For more than a decade, the Story Pirates have given theatrical life to tales written by children, teaching creative writing and performing for more than 100,000 kids in more than 250 schools since 2003. This week, they spent time doing workshops and running assembly performances at both Isla Vista Elementary and the Crane School, and will be presenting even more of those students’ sagas this Sunday at UCSB’s Campbell Hall. Here’s Producing Director Gabe Jewell on what to expect:
What’s the Story Pirates formula? Our mission is to celebrate the words and ideas of kids, so a lot of the work we do involves teaching kids creative writing and then taking their writing and turning it into a big, ridiculous sketch-comedy musical to celebrate their work.
Do you have a set performance, or is it a blank slate each time? We have a large collection of stories that we call our greatest hits, so we choose from those, and then we use a couple stories from kids in the community as new material. Every show also has an improvised portion, where we’re creating a story on the spot from suggestions that kids in the audience give.
And there’s lots of puppets and costumes and colorful stuff? Yeah, it’s a pretty wild and silly costume setup.
What’s the appropriate age? All ages, honestly. We say 3-12, but we also pride ourselves on 5-year-olds and 95-year-olds being able to sit next to each other and laugh at the same joke.
What’s the reaction of kids seeing their stories onstage? They love it. We hear a lot of the time from kids, from teachers, and from parents that bringing their stories to life makes the kids more confident writers and learners and more excited about their education in general.
Why is it so powerful? Anytime that a writer can see his or her words performed by someone professionally talented is affecting, even for adults. So when kids get to see their ideas celebrated, it’s special for them.
Do you see the organization as providing some of the arts education that has been cut? It varies. We go into a variety of schools, and a lot of them do not have any arts funding or programming. It’s a refreshing experience for the kids and also for the teachers. We do think that arts are a really important part of a complete education.
Story Pirates take over UCSB’s Campbell Hall stage on Sunday, November 8, at 3 p.m. See artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu or call 893-3535 for tickets.