about two centuries after Blackbeard.
fantasy,” Howard said. In 1715, there was no village here, but the
colonial legislature recognized the island as Pilot Town, and some ship
pilots were housed in the Springer’s Point area.
The show has a
conflicted Blackbeard the night before his date with destiny, scruffy
sailors growling “Arrghh!” who are interested in the charms of the
“village girls” at the boarding house, two young ingénue roles, a
bickering husband and wife, and comic-relief in the two cooks.
There’s a William Howard character “because I had to have a Howard in the show,” Julie said.
says there was a William Howard on Blackbeard’s crew, but Philip cannot
verify if he and all the other Howards on the island are descendants.
The 12 to 14 songs and characters have changed over the years, depending on who’s in the cast.
wrote the part of Katherine for Amy because she wanted to be in the
play,” she said about her daughter Amy Howard, who is the OPS
administrator. Many of the cast members have family who were in it
before. Joanie O’Neal, who is a village girl, is the only one who was
in the cast before.
The costumes are newly designed and built by
Linda Ward and Heather Johnson, who also is one of the village
girls. Several of the costumes from earlier plays are on view in
the Ocracoke Preservation Society.
Philip Howard, who with
Julie, produced the show for many years and who also played William and
attended opening night praised this revival.
“It’s wonderful to do it again,” he said. “It’s the same play as before but it’s been reinvigorated with Charles and Desiree.”
“I just loved it,” said islander Cindy Fiore. “It’s great to have some theater on the island.”
Julie Howard says the show is pure community theater.
“The cast is so enthusiastic,” she said. “In 40 years I don’t think we’ve had a cast with this much energy.”
Ocracoke Alive, which is the successor nonprofit to the Ocracoke Players, produced the show.
Half of the tickets for each show will be available online at www.ocrafolkfestival.org/blackbeard-tickets, which includes all the details. The other half will be available, first-come, first-served at the door.