HomeArticles“20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” with a TheaterWorks twist

“20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” with a TheaterWorks twist

TheaterWorks’ creative challenge was making the audience feel like they, too, were inside a submarine.

Ever wanted to go on a top-secret mission? Infiltrate an enemy submarine? Capture a deadly foe?

Then you should see “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” presented by Peoria’s TheaterWorks Sept. 21-Oct. 7. A YouthWorks production, the show will entertain theater-goers of all ages as they join in an undersea adventure.

Jason Washburn returns to TheaterWorks to direct, having worked on numerous productions there as an actor, set designer, prop designer and director since 1988. His vision was to provide a unique, immersive experience that let audience members be part of the show. To bring this all about, he enlisted playwright Kyle Olson, who came up with an original script.

Olson says when Washburn first approached him with the idea of doing “20,000 Leagues,” “he had a definite vision of what he wanted. He didn’t want to be totally faithful to the original plot. This would be more of a remix.” The original tale is by French novelist Jules Verne.

“He wanted an antagonist, someone hunting Nemo,” Olson continues. “He wanted lots of adventure. And, by the way, it all had to take place in the submarine. No mysterious island, no walks on the sea floor. It would all be inside the Nautilus … and that included the audience.”

This was clearly a challenge.

“How do you adapt a 150-year-old story, set it in one location and make it exciting enough for not only theater, but youth theater?” asks Olson. “I looked at every adaptation of the novel I could find, along with all the best sub movies, hoping to be inspired by their trials under the sea.”

In the end, he says, it all came down to Nemo, the mysterious captain of the Nautilus submarine. “Independently, Jason and I had already decided our Nemo was going to be a woman. What was she after? What drove her into the ocean? And what would her final fate be? After that, everything fell into place.”

Jessica Kupillas, a junior at Arizona Conservatory for Arts and Academics, stars as Nemo in TheaterWorks’ “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

Jessica Kupillas, a junior at Arizona Conservatory for Arts and Academics, won the part of Nemo. Thrilled to be involved in this production, Jessica particularly wants to thank the director for teaching her how to pronounce “Ahab” correctly.

Faith Blinn is Farragut, commander of the Abraham Lincoln. Her previous TheaterWorks credits include Jadis the White Witch in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and Princess Mary in “The Pauper Princess.”

Performing in his third show at TheaterWorks is 17-year-old Justin Moore as harpooner Ned Land. In addition to appearing in “Les Misérables” and “The Little Mermaid” for TheaterWorks, Justin has been seen as Donkey in “Shrek the Musical” and Jim in “All Shook Up,” both at Desert Foothills Youth Theater.

Olson sums up the TheaterWorks production this way: “Our story is about pride and patriotism, faith and science, war and obsession, and how far someone will go for the greater good,” he says. “The crew of the Nautilus has everything I could think of thrown at them, and in the end, those who survive will find themselves changed forever.”

If you go: Sept. 21-Oct. 7. 7 p.m. Fridays, 2:30 and 7 p.m. most Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Peoria Center for the Performing Arts, 10580 N. 83rd Drive. $16. Senior, youth, student and group discounts available. 623-815-7930 or theaterworks.org

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