Staff Report

The Hispaniola sets sail for Treasure Island beginning Thursday, April 25, at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, where the Theatre Group has chosen Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale of pirates and treasure hunters as its spring production.

The students are using Bryony Lavery’s 2014 adaptation for the National Theatre of Great Britain, complete with a cast of memorable characters including Long John Silver, Jim Hawkins, Billy Bones, Black Dog, Ben Gunn and Cap’n Flint, Long John’s parrot.

Lavery’s adaptation has a few surprises for those familiar with the story, and it is sure to be a thrilling evening of entertainment suitable for the whole family, said Director Jeff McKinnon.

McKinnon has assembled a large and diverse production crew and added numerous theatrical elements to the staging such as puppetry, sword fights, aerial work, live music and sea shanties, and an impromptu pirate revel and dance.

Puppetry includes the animated Cap’n Flint, as well as a quartet of bird puppets who guide the audience and comment on the action. Stage fights and weaponry have been choreographed by fight instructor Patrick Lawlor; dance choreography is by Theatre Group alum Nora McKinnon; and the live music will be performed by the small group of student musicians from last fall’s “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” previously known as the Bobby Burns Band.

Lights and costumes will be handled by long-time Theatre Group designers David Johnson and Tatiana Johnson.

Stevenson, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, was a world traveler. He published “Treasure Island” in 1883, just after spending most of a year living in Northern California. It has been suggested that his conception of the story’s island was influenced by his trips to and fascination for the Farallon Islands just off the coast of San Francisco, giving Treasure Island a local connection.

He is the author of such well-known stories as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “Kidnapped” and “The Black Arrow,” but “Treasure Island” is by far his best-known work. With its mixture of romance, adventure, treasure-hunting, pirate treachery, and its memorable cast of characters, it has been thrilling readers and inspiring imaginations since its publication more than 135 years ago.

“This is by far our most collaborative project ever,” said McKinnon, who has brought in his old friend, actor and stage-mate Pat Lawlor to choreograph the fights and weaponry — which includes daggers, sabers and foils. Nora McKinnon brings her Irish Dance background to the pirate jig and reel, and student collaborators Bella Hartley, Richard Taylor, Ben Soto, Maddie Alton and Martin Dixon “captain” the elements of dance, fights, aerial work and music.

“My goal is to empower the students to make creative decisions, to create an artistic collective, with me providing the overall vision and acting as facilitator. This is a very special group of people I get to work with, “ McKinnon said.

“Treasure Island” runs Thursdays through Saturdays, April 25-27 and May 2-4, at 7 p.m. in the Santa Ynez High School Little Theatre. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.

For more information, call 688-6487, ext. 2361.