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Blacktip Island Players To Stage ‘Gilgamesh’ Underwater Operetta


Alison Diesel, front left, and Jessie Catahoula, front right, and other cast members walk through the ‘Smiting of Humbaba’ scene from the Blacktip Island Community Players’ during an on-land rehearsal for the new underwater operetta, ‘Gilgamesh.” (photo courtesy of Kadumago)

The Blacktip Island Community Players this week announced they will take their audiences back to Second Millennium BCE Sumer with their 2022 fall production, an underwater operetta based on the ancient Sumerian creation myth the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh.’

“We try to stretch ourselves with our fall plays,” BICC creative director Doris Blenny said. “Last year’s underwater ‘Pirates of Penzance,’ with actors in full-face masks and live-streamed to all the bars, was a rousing success, so we decided to do the same thing with ‘Gilgamesh.’ We had to create our own scores and librettos, of course, but that just enhanced the growth opportunity.

“It’s the oldest recorded story in the world, and it has so much in common, in terms of theme and sensibility, with life on Blacktip today’,” Blenny said. “We had input from The Blacktip Island Literary Society as well as local cryptoarcheologists. Coral heads will serve as the city of Uruk, and sea plumes will be Inanna’s huluppu tree. The effect will be otherworldly.”

Actors were excited about the new material.

“Gilgamesh’s really the world’s first buddy film,” Alison Diesel said. “Him and wild-man Enkidu basically travel the world, taking names and kicking ass. They save the goddess’ tree, whack Humbaba the giant, then smite the Bull of Heaven.

“With Inanna being the goddess of love and war, well, it’s something everybody can relate to,” Diesel said. “And to make it even more relevant for today’s viewers, with the city of Uruk being in the mix, we added some Middle Earth uruk-orcs, too.”

Others emphasized the music and casting.

“Payne Hanover and Elena Havens worked night and day to come up with the music and lyrics,” assistant director Helen Maples said. “It may sound reminiscent of their ‘Nudibranchs—The Musical’ score, but time was tight, and the songs take on an added resonance underwater.

“Casting-wise, Dermott Bottoms was the obvious choice for Enkidu the wild man,” Maples said. “And frankly, during rehearsals, we all get a kick out of him going berserk and beating the stuffing out of Lee Helm, playing the Bull of Heaven.”

Other cast members include:

  • Cal Batten as Gilgamesh
  • Jessie Catahoula as Inanna
  • Finn Kiick as Ishtar
  • Alison Diesel as Humbaba
  • Jerrod Ephesians as the orc chieftain

BICC leaders say audience participation will be encouraged throughout the performance.

“This will be an immersive, collaborative experience for everyone,” Blenny said. “We’ll especially need extra orc soldiers of Uruk when they charge out to confront Humbaba.”

Performances will be Saturday and Sunday afternoons in November. Proceeds from the show will go to the Blacktip Island Cryptoarcheology Society.

All audience members will be required to pass a Breathalyser test prior to entering the water following last year’s unfortunate ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ incident during the BICC’s Hannukah play.

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Blacktip Island Players Will Stage Dante’s ‘Inferno’ At Multiple Sites

dante's inferno

Gustave Doré’s depiction of greedy sinners being punished Hell’s Fourth Circle. The Blacktip Island Community Players will stage all nine levels of Hell at nine different sites this weekend.

For its annual Dog Days Drama summer theater offering this year, the Blacktip Island Community Players will perform its take on 14th-Century Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s ‘Inferno,’ depicting the poet’s descent into Hell with the aid of Roman poet Virgil, in a progression of performances at multiple sites across the Caribbean island this weekend.

“It’ll be like a progressive dinner, but with acting instead of food,” BICP director Doris Blenny said. “We’ll start with Limbo at the Tail Spinner bar up at the north end, then work our way down the coast with performances at various resorts and whatnot, until the ninth and final stop at the Last Ballyhoo. Blacktip is in Circle Two or Three by nature, with all the lust and gluttony here, so the subject matter is quite apropos.

“Each stage will have Hell level-appropriate themes and drink specials,” Blenny said. “The Spinner, for example, will be made up like the ‘dark wood’ at the start of the poem. The audience enters through a faux-cave mouth, with ‘abandon all hope, ye who enter here’ inscribed above it. Even though that’s more accurately true of the Ballyhoo.”

BICP members say the sites for each performance were chosen carefully.

“There’s nine circles of Hell in the ‘Inferno,’ so we needed nine stops,” Payne Hanover said. “Most are at resorts and bars, but we had to improvise on a couple to get nine. There’ll be a couple of pop-up stages along the route. Like in the poem, each stop’ll represent a step in the voyage of the soul through the nether regions. Or some such.”

Announced stages and sin themes are:

  • The Tail Spinner—First Circle/Limbo
  • Diddley’s Landing—Second Circle/Lust
  • Sandy Bottoms’ Beach Resort—Third Circle/Gluttony
  • The Sand Spit bar— Fourth Circle/Greed
  • Blacktip Haven—Fifth Circle/Wrath
  • Club Scuba Doo—Sixth Circle/Heresy
  • Eagle Ray Cove—Seventh Circle/Violence
  • Undisclosed location—Eighth Circle/Fraud
  • The Last Ballyhoo—Ninth Circle/Treachery

“All the performances’ll be after dark, of course,” Hanover said. “Actors and guests’ll car pool or bike from site to site. Drinking’ll be expected throughout the process, and we’re taking bets on how many people actually remember the last few stops the next day. That’s why we’re staging it twice, on Saturday and Sunday, so folks have the chance to see the parts they missed. Or forgot.”

The cast includes:

  • Jessie Catahoula as Dante
  • Marina DeLow as Virgil
  • Payne Hanover as Charon
  • Dermott Bottoms as Lucifer
  • Lee Helm, Alison Diesel, Finn Kiick and Val Schrader as Assorted Sinners

Spectators are encouraged to wear Italian Renaissance apparel, or any Renaissance-inspired clothing. All are also encouraged to behave in a sinful manner, preferably in keeping whatever Circle they find themselves in. Proceeds from the performance will go to pay off Dermott Bottoms’ multiple bar tabs to safeguard the island’s economy.

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Blacktip Island Community Players Stage ‘Lukes of Hazzard’ Mashup

lukes of hazzard

Motor scooters will serve as landspeeders and police cruisers in the Blacktip Island Community Players’ production of ‘Lukes of Hazzard’ this weekend. (photo courtesy of Aniket Konkar)

The Blacktip Island Community Players will premier their spring performance, a Star Wars-meets-Dukes of Hazzard original piece titled ‘Lukes of Hazzard,’ at Diddley’s Landing public pier Saturday afternoon, a BICP spokesperson said.

“We strive to stretch ourselves, take unusual risks and celebrate local talent, so when Edwin Chub showed us his original script, we jumped at it,” BICP director Doris Blenny said. “The premise is a young and an old Luke Skywalker time warp into 1980s Kentucky and race around the countryside taking on Boss Hutt and his bounty hunters.

“Their main concern, obviously, is saving Princess Daisy,” Blenny said. “We’re staging it at the public pier so we have a bigger stage to maneuver on, and to allow for a larger audience. We’re using scooters as landspeeders and big cyalume light sticks as lightsabers.”

Cast members say the roles offer new challenges.

“I’m taking two well-established characters and morphing them into something new,” said Payne Hanover, playing Uncle Obi Wan. “It’s tough creating a new character while totally respecting the old characters, but I finally got a handle on it. I know others struggled with the same creative issues.”

Cast members agreed.

“At first it was quite difficult keeping a straight face while delivering lines like, ‘Greedo! Greedo! Git them Luke boys!’” said Lee Helm, playing Sheriff JarJar. “But I immersed myself in the character during rehearsals, and now it flows quite naturally.”

The cast includes:

Hugh Calloway as Young Luke

Peachy Bottoms as Old Luke

Antonio Fletcher as Boss Hutt

Lee Helm as Sheriff JarJar

Jessie Catahoula as Deputy Greedo

Payne Hanover as Uncle Obi Wan

Alison Diesel as Princess Daisy

Cori Anders as Yoda’s Force spirit

Marina DeLow as Tusken Raiders 1 and 2

“Lee wanted to play Princess Daisy, but Alison was the only one who could really make the short-shorts work,” Blenny said. “And spirit-Yoda was a late addition—we needed a character who could talk to the audience to explain events on stage, kind of like the chorus in ancient Greek theater, or an Elizabethan aside.”

Spectators are eager to see the production.

“Doris and them never disappoint with their spring play, and they may have topped even their ‘Nudibrachs’ musical with this one,” Kitty Cottonwick said. “I love Star Wars and I love Dukes of Hazzard, so this touches two special places in my heart. Like a trip back to my childhood. I think most folks feel that way.”

Proceeds from the production will go to the small Caribbean island’s Habitat for Humanity.

The BICP will have auditions next week for their summer musical, ‘Poirots of the Caribbean.’

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Plague Romance Highlights Blacktip Island’s Summer Theater Season


Gage Hoase takes center stage Thursday during rehearsals of the Blacktip Island Community Players’ production of The Horseman on the Roof. (photo courtesy of Craig Sunter)

The Blacktip Island Community Players will stage an English-language version the plague-themed French classic The Horseman on the Roof Saturday and Sunday to mark the start of its summer theater season, BICP members said.

“We needed something topical, with everyone so focused on this virus outbreak,” BICP director Doris Blenny said. “A play about cholera is just the thing to boost peoples’ spirits and get their minds off their problems.

“We decided on doing the play in English, too, since no one had time to learn French. And no one would understand it anyway,” Blenny said. “Plus, no one knows what a ‘hussard’ is. And ‘sur le toit’ sounds quite dodgy in English.”

BICP members said the play will also help residents socially distance.

“We’re staging the play literally on the roof of the Heritage House,” cast member Jessie Catahoula said. “The audience’ll sit outside, with chairs spaced out all around so people can see the play from every angle.

“There’s a few little platforms installed for important scenes and staging, but most of the action’ll be smack on the tin sheeting,” Catahoula said. “It adds an element of danger to the performance we think the audience will love.”

The cast includes:

Marina DeLow as Pauline

Gage Hoase as Angelo

Elena Havens as Monsieur Peyrolle

Alison Diesel as The Doctor

Lee Helm as Maggionari

Jessie Catahoula as Giuseppe

Jerrod Ephesians as The French Army

Payne Hanover as Various Angry Mobs

Cast members struggled to perform on the tilted surface.

“We surrounded the house with mattresses during rehearsals, so many people were falling off,” Alison Diesel said. “Most got the hang of it, but we’re leaving the mattresses deployed for the show, just in case. If it rains, that metal gets slick as snot.

“At one point, Lee Helm slipped was hanging on by just his fingers in the rain gutter,” Diesel said. “There was some debate about whether we should save him or just let him fall. We ended up having Dermott add an extra mattress and letting gravity take its course.”

Some in the community questioned the choice of subject matter.

“Doris and them are making light of a serious public health situation,” Frank Maples said. “This isn’t what we need right now. Some light opera would’ve been nice to take our minds off this constant pandemic nonsense. The island needs diversion, not depression.”

Others embraced the play.

“We just love watching them rehearse every evening,” Chrissy Grasby said. “They wanted to practice in private, but it’s on the roof, so they couldn’t really stop us from gawking. It gives the little ones something to do outside, and they just love when actors fall.”

Blenny has high hopes for opening night.

“It won’t be much of a surprise, with everyone having seen rehearsals, but the show will still go on,” she said. “We just hope folks’ll all come back and see the show sober. But what are the odds? Of the sober part.”

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Blacktip Island Community Players Stage ‘Schoolhouse Rocky’ Mashup

School House Rocks

Blacktip Island Community Players cast members act out a grammar lesson between boxing rounds Thursday evening’s dress rehearsal of ‘Schoolhouse Rocky,’ combining elements of ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ and the ‘Rocky’ movie. (photo courtesy of Otterbein University Theater & Dance)

The Blacktip Island Community Players will perform ‘Schoolhouse Rocky,’ a mashup of Schoolhouse Rock and the Rocky boxing movie, Saturday and Sunday evenings at the Caribbean island’s Heritage House, BICP members said.

“We wanted to push the boundaries and do something unexpected, something no one’s done before,” said Doris Blenny, BICP director. “People are tired of all the ‘My Fair Lady’s and never-ending ‘Cats’ knock offs. We opted for educational fisticuffs.

“With Schoolhouse Rocky, we’ve combined favorite songs and characters from the Schoolhouse Rock public service announcements of the ‘70s with highlights from the Sylvester Stallone boxing classic,” Blenny said. “Most people have an antagonistic relationship with grammar and multiplication tables, so it’s really quite fitting when you think about it. For a few seconds.”

Actors say the combination allows them to test their creative limits.

“Anyone can sing about conjunctions, and act out a fight scene,” cast member Marina DeLow said. “But try being convincing as Bill the bill, fighting your way up Capitol Hill against Apollo Creed. That takes a special talent.

“And nothing stretches a vocalist’s ability like singing the ‘’Naughty Number Nine’ multiplication song while taking a punch to the gut and counter punching,” DeLow said. “And frankly, it’s contagious. Half the island’s running around humming the tunes ever since we started rehearsals. And fighting in the bars. With and without gloves.”

Island parents praised the play’s educational merit.

“The kiddos can learn math and grammar, and the fighting keeps them from getting bored,” Ginger Bass said. “It hearkens back to Aristotle’s ‘art should instruct and delight.’ And the little ones’ll never mess up their adjectives once they’ve heard the Adjective Song performed by two sweaty boxers. Bad grammar gets walloped every time.

“It also teaches the youngsters how to throw a nasty left hook,” Bass said. “Bullies won’t stand a chance, in or out of the classroom.”

Cast members include:

  • Marina DeLow as Bill the bill / My Hero Zero / Rocky Balboa
  • Payne Hanover as Conjunction Junction / Little Twelvetoes / Apollo Creed
  • Alison Diesel as Mr. Morton / Lucky Seven Sampson / Adrian
  • Gage Hoase as Paul Revere / all three Lollys
  • Jessie Catahoula as Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla / Interplanet Janet
  • Lee Helm as Interjections / The Hairy, Scary Bear

“We were kind of skeptical at first about how, or if, the mashup would work,” Payne Hanover said. “We figured it’d appeal just to an older crowd, but people of all ages have been stopping by to watch us rehearse. And singing along—even little kids know the words.

“Plus, everyone has a blast seeing Lee Helm get the snot beat out of him, even if it’s an act,” Hanover said. “We do make sure we land at least one solid shot amid all the stage-punches. The audience loves it. Lee’s got it coming and he knows it.”

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Blacktip Island Divemasters To Stage Lizzie Borden Snorkeling Tribute

Lizzie Borden

Several of the hand axes that will be used in Saturday afternoon’s performance of Don’t Ax Me Again—The Lizzie Borden Story, an original two-act play by local divemaster Alison Diesel. (photo courtesy of Magnolia677)

Dive staff from all Blacktip Island’s resorts will don snorkel gear Saturday afternoon to perform Don’t Ax Me Again—The Lizzie Borden Story in the Eagle Ray Divers pool to raise money for a local charity.

“A hundred years later people are still debating what happened,” videographer Leigh Shore said. “There was a damn-near fight among dive staff at happy hour over who the actual ax murderer had been. Then a few days later, Alison Diesel’d written a two-act play about it. We all got together to stage the thing since the Community Players wouldn’t touch it.

“We’re performing it in the pool so as many people as possible could see it first hand,” Shore said. “The snorkeling gear will really engage the diving audience. We were going to do it on scuba, but this seemed less cliché. And it’s surprisingly easy to understand lines spoken through snorkels.”

The production posed several challenges for the actors.

“It’s totally a period piece, but there’s no 1890s gear on the island,” divemaster Alison Diesel said. “Each actor ended up making their own costume. It’s amazing what you can do with neoprene, and the fin de siècle touches on the masks and snorkels is awesome.

“It also took some practice swinging an ax convincingly in a crowed swimming pool without actually hurting anyone,” Diesel said. “The handle gets slippery. The first rehearsal I lost my grip, the ax went flying and broke four pool tiles. Rich Skerritt’s pretty hacked off about that.”

The performance will feature:

Alison Diesel as Lizzie Borden

Gage Hoase as Andrew Borden

Leigh Shore as Abigail Borden

Marina DeLow as John Morse

Booger Bottoms as Maggie Sullivan

Finn Kiick as Dr. Owen Seabury

Some in the community questioned the play’s appropriateness.

“The subject’s in bad taste, and the staging is inappropriate,” resident Frank Maples said. “Bad taste and inappropriate are de rigueur on Blacktip, but still, there’s a certain gravitas one would hope for. We’ll see if the actors convey that in the live performance.

“The big worry, though, is it may give locals crazy ideas,” Maples said. “That’s the last thing Blacktip needs. Though Alison assures me it is for a good cause.”

Diesel said the money raised will go to charity.

“All proceeds go to the Divemaster Retirement Fund, minus what we keep for expenses,” she said. “We’re also asking for donations to help pay for the broken pool tiles.”

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Island Players To Stage Hollywood Classic


Due to an island-wide outbreak of iguana pox, the staff of the Blacktip Times was unable to cover this week’s breaking news stories (or stop scratching themselves . . . or keep food down). Below is a reprint of an earlier story, in anticipation of next month’s Blacktip Island Community Players summer musical production.
– The Blacktip Times editorial board
(photo courtesy of Cory W. Watts)

The Blacktip Island Community Players will perform ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ December 6 – January 2 in their annual Fall Extravaganza. The production stars Payne Hanover as Adm. William ‘Bull’ Halsey, Lee Helm as Cmdr. Minoru Genada and Miss Marina DeLow as Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto.

“We are blessed by the quality and vibrancy of the amateur acting community on the island,” director Doris Blenny said. “This production truly showcases that talent.

“We are also appreciative of the efforts of island residents in collecting land crabs for use as Japanese attack squadrons. This production wouldn’t be possible without their help.”

As is de rigueur for the BICP, the production promises to be a visual spectacle.

“We’ve been practicing the big torpedo bombing scene for weeks now, and everyone’s pretty banged up,” Hanover said. “It’ll all be worthwhile when that curtain comes up, though, and we see those 15, 20 eager faces in the audience ducking for cover.”

Proceeds from the play will go to Habitat for Humanity of Blacktip Island.

Theatre-goers are reminded alcohol will not be served before the performance or during intermission in light of this summer’s ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ incident. Purses and backpacks will be searched at the door.

In related news, volunteers are needed the next two weekends to help with roofing, drywalling and repainting the playhouse.

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Blacktip Island Thespian Injured In Rehearsal Mishap

cthulu on the roof

Part of Antonio Fletcher’s costume for the upcoming Blacktip Island Community Players spring production. The costume was destroyed by medical professionals treating Fletcher’s injuries after Fletcher fell from the roof of his house. (photo courtesy of Eric Kilby)

Blacktip Island Community Players actor Antonio Fletcher is resting in stable condition Friday after falling from his roof while practicing for an upcoming BICP production.

“‘Tonio was balanced on the roof beam of his place, dressed in some kind of squid costume and singing about rising from the deep,” neighbor Hugh Calloway said. “We yelled for him to come down, and next thing we knew he lost his footing, slid down the metal sheeting and fell two stories.

“A clump of sea grapes broke his fall, but I think it was the booze that saved him,” Calloway said. “He was so lit on white rum he was pretty much limp when he hit the ground. That fall would’ve killed a sober person.”

Medical personnel were slowed in treating Fletcher due to his elaborate costume.

“Mr. Fletcher was wearing layers of blue and black taffeta, which had to be cut away before we could assess his injuries,” nurse Marissa Goby said. “And then there were the canned octopus tentacles sticking out his mouth and nostrils. We thought it was the remains of a recent mean, but apparently that was part of the costume.”

A BICP spokesperson confirmed Fletcher’s injuries were theater related.

“Our Easter production is a comic-horror musical titled ‘Cthulu on the Roof.’ Antonio was the lead,” said director Doris Blenny. “We had hoped to keep the costume a secret until Cthulu’s grand stage entrance in Act Three.

“Now that the costume has been cut to pieces, and so many have seen it, we’ll have to come up with a completely different costume to ensure proper dramatic effect,” Blenny said. “And a proper bass-baritone as well, should Antonio fail to fully recover.”

Local religious leaders say the incident was no accident.

“Hand of God is what it was, slapping ‘Tonio down for glorifying a pagan deity,” the Reverend Pierre Grunt said. “Especially for an Easter performance. We’ll be picketing the play, and as much as legally possible, blocking access to the Heritage House during its performance.”

Grunt’s protest found unexpected allies among the island’s Cthulu adherents.

“The Lord of R’yleh is nothing to be joked about or mocked,” said longtime resident Kay Valve. “Say his name too often, or show disrespect, that’s just the sort of thing that’ll wake him.

“Antonio was lucky. We all were,” Valve said. “Call it divine providence if you want, but that fall may have saved us all from being eaten alive.”

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Blacktip Thespians To Perform Underwater ‘Day Of The Staghorn’

day of the staghorn

Detail of Lee Helm’s Staghorn King costume for the Blacktip Island Community Players’ underwater staging of the post-apocalyptic drama ‘The Day of the Staghorn.’ (photo courtesy of Onislandtimes)

The Blacktip Island Community Players will perform the post-apocalyptic underwater drama, The Day of the Staghorn, off the Sand Spit Bar Saturday and Sunday to draw attention to the plight of the Caribbean island’s ailing coral reefs.

The play, written by Blacktip resident Payne Hanover, is based loosely on The Day of the Triffids, the 1951 novel and 1962 motion picture about intelligent, animate plants that take over the Earth.

“In this, it’s the coral that’s a threat to mankind, so it’s different,” Hanover said. “Dump runoff gives one coral species the ability to think and move. Then the coral attacks the people that threatened it.

“The story’s set underwater, after rising seas cover the island,” Hanover said. “Humans have to build an undersea haven, then protect it from the marauding coral. It’s actually turned out quite well, all things considered.”

The play will be performed underwater to highlight the island’s coral damage.

“It started with wondering what would happen if the reefs could fight back,” said director Doris Blenny. “For the audience to see how much damage there is to the actual coral, it really drives that point home.

“As for the staghorn suits, Elena Havens and the costumers put in long hours making them as realistic as possible, right down to the stinging cells,” Blenny said. “And we did vote down repeated suggestions to make it a musical. It was a close thing”

The scuba-certified cast includes:

  • Hugh Calloway as Bill Mason
  • Marina DeLow as Josella Playton
  • Finn Kiick as Wilfred Coker
  • Gauge Hoase as Michael Beadly
  • Jessie Catahoula as Miss Durant
  • Lee Helm as the Staghorn King

Though island environmentalists praised the play, resort owners are concerned about its impact on future business.

“All this touchy-feely talk about coral is fine,” Club Scuba Doo owner Ham Pilchard said. “But showing a damaged reef is going to scare off divers. The Caymans are gonna eat our lunch over this. And casting divers as the bad guys? There’s gonna be some ugly blowback on that.”

Producers, however, insist the play will do more good than harm.

“We expect it to draw additional divers to Blacktip rather than scare them away,” Blenny said. “We’re staging multiple showings, as the actors’ no-decompression limits allow, so as many people can see it as possible.

“The only negative so far has been Lee Helm developing an unnatural attachment to his Staghorn King costume,” Blenny said. “He kept sneaking around the island bars stinging people. It took three of us to hold him down and peel the suit off of him.”

All proceeds from the production will go to the Nature Conservancy’s Coral Reef Preservation Fund, Hanover said.

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