Seth Davis, Brett Ward and Victoria Thompson, from left, rehearse a scene from 'The Pirates of Penzance Jr.' on Tuesday at the Dunn Center. The Activate Drama production runs Friday and Saturday nights at the N.C. Wesleyan College venue.
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Telegram photo / Adam Jennings

Seth Davis, Brett Ward and Victoria Thompson, from left, rehearse a scene from 'The Pirates of Penzance Jr.' on Tuesday at the Dunn Center. The Activate Drama production runs Friday and Saturday nights at the N.C. Wesleyan College venue.

‘Pirates’ sets sail this weekend

From Staff Reports

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Activate Drama returns this weekend to the Dunn Center with an all-youth cast performing an adaptation of a classic comic opera.

“The Pirates of Penzance Jr.” will be staged at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the N.C. Wesleyan College venue, a release says. Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for seniors and students.

The production is based on “The Pirates of Penzance,” a 19th-century opera by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.

“Set on the rocky coast of Cornwall, England, ‘The Pirates of Penzance Jr.’ begins with a group of pirates who are celebrating the birthday of one of their own, Frederic, who has reached his twenty-first year,” the release says. “Finally having served the full length of his required time with the pirates, he decides to strike off on his own and become an upstanding citizen – which might even mean bringing the pirates to justice. This turns out to be a tricky prospect indeed, especially when Frederic’s freedom is called into question.”

Thirty-six young actors, ages 10 to 18, have come together to bring “Penzance Jr.” to the stage. The cast only had two weeks to master the challenging dances and songs the production requires.

“It has been a lot of hard work, but that’s what will make it an amazing show,” Cody Benfield, 13, who plays the Sergeant of the Police, said in the release.

Said artistic director Danelle Cauley: “The cast varies in experience. Some students have been in all 10 shows Activate has produced, but we welcome new students in every production as well. ... I want to give every young person a chance to be a star.”

Not all of the opportunities or benefits of being involved in a youth theater production are on stage, the release says. Melody Outlaw, 18, who plays Kate, the major general’s daughter who is being courted by the pirates’ leader, found the experience led her to build friendships.

“I have a hard time connecting with people sometimes,” she said. “Being a part of Activate has helped me do that.”

Hunter House, 16, initially was tapped for the backstage crew for Activate’s production earlier this summer of “Mulan Jr.” However, music director Amanda Pauley moved him up to supervising all of the production’s music for the rehearsals.

Said Hunter: “I was truly honored, and even though sometimes I felt as though I was continuously bugging Mrs. Pauley, she would always lift me up by saying ‘Hunter, you’re doing a fantastic job! You don’t know how much this helps me. I can now worry about the music and not the boom box!’ Activate Drama is always a great adventure and never fails me.”

Tickets for “The Pirates of Penzance Jr.” are available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Friday at the center’s box office or by calling 985-5197. They also will be sold at the door beginning 30 minutes before showtime.

Working with Freedom School and Peacemakers in Rocky Mount, Activate Drama will stage a third youth production this summer. “Honk Jr.” will run at 7 p.m. Aug. 6 at Church on the Rise, 3520 Bishop Road.

For details, call Cauley at 828-545-2884.