Co-producer Kymberlee della Luce sat down with me to talk about the generation of A Pyrate’s Life: Anne Bonny.

What was your inspiration for Anne Bonny?
The idea came from one of my teachers, Keira McDonald, who suggested I look into female pirates. This would engage my love of history, and give me the chance to incorporate stage combat and dialects, which I have an affinity for. It also provided the opportunity to explore a powerful woman’s story and embody her ferocity.
I didn’t really know anything about female pirates, so I Googled a list of names and read each of their bios. I was drawn to Anne’s strange origin story and the fire in her belly. She was a person who took her life into her own hands, and I find that very inspiring.

What was your creative process?
I originally developed this piece in a solo performance class at Cornish College of the Arts with Keira McDonald and Marc Kenison. We had to bring in material every week to get feedback on from the class which, by necessity, kept me rolling along. I learned what was drawing people in and what they wanted to learn more about, and that often took me in a direction I couldn’t have planned.
A lot of it was trial and error. I started out doing research, trying to learn whatever I could about her. The information out there is pretty limited, so I had to fill in the blanks along the way. I took her major life events and fleshed them out into scenes. This took me into researching the other major players in her life, like Mary Read and Calico Jack. It’s also when I had to start thinking about what these people sounded like and how they moved.
Again, the feedback that I received from my teachers and cohort was invaluable. Just because you’re doing a “solo” show, doesn’t mean you should go it alone. Quite the opposite – you need that outside set of eyes and point of view that can tell you what’s reading and what you need to specify.

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your research?
I think the most surprising thing was the lack of information about what happened to her! It’s like she got arrested and then her story just stopped. This presented me with an interesting challenge, because I had to just make it up. But I’m pretty happy with the “ending” I gave her.

Do you find this character relatable? If so, why?
I think Anne embodied and experienced a lot of what women today are going through. She was born into this patriarchal system that told her she should be one thing, and she wasn’t having any of it! She charted her own course (so to speak), and yeah, she hurt people along the way, but she was living life to the fullest and being her authentic self. I know I have something to learn in that regard, and I’m sure a lot of women can relate. It can be difficult to find your own unique voice in a world that constantly demands conformity, but Anne did that.

Why this story now?
We have reached a point on a national and international level where women are really done taking men’s shit. We are done being told what to think, how to act, and what to do with our bodies. Anne Bonny was an early feminist. She defied the expectations of the men in her life and did what the fuck she wanted! While I don’t condone the ways in which she harmed people, I admire her tenacity in the pursuit of a life of her own choosing, and I believe that’s where we, as women, are headed. Not isolated, on our individual “hero’s journey,” but among community that values and cares for us – who have our back and will fight for our right to sovereignty. I don’t know that Anne truly had that, but she took the first step onto that ship, and it’s our job to keep it sailing onward.

Anne Bonny

When you take on other characters

You risk losing yourself.

You worry:

Will I adopt their ugliness?

Will I shine too brightly?

I’m used to feeling plain,

So why should I feel

Excitement,

Joy,

And freedom in my body?

What if I lose control?

 

What if?

Would that be the end of it all?

Or would it open new realms

Of possibility,

Ways of being,

Of inhabiting the world?

What if you could set your

Mind-

Body-

Spirit

Free

By throwing caution to the wind,

By turning off your “internal editor,”

By daring to be bigger than your

Own small sphere of existence?

 

Acting is empathizing

With another’s plight;

It’s taking on their story

And living it fully –

In all its messiness,

Ugliness,

And Glory.

We don’t live to be nice

And look nice all the time;

We live for experiences,

Relationships,

And love.

We live for the complexity

That each day holds –

Shouldn’t our characters carry this capacity, too?

 

To live is to take a risk

Every day of your life

To be better than you were

The day before.

To grow up

And into yourself;

To learn

About yourself and the world;

To deepen

Your connections

And tune into the collective pulse

That breathes life

Into every being

On the planet.

Anne Bonny

“Athena.”

“Present!” sang Athena from the front of the room.

“Arachne.”

“Here,” I said. Athena snickered and her friends followed suit.

I sat right behind Athena in my senior English class, and I had pretty much had it with her. We were friends in elementary school, but ever since she had gained popularity in 6th grade, she had been treating me like shit. Nowadays she surrounded herself with friends and was hailed as “the best and the brightest” at Lydian High. To me, she had just become a rich, privileged little bitch – the “Queen Bee.”

Athena tossed her hair and turned around to look at me.

“So, that short story contest is coming up,” she said pointedly. “Are you gonna enter?”

“What’s it to you?” I snapped.

“Well, it’s just that I clearly have more talent, and so I thought you might want a… warning, you could say.”

“Excuse me?”

“You know you’re no match for me, so I don’t know why you would even bother trying. Just give up now; save yourself the heartache.” She smiled wickedly and turned back around.

I felt my face growing red and hot tears of anger welled in my eyes. I clenched my fists until I could feel my nails digging into the palms of my hands. I was sooo done. I was just as good as her and this was my chance to prove it.

*          *          *

When it came time to read our stories aloud in our English class, Athena was, of course, the first to volunteer. I sat in my seat, focused and unmoving, barely listening to her self-congratulatory garbage. All I could think about was how she would react when she heard my story.

She finished and her friends applauded enthusiastically. I volunteered to go next. Athena pushed past me as I made my way to the front of the room. She sat down victoriously, sneering at me. I ignored her and began to read.

The words poured out of me like acid as I revealed to the class every mean trick Athena had ever played on me. Her expression became hateful and her face flushed red. I just kept going. She was going to get what she deserved.

When I finished, the room was silent and Athena was shaking with anger, her eyes shooting daggers at me. She stood up angrily and stormed out of the room, her posse hurrying after her. I remained completely still, every muscle in my body engaged. I felt powerful. I had defeated the “Great Athena.”

*          *          *

For the rest of the day, I felt on top of the world. That is until I checked my Facebook that night:

“Arachne is a stuck-up, talentless bitch who doesn’t know when to give up. No one fucking cares about you and your dumbass stories. You’re just a poor, stupid little nobody. Why do you even bother? Just fucking kill yourself. The world would be a better place without your ugly face in it.”

My body turned to ice. I shook violently with sadness and hurt and anger. Tears streamed down my face, but I made no effort to dry them. Her words echoed in my head. “Why bother? Just fucking kill yourself.” My head was spinning. I felt myself stand and walk to my closet. “Just fucking kill yourself.” I grabbed a belt, my hands trembling. I was in a daze. “Just fucking kill yourself.” I looped the belt around my neck and tightened it. “No one cares about you. Just fucking kill yourself.” I collapsed by my closet door and shoved the belt between it and the doorframe. I closed the door and let my entire body go loose. “Just fucking kill yourself.”

*          *          *

Beep, beep, beep, beep… The noise was ringing through my ears. Suddenly I felt warmth spreading through my body. There was a beating in my chest. My eyes darted back and forth beneath my eyelids and then shot open.

I was assaulted by blinding fluorescent lights and white walls that seemed to be closing in on me. I started thrashing around and tried yelling out, but my voice was hoarse and weak. A nurse heard the commotion and came in.

“Whoa, whoa, calm down. Everything’s okay. You’re alive. You’re safe.”

“Where am I?” I croaked.

“The Lydian State Hospital.”

“What?”

“You were admitted late last night, by your parents.”

“What? Why?”

“You tried to hang yourself. Your parents thought it would be best for your safety.” I put my hand to my throat.

“Hang myself –?” Everything that happened yesterday suddenly rushed into my head: The competition, Athena’s hateful glare – and her Facebook post. “Oh my god…” My eyes welled with tears and I began to sob.

“What has happened is terrible, but we will do everything we can to help you recover. It just may take some time.”

I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. I had tried to kill myself… I was… institutionalized… What had I done – ?

“Can I get you anything?” the nurse asked.

“My journal… get me my journal… I want to write.”

THE END