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Adventure on the High Seas Brings Together Theatre Alumni

“The Three Keys of Captain Hellfire” is an epic adventure with sword-fighting pirates, buried treasure and burning passions. It is rated PG 13. Parental guidance is strongly suggested.

For playwright Ariana Burns ’09, ’12, it’s been a decade in the making. The result is a rollicking world premiere making its debut on the University of Idaho Hartung stage April 19-27.

Burns romanticized about the high seas as a young girl growing up in Coeur d’Alene. She watched swashbuckler movie stars like Errol Flynn, Anthony Quinn and Johnny Depp. Her fascination with pirates was further fueled by famous seafaring women like Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

It was at U of I, as an undergrad theater student, that Burns was inspired to tackle a pirate play after a roommate bemoaned the lack of strong female pirate roles. With her love for storytelling and research, Burns began to write. Along the way, she earned two degrees from U of I – a Bachelor of Fine Arts in technical theater and a Master of Arts in cultural anthropology – worked two seasons of stage operations with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, wrote and produced other plays and was involved in Idaho Repertory Theater and Moscow Community Theatre.

Alumni Take the Stage

Lewiston native and U of I Theatre Arts alumna Hillary Mosman ’13 portrays the fiery title character, Capt. Hellfire. “I love a rough-around-the-edges woman,” Mosman said. “She’s tough and menacing but as loyal as can be.”

Mosman has appeared on the Hartung stage many times. During her studies, she was in numerous productions, including “Almost, Maine,” “Welcome Home Jenny Sutter” and “Twelfth Night.”

“The Hartung is my home, it’s a special place,” Mosman said. “It’s unreal to get this opportunity to be on this stage again.”

Alumni Daniel Haley ’06 and David Harlan ’09 join Mosman back on the Hartung stage.

Haley was the 2007 Rex Rabold Fellowship recipient. After graduation, he performed in five productions at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and has played Scrooge in several U of I productions of “A Christmas Carol.”

In “Hellfire” Haley portrays Benjamin Qycke, a self-absorbed bounty hunter. Harlan plays the pirate Graves, a disciplinarian who is ignored.

“It’s spectacular to be involved in an inaugural production,” Haley said.

“Hellfire” is in fact a reunion for the three alumni. Mosman’s first play in the Hartung Theater was directed by Harlan. In her last Hartung play, Haley played her love interest.

‘The Olympics of Acting’

“It’s amazing to see three alumni on stage,” said Brian Tibayan, a graduate student from Manilla, the Philippines, who plays "Hellfire's" narrator.

Tibayan joins a cast of 25 students and alumni, as well as musicians playing banjo, accordion and piano.

David Lee-Painter, professor of directing in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, leads this large ensemble, alongside two assistant directors, two assistant stage managers and more than 50 students designing and building the costumes and set. Lee-Painter is no stranger to directing big productions. His many U of I credits include the large-scale productions of “A Christmas Carol,” “Oklahoma” and “The Pirates of Penzance.”

“It’s wonderfully nostalgic,” Haley said. “I know if I take part in a David Lee-Painter project I’ll be valued and grow. He’ll really drive me. His bandwidth for genuine caring is unparalleled.”

The result, according to Mosman, is that audiences will experience a show unlike anything they’ve seen.

“This show has everything. The script is like the Olympics of acting. It’s just pure enjoyment,” she said.

Article by Kelly O'Neill, Department of Theatre Arts
Published April 2019

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