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Theater takes to the high seas

by Lenise Willis

Whether sailing the high seas, helping a fellow fairy, or flying as high as a superhero, we’ve all had some pretty great life adventures—all within the confines of our magical childish minds. Playing pretend always allowed for the greatest voyage and one theater aims to remind its audiences of the power of imagination.

This week Lee Street theatre (LSt), a relatively young black box theatre in Salisbury, will remind us of our childish days in its performances of Shipwrecked! An Entertainment – The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told by Himself).

“It’s a really great show about a man who has had all sorts of adventures — escapades on the high seas, exotic islands, flying wombats, giant sea turtles, and a man-eating octopus,” said Christina Banner Pettus, of Lee Street theatre. “What I personally like about it is that it’s based on a ‘true’ story. Louis de Rougemont was the pen name of a man in the late 19th century. He wrote about all the adventures he had while traveling and presented them as truth. People began to doubt him, and while it’s generally conceded that he was making it all up, he was certainly an amazing storyteller.” “That’s what this production is really about at its core: the magic and wonder of a good storyteller.”

The production is sure to be wondrous even from a technical perspective, with only four actors playing the more than 20 characters Louis de Rougemont meets on his adventures. “There’s certainly humor, a little bit of drama, but mostly wonder and excitement,” Pettus said. “Kids and adults alike will love the tall tales and characters.”

“My favorite persona I play is Captain Peter Jensen,” said Beth Bentley, actor. “He’s a salty old sea captain, and one of the hardest I play.”

A black box theatre, LSt produces a little bit of everything, including an annual 10-minute new play festival featuring the work of local playwrights, as well as an annual musical revue on various themes. This year’s theme was the golden age of Broadway and next year’s theme is Vegas.

“I guess you could say we’re known for not being known for any one thing, other than the high quality of entertainment we strive for,” Pettus said. “We do tend to do newer and perhaps slightly edgier productions. Our current season featured The Rocky Horror Show, The Parchman Hour: Songs & Stories of the 1961 Freedom Riders, and coming in July, August: Osage County.”

Though it’s important to note that none of these productions were children’s shows.

“That’s one reason we’re so excited to present Shipwrecked! ” said Pettus. “It’s an opportunity to reach an audience we don’t normally see at Lee Street theatre, but it also fits in with our mission to produce shows that are new and exciting for our patrons and also a lot of fun for our actors.”

“We’re very proud of our diverse programming,” added Managing Artistic Director Justin Dionne. “We haven’t offered a lot of family fare before, so we’re really excited to present this show for the community and offer a special admission for our younger patrons.”

Another thing to note about the production is that because of the theater’s layout, performances will be presented on a thrust stage. “It’s one of the things I love about our theater,” Pettus said, “there’s so little separation between the actors and the audience that you almost become part of the story.”

Lee Street theatre is a community theatre in its eighth season, and its third season in the new Lee Street theatre and Performing Arts Center, located in the Railwalk District of Downtown Salisbury. The theatre produces 10 shows every season, as well as a series of four to eight concerts featuring artists such as Sam Bush, Chatham County Line, and the Steep Canyon Rangers. !

WANNA go?

Shipwrecked! is performing at the Lee Street theatre and Performing Arts Center at the Tom and Martha Smith Event Center, 329 N. Lee St., Salisbury, May 19-21 and 26-38 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for ages 14 and up; $10 for 13 and under. For tickets and more information visit leestreet.org or call 704-310-5507.

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