Pirates and a villain will roam the stage


Hammond High School senior Chris Heady wrote, produced, directed and stars in The Secret of Monkey Island, which will be performed at 6:30 p.m. today at Hammond High School.

The swashbuckling, colorful production is based on a popular video game series bearing the same name by LucasArts Entertainment Co. The play includes pirates, a damsel in distress and a villain. It is tongue-in-cheek and pokes fun at the likes of Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Wars, Heady said.

Mission accepted

The plot - written in the same vein as the video games - follows hero Guybrush Threepwood, played by Hammond junior Matt Lehtonen, as he completes three missions to become a pirate. These include hunting treasure, sword fighting and stealing an idol. Moments after completing these missions, he discovers the island's beautiful governor, played by senior Alicia Sprull, has been kidnapped by an evil pirate, played by Heady. Threepwood sets out to save her from another island where she has been whisked away. On the way, he thwarts a mutinous crew, a voodoo spell and cannibals.

Much like the show's main character, Heady had to overcome many obstacles to get the show off the ground.

"The game has a huge fan base online," said Heady, who wrote and produced another play for an independent study project at school last year. "Around the time Pirates of the Caribbean came out, they were all arguing [through postings on an Internet bulletin board] that Monkey Island would make a great movie. I thought they can argue forever and nothing will ever come of it."

Heady - who has been acting since he was 5 at Drama Learning Center and is a Cappie nominee (an organization that recognizes high school theater) for his role in a recent school production of Bye Bye Birdie - decided a play would be right up his alley. He went to work last summer.

'Hitting roadblocks'

"He wrote the play for no credit at all," said gifted-and-talented resource teacher Debbie Messer. "He was trying to get licensing from LucasArts to get [the play] produced, but he was hitting roadblocks."

When school started, Messing helped him find the right people to get the necessary contract for licensing LucasArts' characters and plots.

"They gave us the rights to run it for one year," Heady said. "As long as the scripts did not go to anyone but cast and crew, and as long as it was shown for nonprofit purposes."

With the legal question out of the way, Heady was required to get approval from the school board and school Principal Sylvia Patillo. That done, Heady had to arrange rehearsal time in the school auditorium and recruit teachers who would volunteer to supervise rehearsals.

All missions were completed. But because the play was an independent production, the school could not provide any funding.

"This was going to be quite expensive," Heady said. "We needed to buy props and costumes."

There was a possibility the show would not go on. But when friends heard of Heady's plight, they pulled together.

"Chris always supports everyone else," said Sven Radhe, 19, a Hammond High School graduate who plays drums in Curbside, a local band. "As a friend, he is always there providing a shoulder to lean on. He has always supported the band by drawing posters and whatever else we needed. We didn't want to let money get in the way of his dream."

Benefit concert

During the winter, Radhe put together a benefit concert that included four other local bands. The show sold out and raised $800. That, coupled with some of the money Heady made from part-time jobs, was enough to give the show its sea legs.

After an open audition, the show had 15 cast members and a crew of 10. All, including Heady, are volunteers receiving no school credit for the production.

The cast and crew enjoy working for Heady, who they say has a clear, creative vision, but is open to ideas.

The project provided creative outlets behind the scenes, as well. Hammond junior Kate Lally, the show's costume director, had creative control over the wardrobe. In the school's Bye Bye Birdie production, she was an assistant.

"It was a great opportunity to do things myself," Lally said. "Chris is a perfectionist, and sometimes it was stressful to get things to be exactly as he wanted them, but it was all for the better. It made me work harder."

An accomplishment

"It was just me and Chris, with no greater authority to hold us down," said Hammond senior Kori Chaney, the assistant director. "If something was wrong, we had to fix it. It really gave me a sense of accomplishment."

And for Heady, the hard work has paid off. The play was performed last Thursday, and he received great feedback.

"I really enjoyed transforming an idea in my head to something written on a page, to something performed on stage that the audience enjoys."

Heady is also an accomplished artist - his work has been shown at Howard County Center for the Arts and The Mall in Columbia. He plans to attend an art institute in the fall.

"The Secret of Monkey Island" will be performed at 6:30 tonight at Hammond High School. Tickets are $5. Information: 410-313-7615.

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