By the time the Jolly Roger docked at the pier, friends Keith Steiner and Cooper Proctor were no longer merely 7-year-old passengers – they were pirates.
That should be expected after an afternoon aboard the pirate-themed ship, attending pirate school and watching the entertaining antics of the gruff-but-funny crew and their not-so-salty characters.
This is the Pirates of the Coeur d’Alene, a 90-minute family adventure lake cruise that disembarks from the downtown dock near Independence Point twice daily through August.
Featuring an oddball crew led by the rough-and-tumble Captain Calico Jack (his motley shipmates include Mad Molly and the burly Scurvy Joe), the lake-faring scalawags have “borrowed” (or kidnapped, depending on which character you ask) the damsel in distress, Lady Killigrew. With their new prisoner on board, and a stolen treasure chest also in their grasp, the captain and his pirates head to the mysterious Kidd Island, where Calico Jack intends on marrying the fetching Lady Killigrew with or without her consent.
Along the way, swashbuckling sword fights and an attack from a rescue ship play out on the cruise boat-turned-pirate ship, which has been transformed with faux-wood siding that covers the exterior, fishnets lining the railing and cannons and an open deck on top. The members of the audience even get in on the action as they take part in a pirate lesson sure to elicit laughs from everyone on deck, regardless of age. There are face-painting, snacks and beverages, and each child leaves with a goodie bag.
“We definitely have kids who come aboard and have no doubt in their minds that they are on a pirate ship and, by the end of the cruise, they honestly believe they’ve turned into pirates,” said Jillian Kramer, production director and director of education at the Lake City Playhouse.
But the show isn’t just for the little ones. “Families can expect to really be a part of the production. The kids get to attend pirate school, which includes learning how to walk, talk, sing and dance like pirates, and the parents get to enjoy watching their sweet little children turn into silly swashbucklers,” Kramer said. “We call it a family adventure – it’s definitely more for children, but there is humor that the kids don’t pick up on that really gets the parents going.”
Putting the show together took months of preparation, and more than 60 people tried out for the five parts. With a cast trained in improvisation (most have acted in local plays for years) and keeping the children for the duration of the show, each cruise plays out a little differently. There’s even an adjusted script for when there’s a more mature audience on board.
“I’m so lucky to have the cast that I do. They are very creative, very witty, very well-seasoned actors. You can tell they have fun performing, and if they’re having fun then the audience is going to have fun,” Kramer said. “The actors present a rehearsed, scripted performance, but they are also very talented improvisation artists. They are constantly responding to the audience and even reacting to changes in the environment. That keeps it interesting for the actors because it’s something different every day.”
So far, the reaction from the public has been encouraging, Kramer said, so much that the Pirates of the Coeur d’Alene will most likely set sail again next summer. “We’ve had tons of support,” she said. “There’s really nothing like this in town. Our guests get to be out on the water for an hour and a half with beautiful views, enjoying gorgeous weather and being entertained. It’s just a great combination.”
As for young friends Keith Steiner, Cooper Proctor and the rest of the swashbucklers on the Jolly Roger on a recent weekend, the action sequences easily kept their attention.
“I liked it a lot. I liked the sword-fighting,” said Cooper as he engaged in a duel with some of the other children on the upstairs deck, swishing their plastic swords.
The parents on board also enjoyed the show.
“It was awesome. It was great. It was really funny,” said Cooper’s mom, Jeanie Proctor.
Donna Carr, visiting the area with her three children from Edmonton, Alberta, said the production played well for everyone in attendance. “I thought it was cute. I thought the jokes were good for the adults, and it was entertaining for kids and adults,” she said.
Todd Jasmin, who played Captain Calico Jack, said that he knows his work as a pirate is done when there are frequent “arghs,” “ayes,” “ahoys” and “mateys” heard around the ship from audience members. “We want the whole family to have fun,” he said. “When they leave with their treasure and they’re like ‘argh!’ then we’ve succeeded.”