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.