Story by Marina Cucuzza

Bethany Anderson as One-Eyed Rosy with the pirate-clowns, right to left, Janoah Bailin as Giggs, Maddie Hoeppner as Bosun, Colleen Courtney as Pele in Gina Sabatini's The Jolly Mon.Bethany Anderson as One-Eyed Rosy with the pirate-clowns, right to left, Janoah Bailin as Giggs, Maddie Hoeppner as Bosun, Colleen Courtney as Pele in Gina Sabatini's The Jolly Mon.

Marina: So how did you get the idea for this play?
 I got the idea to write this play from the book by Jimmy Buffett and his nine-year- old daughter Savannah Jane Buffett. The children’s book was always my favorite. I was eight when I got it, I just loved the illustrations and the colors. I take it with me when I go some place new, or if I go away for a long time because the story is anchoring for me. It’s very much about transitions and it’s touching in a deep way.

I was flipping through it one day while and I was listening to music. I was reading a particularly dramatic part and a song came on, and it was very theatrical. I really felt like I was underwater, reading it, and I thought it would be a beautiful scene on stage. This was two years ago, so my second year at of COA. I thought it would be an amazing senior project for me because I am very theater- oriented. Also, this story carried me through difficult times and allowed me to celebrate good times. I wanted to bring it to COA and the wider community for that reason. I truly believe that theater is a great vehicle for causing change and this story and the theatrical presentation is really powerful.

Marina: Can you tell me a little more about the writing process and what that was like?
 So I began writing the play over the course of the summer between my second and third year, and I wrote the second act last summer. Bill Carpenter and Polly edited it with me, but it’s still ever-changing. The actors make it much more malleable and bring the characters to life.

The storyline of the play goes beyond the book. One important thing in writing the script is that in children’s books, the protagonist doesn’t always save himself. Magic or an outside force saves him; other elements help him succeed. In my version, I intentionally made the protagonist be his own hero. In my version he is facing adversity and he pulls himself out of it. I am also very influenced by Shakespeare and how he structured his plays. There are intentional Shakespearian dramatic elements in my version of the story. The monologues are structurally based on some of his monologues, but despite that, the show is also kind of a musical.

Marina: What do you want the audience to know before they come see the play?
 It’s based on a children’s book and it’s appropriate for children. They can come see it and enjoy it and walk away with a moral message. However, it’s also mature enough that adults can come see it and be moved in a different way. It’s important for both audiences.

Marina: Polly, can you tell me about your involvement in the play and what this experience has been like for you?
 It was really exciting for me because I heard a lot about the writing process and I wanted to help Gina. It was helpful I think because I saw things with fresh eyes. We are really open in the way that we direct.

Gina: We sometimes have opposing ideas, but I don’t know what I would be doing without Polly`s creative insight. We have different brains and life experiences and we think differently so I’m so glad she’s here.

Marina: Can you tell me about the casting process?
 The audition process is so important. For casting we held open auditions. We took selections from the script and had people read them. We had to make sure there was chemistry between the lead characters as well as that the villain instilled fear and held her ground.

The pirate clowns seem to be up to no good in The Jolly Mon.

Marina: So I know you’re currently in the rehearsal stage, how is that going?
 Rehearsals are going really well. It’s eye opening to see how much everything is changing. We were a little bit tentative at first, but now starting the rehearsal process, it’s evident that everyone has really latched on to his or her character. They are really excited about it and the atmosphere is so positive.

Gina: Yes, this might be the most positive theater experience I’ve ever had. It feels really special and everyone is pulling more than their own weight. It’s just incredible. Everyone is helping out. One thing about doing a senior project that requires other people is that it’s risky. People can’t flake out—you have to depend on them. But I am so grateful that this is my senior project because I get to work with so many awesome people. I am thrilled beyond words.

Right now we are just about done rehearsing everything once through. Lines are basically learned and we are giving some more intense stage direction. Generally how we rehearse is: warm up, check in, including how we are doing and energy level, and then we start the rehearsal process. Initially we allowed the actors to do the scene without direction because the actors have their own creative minds and we want to see how they approach the scenes. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it is important because it’s more of a collaborative effort that way. We direct, but we’re open. Our job is to help the actors find their character and give some clarity. We can be their guides to explain the character and situation they are acting. Now we’re working on refining things more. Now that they have the foundation of the scene we can add nuances, fine tune things, try costumes on to see if people are comfortable, become more aware with light cues and music cues and stage directions.

Marina: What are you most excited to see on stage?
 Everything! … I am excited for the “underwater” dance scene because that’s the scene that inspired me to write, that’s what spurred all of this.

Polly:  It’s absolutely beautiful, I can’t wait to see it on stage. I think the audience will really appreciate it. … It will be nice to see everything else that goes on: the set and lights and music. It will really fill up the space.

Marina: What do you want the audience to take away from the performance?
 There’s so much more to this play than a moral. For any piece of theater I would ask the audience to be taken along for the ride and use it as a tool to reflect on their own life. Shakespeare said that theater is a mirror we hold up to nature. It’s more than that— it’s a tool for us to get to different places in our life. It’s a motivator and a life changer. I hope people carry this play with them and they too can find the music within them as the Jolly Mon does.

Show dates
Friday, May 24 8 p.m.
Saturday, May 25, 2:30 and 8 p.m.