Eater play set this weekend

J.W. Eater teachers Ryan Thomas and Nate Titus swash their buckles in a scene from the upcoming play at Eater, “Jolly Roger and the Pirate Crew,” which will be presented Friday and Saturday at the school. Also shown are, from left, Elektra Harmon, Makenna Pruitt, Natre’ail Mahahlick, Neah Franklin, Teresa Brown, Jameia Bruce and Nicole Townsend. The comedy is directed by Jessica Holmes and Donna Miner.

RANTOUL — Directing young people in theatrical presentations is hard work, theater veteran Jessica Holmes said. But the payoff comes on show night.

“When you see the excitement on their face when the audience comes and they react to the play, it’s all worth it,” said Holmes, who is in her sixth go-around as director of the annual spring play at J.W. Eater Junior High School.

This year’s play will be presented this weekend — a comedy called “Jolly Roger and the Pirate Crew.”

The production is set for 7 p.m. Friday, April 12, and 2 p.m. Saturday, April 13, at Eater. Donna Miner co-directs.

The plot: A young man plans to propose to his girlfriend, but he overhears her say she is bored with him and would rather marry a pirate. So he decides to form his own pirate crew “so he can be tough and daring, and in the meantime, she’s formed a pirate crew to find more excitement,” Holmes said.

But there’s also the real pirates, Bluebeard and Long John Sliver (yes Sliver).

They all end up on an island together looking for treasure.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Holmes said.

And there are a lot of laughs, according to some in the cast. But it’s also a lot of work. Rehearsals have been ongoing since February.

Two first-year Eater teachers Ryan Thomas, Nate Titus plus director Miner are also part of the cast. Holmes also convinced a friend of hers to be part of the play. The cast member’s role is a bit parrot (ab)normal.

“We ... have a person in it who thinks he’s a parrot,” Holmes said.

Four eighth-graders interviewed by the Press enjoy being part of the play.

Neah Franklin said this is her first time with a speaking role. The last two years she was part of the stage crew.

She plays Snaggle, one of Jolly Roger’s pirate crew.

“It’s fun,” Franklin said. “I’ve been practicing since I first got the script.

Franklin is enjoying the experience because “all the ... cast members and crew members are pretty funny, especially when they need to express how they’re feeling through the script. It’s very funny and hilarious.”

Teresa Brown plays Sneak, one of the triplets. Brown was in last year’s play as one of the ballroom dancers for Cinderella.

“It’s fun because you get to act and just let all of your feelings out,” she said.

“It makes it even funner (than last year) because all of the people that I’m working with, they’re really nice.”

Brown said she gets a bit nervous being onstage, “but it’s easier when I just look at my mom.”

Natre’ail Mahalick is a member of Capt. Blood’s crew named Claude.

“I enjoy acting, and this play is very funny to me,” Mahalick said.

She said she would like to continue to act in plays when she enters high school but isn’t sure about after that because “all of my talents are very art-based, so I’ll probably want to go to a school of arts when I’m out of high school.”

Nicole Townsend’s role is Mickey.

“He’s basically Blue Beard’s servant,” she said.

“Jolly Roger” marks the second play in which she has been involved.

What does she like about acting? “It’s something I wanted to do since I was like 4,” she said.

Like Brown she gets kind of nervous come showtime, “but once I get onstage, it’s fine.”

Townsend has 26 lines in the play.

Each year, the play cast picks a charity to which the audience may contribute.

This year, there are two — a homeless shelter and Hospice Hearts, a charity for animals. Jars for each charity will be at the front door for contributions.

Holmes said last year, $100 was raised for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com