UIL One-Act Play Treasure Island Cast Performs a Swashbuckling Adventure Through Georgian England

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  • Beneath the wheel of the ship, shipmates Kaya Chen ’25 and Cleo Steinhauser ’24 discuss daily chores and proceedings. While the show’s principal characters followed the narrative, the ensemble cast of pirates and crewmates performed maintenance and silent pantomimes around the ship.

  • While his castmates begin shifting the set from dock to ship, Emmett Portnoy ’23 plays an enthusiastic Jim Hawkins. He is about to set off with a crew of sailors on The Hispaniola in search of the titular island of treasure.

  • With his parrot at his side, Long John Silver, portrayed by Luc Brown ’23, stares wistfully into the middle distance. Brown’s portrayal of Silver won him recognition as an All-Star Cast Member at UIL competition – one of eight honorees.

  • As the rest of the ship’s “citizens” look on, Evan Tucker ’23’s Squire Trelawney brings Jim Hawkins – played by Emmett Portnoy ’23 – up to speed with the ship’s proceedings. Hawkins, the play’s ingenue-esque main character, serves as a go-between with the “citizens” and the pirates.

  • As his shipmates bustle around with the busyness of the boat and Black Dog, played by Vince Pham ’25, looks on ruthlessly, George Merry – Oliver Barnfield ’23 – surveys the activity. The sailors would later go on to be revealed as pirates with a devious plan to mutiny against the citizen captain.

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The cast of the UIL One-Act Play, Ken Ludwig’s Treasure Island, performed six shows from Friday, March 3 to Wednesday, March 8. Four performances took place during the school day on Friday; one was a public performance for friends and family on Wednesday, and one was their competition performance at the Cedar Ridge Performing Arts Center (PAC).

The play is an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel, centered around young Jim Hawkins. Hawkins, an adventure-seeking boy portrayed by Emmett Portnoy ‘23, experiences the tale of a lifetime when he finds a mysterious map with the promise of treasure. He is surrounded by an ensemble cast of pirates such as Israel Hands (Francois LeGall ‘23) and George Merry (Oliver Barnfield ‘23), and civilians like Squire Trelawney (Baker Tuthill ‘23) and Captain Smollett (Vince Pham ‘25) alike, but no character is so preeminent on the stage as Long John Silver, played by Luc Brown ‘23. The complexity of his character and the deftness and care with which Brown took him on earned him recognition as an All-Star cast member at the UIL competition.

“For Silver, I really focused a lot on his intention,” Brown said, “both with whole scenes and with individual lines. I spent a lot of time really diving into the subtext and motive. My favorite moments ended up being the ones where Silver was able to reveal his true, evil intentions, rather than the times where he had his nice, supportive facade.”

Other performers, too, met acclaim from the judges. Kristos Puliadi ‘24, for his enthusiastic and dedicated portrayal of the villainous Blind Pew and level-headed Tom Morgan, and Evan Tucker ‘23, for his equal parts comedic and intensely serious imagining of Squire Trelawney, both received honorary mentions for All-Star cast member. Additionally, Portnoy’s skill at driving the show with his earnest Jim Hawkins scored the show’s second All-Star cast member award. And though the play did not advance to state-level competition, the company came away with newfound knowledge and experience under their belt.

“While we didn’t soar to competitive success, Treasure Island brought me immense joy due to our abilities to convey an immersive story,” Pham said, “rather than just checking off imaginary boxes. Being a part of the competition and witnessing the talent really reminded me why I love theatre.”

One example of the cast’s growth was the flexibility that was required of the performers. The Treasure Island process began while The Spongebob Musical was in its final weeks of rehearsals, meaning actors arrived at school at 8 a.m. to work on character studies and ensemble exercises. Additionally, those who participated in the musical would stay for rehearsals until 8 p.m. that same day. On top of that, the production met some issues with pacing and licensing that resulted in the director, Ms. Lydia Coats, having to select a different cut of the full play with little over a month before the competition.

“Switching our script was difficult,” Brown said. The biggest problem was the difference in the arc of the story. [It] left us with a different story arc, one which didn’t fit with our previous work, [though] it really allowed us to develop those strong characters and relationships.”

In the end, the company put on six successful shows over the course of six days, as each performer pushed themselves beyond their comfort zones to learn and perfect a variety of accents and stage combat maneuvers, as well as reaching new emotional depths with each rehearsal and performance.

“This was the story we wanted to tell,” Pham said, “whether it was complete or not, and I’d say we did mighty fine in overcoming that obstacle and wrangling together a production we could be proud of. I’m proud of what we made, through all our challenges, and I love all the people who embraced [them] alongside each other.”