The Spokane Children’s Theatre has had plenty of notable openings over the last six-plus decades, but the opening of “How I Became a Pirate” this weekend is especially notable:
• It’s a popular new musical version of a hit children’s book, which was illustrated by St. George’s School graduate and Caldecott Honor Award winner David Shannon.
• This will be the first show in SCT’s new performing space, the Commandery Room of the downtown Masonic Center.
• “How I Became a Pirate” is the kickoff show of the 65th season for SCT – which makes it the longest running theater group in Spokane, beating the Spokane Civic Theatre by one year.
“It’s exciting to be celebrating a historic season in a historic location,” said Maria Caprile, office manager of the theater.
Even more exciting? To be celebrating it with a story that is practically guaranteed to make kids (and some parents) want to climb the nearest crow’s nest and wave the buccaneer flag.
This musical adaptation is based on the smash-hit 2003 children’s book written by Melinda Long and illustrated by Shannon. Last year, Caprile heard that it had been adapted for the stage and was making audiences roar in children’s theaters all over the country.
“I read it, and I was laughing so hard, I fell out of my chair,” said Caprile. “It has a lot of audience participation, which makes it perfect for children’s theater. And you can never go wrong with pirates.”
Only later did she realize that the book has a Spokane connection. Bob Farley, the longtime guiding force behind SCT, told her that Shannon had been his student at St. George’s in the 1970s. Farley was the student newspaper adviser and Shannon was the staff illustrator. Now, Shannon is a famous children’s book author and illustrator, best known for his bestselling books, “No, David!” and “A Bad Case of Stripes.” Shannon now lives in the Los Angeles area.
“I contacted David and he sent us an autographed copy of his book for a raffle, which we will hold during the run of the show, along with a letter of congratulations on our 65th season,” said Farley.
Buddy Todd is the director, and the cast features Dennis Craig as Capt. Braid Beard and Carter Martin, 12, as Jeremy Jacob.
The SCT will hold some of its shows this season at its usual locations, Spokane Community College and Spokane Falls Community College. Yet Caprile said the Commandery Room of the Masonic Center is just the right size – about 350 seats – and it has also has the right kind of old-fashioned charm for a pirate story.
And how is SCT doing in its 65th year?
It has a healthy season-subscriber base of about 800, and it draws an average of about 8,000 people every season, said Caprile. This year promises to be a big one, with a number of well-known titles still to come: “A Christmas Story,” “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “Hansel and Gretel” and “Snow White.” Season tickets cost $42.
“Snow White,” by the way, is the show that started it all for the Spokane Children’s Theatre – way back in 1946.