The Armidale School will next year stage the world amateur premier of a new musical Treasure Island, utilising a new video production studio to enable the cast and crew to collaborate with the three American-based creators.
The announcement has the ringing endorsement of a fourth American – TAS Old Boy and philanthropist Mike Hoskins, who gifted to the school the theatre where the exciting new production will be performed, and the studio that will help make it happen.
The show, a modern interpretation of the adventure story about a boy having to make choices whilst influenced by powerful adult males, was conceived in 2006 and has only been produced once before, by the Arkansas Repertory Theatre Company. Believing its “darker, edgier” tone would resonate strongly in a boys boarding school, TAS Creative Arts co-ordinator Andrew O’Connell met the three creators Brett Smock and Carla Vitale (scriptwriters), and Corinne Aquilina (music and lyrics) in New York in September, and ‘sold’ them his vision for the production.
“It is very faithful to the Robert Louis Stevenson story and conveys through the boy hero Jim Hawkins, in a grittier way than in most other versions, the many powerful messages about moral dilemmas, choices and consequences that we seek to educate adolescent boys about here at TAS,” Mr O’Connell said.
“The Treasure Island team were impressed to learn of the culture of artistic endeavour at the school and in Armidale generally.”
Carla Vitale said the trio were excited by the opportunity.
“Treasure Island is a timeless, coming-of-age story that focuses on a young boy’s literal and metaphoric journey to manhood. Jim’s journey speaks to all ages regardless of background or geography,” she said.
“To have this musical performed by a group of young men speaks directly to the author’s target audience, allowing them to inhabit, experience and personalize this classic tale. To have Treasure Island The Musical make its Australian debut at TAS is very exciting for us.”
She said it was rare that a creative team has the benefit of working with and asking questions of the writers.
“The Armidale School provides the potential for a fertile collaboration that allows us to continue to hone the show – a hugely beneficial process for the writers. Each collaboration uncovers new angles, ideas and layers to our characters that lend dimension and authenticity to the show’s components.”
With the show still in creative development stages, the US-based team will be interacting with the cast and crew remotely, using Skype and a well-equipped production studio made possible by Mike Hoskins, that will also have its debut with this production.
Mr Hoskins said that TAS had been chosen to premier the production was “third party verification” about the school’s reputation for the creative arts.
“It’s a philosophy that’s not just about facilities, but that culture matters more than buildings, and this is the latest manifestation of that,” he said.
The high usage of the facility by community and touring groups was also evidence of this.
“In saying that, it’s wonderful that the creative arts centre is not just a passive performance space but a place that can capture live material that can now be digitally edited, thus being a living platform for a new generation of content,” Mr Hoskins said.