Pirates in Peril

Cast Members - Students with vision loss

“Pirates in Peril” is a dramatic metaphor for young performers
The Dramatically Able production of “Pirates in Peril” is a metaphor for the theater group itself, as each of the young performers faces the daily obstacles of living with blindness.
“Pirates in Peril” is a dramatic metaphor for young performers
• By Susan Vertullo
Susan Vertullo
• Jul 1, 2018
The production company of Dramatically Able recently captivated its audience with “Pirates in Peril,” a one-act play featuring nine area actors, ages 8 through 18, at the Governor’s School for the Arts’ Dalis Black Box Theatre in Norfolk.
But to do justice to this performance, one has to read beyond the simple review.
The original script, co-written and directed by Virginia Stage Company’s Ryan Clemens and veteran stage performer/director Meaghan Mozingo, had a balance of humor and suspense as a merry band of pirates were stranded on a sandbar during a storm at sea. Awaiting rescue, the crew finds a way to work together to re-set their vessel afloat.
Priya Guvernator, 11, of Accomack, stole the show in her role as the headstrong Captain, who learns that good leaders are also good listeners. After she finally considers the input and skills of her crew, the Captain successfully leads them to overcome a major obstacle and return their ship to the open seas.
Princess Wells, 18, of Virginia Beach, provided comic relief as the bubbly cheerleader, Curly, whose lively antics buoyed the spirits of the stranded crew. Sixteen-year-old Norfolk resident Kamryn Tynes, as Calypso, served as the voice of reason, encouraging her mates to remain positive throughout their ordeal.
Last month’s one-day-only run was the successful culmination of eight weeks of acting workshops and rehearsals. Clemens, who serves as resident theater artist with Virginia Stage Company, readily admits that some of the characters were developed for specific actors.
“We built some of the characters with certain personalities in mind,” said Clemens, adding that he and Mozingo carefully planned the characters, plot and stage props to enhance the talents and abilities of the actors.
Another factor set this performance apart from other youth theater groups. The play is a metaphor for the group itself, as each of the young Dramatically Able performers faces the daily obstacles of living with blindness.
A lack of sight does not deter these kids from pursuing their love for acting. However, several set adaptations were necessary to maximize their use of the stage.
“The set was designed with safety in mind,” Clemens said. “The hull of the ship was constructed using pieces of foam cylinders and cushions strategically placed to create a barrier, so the kids wouldn’t get too close to the edge of the stage.”
Another adaptation was the use of “shadows,” or sighted stage guides dressed in black. The “shadows” come forward to quietly and unobtrusively guide actors to their marks on stage, and then fade into the background of the set.
Danielle Stepney, 12, and her mother, Janis Stepney, volunteered as “shadows” for the show. Danielle said she became involved with Dramatically Able through her mother, who works as a teaching assistant with visually impaired children in Norfolk Public Schools. Danielle said she is “amazed and inspired by how the kids can process all that information without being able to see.”
Priya Guvernator said she “loves acting and spending time with her friends” during the weekly workshops. Her father, Chris Guvernator, added, “The long drives between Norfolk and the Eastern Shore were well-worth it,” citing his daughter’s increased self-confidence and how much she has enjoyed participating in the program.
Dramatically Able, now wrapping up its second year, is part of Access Virginia’s youth program. According to Access founder Lois Boyle, the idea of workshops designed for blind and low vision students came about during a conversation with Amy Colaizzi and Gail Henrich, who both teach visually impaired students in Norfolk Public Schools.
Colaizzi and Henrich are also audio description providers with Access Virginia. This service provides individuals with details of live theater performances via transistor-like devices equipped with ear buds or headphones, to enhance the theater experience. Together, the women came up with the idea of not only providing students with theatrical experiences as spectators, but also as performers. In addition to audio description, Access Virginia also provides open captioning services to allow the hearing impaired to read the dialogue on an LED screen.
With the assistance of the teachers and other volunteers, Clemens and Mozingo conduct the workshops to teach students the basics of live theater. Clemens said he is happy to see the students’ personal growth and new friendships developing. He credits Mozingo, who is president and co-founder of Arts Inclusion Company, as a valuable resource for helping adapt stage directions and instructional methods for the visually challenged actors.
Boyle says that the success of the program has led to the formation of Dramatically Able II for young actors on the Peninsula with blindness and low vision.
“We are thrilled and gratified by the support the community has shown for this program and for creating opportunities for the kids to be involved in theater and ultimately starring in their showcase production,” Boyle said.
For information on how to participate or support Dramatically Able, contact Lois Boyle at [email protected] or call 757-276-1761.

Susan Vertullo, [email protected]

Charity Name
Access Virginia
Photo Caption
Cast Members - Students with vision loss
Photo Credit
Jeremy Bates Production