Writer-director Preston Lane and folk composer-musician Laurelyn Dossett, who created the popular Triad musicals Brother Wolf and Beautiful Star, team up again for the new song-filled world-premiere tale about the legendary 18th-century pirate Edward Teach — one of North Carolina's infamous adopted sons.
The June 8-11 previews for the run are already sold out. Opening is June 12. Performances continue to July 6.
Mark David Watson plays the title role.
According to Triad, "From England to the Caribbean to the Carolina Coast, Teach forged a blazing career as the most dreaded pirate of all time. As Blackbeard, he was a dashing blend of terror and gallantry. To his victims, he presented an image of the devil incarnate; but he was putty in the hands of a beautiful woman. His high seas exploits, port city romances and deep buried treasure are the stuff of legend."
Bloody Blackbeard boasts the largest ensemble in the theatre's history — 25 actors and musicians. The cast includes Watson as Blackbeard with TJ Austin, Allan Edwards, Isabelle Gardo, Shay Lydick, Kaleigh Kathleen Malloy, Emily Mark, Melanie W. Matthews, Christine Morris, Jason Scott Quinn, Andrew Rein, Marvin Riggins Jr., Joby Lee Strachan, Lelund Thompson, Michael Tourek, Jeffery West, Beau Wigington, Chris Wright and Josh Yoder. The band includes Evan Frierson, Scott Johnson, Scott Manring, Molly McGinn and Max Spiewak.
The creative team includes scenic designer Alexander Dodge, costume designer Kelsey Hunt, lighting designer John Wolf, sound designer David E. Smith, fight choreographer Jim Wren and dialect coach Christine Morris. The stage manager is Catherine Hagner, and the assistant stage manager is Eric Tysinger.
Lane met Dossett, of the Piedmont-area band Polecat Creek, through mutual friends and in 2005.
Both Brother Wolf and Beautiful Star: An Appalachian Nativity have found audiences beyond the region for which they were created. The National Alliance for Musical Theatre in New York invited Lane and Dossett to perform selections from Brother Wolf at its 2007 Songwriter's Showcase. Dayton, OH's Human Race Theatre Company will stage a new production of the play in collaboration with Rhythm in Shoes in January 2009. Beautiful Star is set to be produced by a Texas regional theatre at the end of 2008.
It was Lane's fondness for legends that led to Bloody Blackbeard, his third collaboration with Dossett.
"Blackbeard was an idea that I had been playing around with for some time at the suggestion of a friend, but I realized the only way the project could work was if Laurelyn signed on," Lane said in a statement. "I'm lucky that she shares my love of legends and my sense of the community. Brother Wolf came from this amazing literary legend. Beautiful Star retells the Biblical stories of the Garden of Eden, Noah and the Great Flood and the birth of Jesus — stories that have transcended what we think of as legends. Laurelyn and I were able to make them uniquely ours."
The infamous pirate, he stated, was different. "As a native of the Appalachian region, my focus has been on the Western part of our state. Blackbeard and his life on the sea was very distant history to me."
Much of the research and source material was "contradictory, incomplete or full of speculation," according to Triad.
Lane stated, "I had to find a way into the story through all the books and conflicting theories. What finally inspired my work were not the facts, but legend."
He made trips to the Outer Banks area to research Blackbeard and pirate folklore. "The North Carolina coast, particularly in the winter, is a place haunted by the ghosts of legends past," Lane stated. "In focusing on the sense of myth, I was able to find a commonality with the broader sense of southern storytelling that has been the basis of my work with Laurelyn."
Dossett said she was out of her comfort zone for the project. "There's not a record of exactly what music might have been on his ships," she stated. "So I have pulled together ideas from old sea shanties, English folk tunes and Caribbean instrumentation. In the end it is simply American folk music — a synthesis of old and new, foreign and local. The language of 1700s pirates is another thing. Writing the lyrics had an extra step or two. First figure out what I want the song to say, then find old pirate phrases to say it, then fit those into the metre and rhyme scheme of the song, with a melody and instrumentation that fits the period, the character and the scene."
Bloody Blackbeard plays at The Pyrle Theater, home of Triad Stage, at 232 South Elm Street in downtown Greensboro, NC.
For more information visit www.triadstage.org.