Being a pirate in the Caribbean
I leave the scorching heat of Las Vegas for Paradise Island in the Bahamas. As soon as I step off the plane, ahhh, my skin un-wrinkles.
We are making a brief film segment that is necessary for the story line in a production number of a new show we are doing.
My company is on a tight budget; however, as I studied acting as a young man in New York, I get the job. I play the part of a gruff, swashbuckling pirate. I wear a bejeweled waistcoat, a flamboyant hat complete with ostrich feather, and brandish a cutlass when aroused.
The “shoot” begins with a treasure chest filled with diamonds, rubies and gold coins. Delirious with greed, jewels drip through my fingers, all the while raving “mine, mine, all mine.” I look from side to side, convinced that someone is spying on me. (I am definitely going for the Oscar here.)
Ah ha, on the horizon are two tiny specks. “Curse my luck. It’s the King’s Brigade,” I snarl, and draw my cutlass from its scabbard.
At this point, we change scenes and film the soldiers of the King’s Brigade. Determined to bring glory on themselves, they are riding at a full gallop.
Now for the sake of clarity, imagine our casino showroom. This is the Cabaret Theatre in the Bahamas. Ladies are expected to wear elegant evening gowns; gentlemen wear black dinner jackets or tuxedos. The dealers are from France, have temporary work visas, and are called croupiers. This is not a Vegas honky-tonk; these experienced theater-goers expect first rate entertainment.
As our saga unfolds, the pirate captain is under siege, while the two soldiers on horseback are galloping ever closer.
As the crisis grows, the screen goes dark and is hoisted up and out of sight. The scene changes from movie screen to the stage. A dimly lit figure on the left side of the stage, the pirate, readies himself to do battle. On the right side of the stage, a ghostly awareness of horses and riders comes into focus. (The horses are galloping at a fierce pace; yet do not leave their place on stage. These are LIVE HORSES!, mind you.)
In time, after the affect is comprehended by the audience, the horses slow, the soldiers dismount, the pirate captain advances, and we have one heck of a sword fight.
We have just witnessed a sensation, and here is how it was achieved. A month before the show opened, an expensive and exclusive scenic design company arrived from Philadelphia to take sole possesion of the stage. A heavy-duty track was installed, with a continuously revolving padded surface attached to it. Horses were trained by stuntmen previously hired and weeks of rehearsal took place. The cost was astronomical, but will be amortized over the run of the show.
After the filming, a double takes my place in the show as pirate captain, and I return to my real job — choreography.
Ron Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org