We Happy Few, a theatrical group in the D.C. area, continues its Classics-in-Action series with a new adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s seminal pirate story Treasure Island directed by Kerry McGee and devised by Jon Reynolds, Jenna Murphy, Wyckham Avery, Alex Turner, Paige O’Malley and Sam Reilly. Showcasing their signature ensemble casting and collaborative devising process, their team of four actors brings to life a crew of villainous pirates to threaten young Jim Hawkins on his quest to find buried gold. “Treasure Island” is a pop-up performance and will be presented in a wide range of venues throughout May and June. The cast includes Wyckham Avery, Alex Turner, Tosin Olufolabi and Paige O’Malley.
Treasure Island will be presented at the Otis Street Arts Project (3706 Otis St, Mt Rainier, MD) on Saturday, May 4th at 7:30PM, the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (545 7th St SE, DC) on Monday, May 7th at 7:30PM, Republic Restoratives (1369 New York Ave NE, DC) on Thursday-Saturday, May 30th-June 1st at 8PM, and Dwell DC (Alley behind the 1200 block of Florida Ave NE, between Montello and Trinidad) on Saturday, June 8th at 8PM.
Founded in 2012, We Happy Few’s mission is to transform the experience of classic texts for artist and audience. We Happy Few has established itself as one of Washington D.C.’s best small theatre companies by nurturing a creative environment that thrives on ensemble collaborations with some of the nation’s most promising emerging theatre artists. WHF’s flagship production of a six-actor, “90-Minute Hamlet” premiered at the 2012 Capital Fringe Festival to great acclaim as was WHF’s 2017 production of “Henry V.” We Happy Few earned its first Helen Hayes Recommendation with 2018’s “Pericles.”
Information and tickets for “Treasure Island” can be obtained online. (Note: Each ticket comes with a signature cocktail.)
I had a chance to interview, Kerry McGee, Director of “Treasure Island.”
Kerry McGee is the Artistic Director of Theatrical Events and Marketing Director for WHF. In addition to directing “Treasure Island”, Kerry has adapted and directed “Hamlet Project: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Mixtape,” “Henry V” and “Chalk” and acted in “Pericles,” “Dracula,” “A Midnight Dreary,”: and “The Winter’s Tale.” Other DC credits: “Visions of Love” (Pointless Theatre), “Peepshow,” “Beertown,” “Toast” (dog & pony dc), and “Love’s Labors Lost” (LiveArtDC). Kerry worked in Richmond for many years, where she received awards for her work on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.” Kerry received her MFA in Theatre from Virginia Commonwealth University.
What is your connection with We Happy Few? How long? Why did you become part of this group?
I’m the Artistic Director of Theatrical Events, which means that I’m in charge of programming like “Treasure Island” which are staged in alternative venues, have drink pairings, are original adaptations, etc. Often these events have limited runs and are highly adaptable to the spaces they’re staged in. Sometimes, like last year’s “Hamlet Project,” these events might not even be traditionally classified as “theatre” (“Hamlet Project” was more of a rock ‘n’ roll show with a loose “Hamlet” connection). I love my job with We Happy Few because I feel like I constantly have the opportunity to expand my own definition of what theatre is and how we experience it. I’ve been with We Happy Few since 2014. Raven (our Executive Artistic Director) and I worked together in Richmond, and before I moved here, I would drive up just to see We Happy Few shows. I loved that there was always some aspect of each performance that changed the way I looked at the play. When I moved to DC, I couldn’t wait to get involved.
How does your adaption of “Treasure Island” differ from others (stage, film or TV) and the original by Stevenson?
We’ve tried to keep the text and story as close as possible to the book. As with any adaptation, we’ve had to cut things out, but we tried not to take too many liberties with the story itself. Often times, we’ve found that the film version of popular literature is very different from the book itself. So, we like to get creative with the staging, but stay true to the original story as much as possible. Our version is an hour-long, so it’s a fast and furious cut of Stevenson’s novel.
Have you seen any other versions or read the novel? If not do you plan to do so after the production?
Our devising team, which is composed of myself, the designers, and the actors all read the novel and watch several film versions during our early rehearsals. We then have discussions about what recurring images and themes we see and how to bring those moments to life on stage. One of the big moments in every film version of “Treasure Island” that we watched was Jim Hawkins first view of the ship. It’s always so magical. We spent hours working on ways that we could create that feeling, but with only four actors and almost no set pieces, it’s a process that really forces you to get creative.
Can you tell us about your production?
This will be a 4 actor, hour-long production with minimal set and props. But there will still be plenty of fight scenes, a whole lot of music (we have 4 ukuleles!), and a custom rum drink paired to the show. It’s going to be fast, fun, silly, scary, and very creative.
What audience would you like to come to see your show (young, old, or all) and what do you think they will enjoy about the production?
“Treasure Island” is an all-ages production. Since there is a drink pairing, the production is technically aimed at an adult crowd, but as with the other productions we’ve performed in this style (“Frankenstein,” “Dracula,” etc.), we find that the shows are very kid-friendly. It’s hard to know what age group enjoys themselves more. I think people are going to particularly enjoy the songs. The actors have learned a number of sea shanties that we use throughout the show. During rehearsals, we’ve enjoyed trying to figure out how many things we could use a ukulele for. That’ll be fun for audiences to look out for.