Treasure Island: An Ironic Experience at Engineering School

“Colorado School of Mines” and “theater productions” are two phrases not frequently found in the same sentence, but avoid telling that to the members of Mines Little Theater. Amidst Calculus class, Physics homework, and plenty of Engineering Design, students involved in Mines Theater wholeheartedly performed the classic play “Treasure Island” last weekend. While the performance was far from a Broadway production, the enthusiasm of the actors made the experience light-hearted and humorous for all involved.

First published as a novel in 1883 by Robert Louis Stevenson, “Treasure Island” is the tale of Jim Hawkins’ encounters with pirates and treasure, struggle to find trustworthy friends, and ultimately, symbolic journey of self-discovery. Freshman Connor Sweeney played young Jim, participating in the adventure as well as narrating his experiences to provide background for the audience. While at times his lines were unclear, Sweeney did a nice job highlighting Jim’s character transition from a shy boy who stays at his parents’ inn to a fiercely independent and courageous young man with a hint of pirate influence in his nature.

Other notable performances included Aaron Bilek’s impressive rendition of Long John Silver, Eric Schalch’s hilarious performance as the crazy Ben Gunn, and the band of pirates’ never-ending antics and action-packed stunts. Hobbling around the stage with a parrot on his shoulder, Bilek was not hindered by Long John Silver’s lack of limb, but made up for the physical disability with great stage presence and a surprisingly good pirate accent. From peeling potatoes and talking about philosophy with Jim, to calling himself a “gentleman of fortune” instead of a pirate, Bilek embodied the cunning and tricky nature of Long John Silver from beginning to end. Likewise, Eric Schalch captivated the audience with an almost over-the-top performance as the mentally insane “Ben Gunn, who only wants a piece of cheese.” Schalch did not shy away from the demands of the character, but wholeheartedly shrieked with evil laughter and choked on his long-awaited favorite food.

Ironically, the play was wrought with several technical difficulties that detracted from the overall quality of the show. Set changes took an almost unbearable amount of time, and the sound effects, while very impressive, occasionally covered important dialogue between the characters. The sets were also slightly sparse, and at one point, several props fell over in the middle of a scene. Bad timing with the actor’s microphones also led to several deficits in plot development, which made the experience slightly confusing.

By far, the best part of the play was the actor’s incorporation of humor throughout the show. From Billy Bones’ obsession with rum, to the pirates’ enthusiastic singing and “hip, hip, harr!”, to a silly swordfight in which one sword snaps in half, Mines Little Theater had the audience laughing from curtain to curtain. The action scenes with pirate battles and Jim Hawkin’s dramatic jump from the ship were also very well done and entertaining to witness. Overall, “Treasure Island” illustrated the importance of having artistic and creative outlets at a school like Mines. When the actors are having a great time and the audience is too, any play at engineering school can truly be considered a success.

While I love math and science, writing for the newspaper gives my life balance and allows me to meet lots of great new people. I am a Chemical Engineering major and I am also involved in Alpha Phi Omega (APO) and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). When I am free from my studies, I enjoy traveling with my family, jogging, and baking. If you have an article idea or know of an event or person on campus that should be featured, let me know!

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