The cast of an upcoming production of “Treasure Island,” showing at Maine State Music Theatre June 26 to July 13. (Photo courtesy of Kinectiv)

BRUNSWICK — Maine State Music Theater is teaming up with local libraries to bring a classic literary tale of pirate adventure on the high seas back to life.  

The theater has adapted Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” into a stage musical this season and is working with librarians to highlight the story in events across the Midcoast.    

Maine State Music Theater’s Artistic Director Curt Dale Clark proposed the idea for Treasure Island at the Library, a project in which local libraries offer educational programs exploring the relationship between the novel the theater’s musical.  

Greg Latimer (left), an author and historian, and Leslie Mortimer, adult services librarian at Patten Free Library in Bath, show examples of pirate weapons before a community event featuring historic pirate artifacts. (Kelli Park photo)

Clark said he wanted to rekindle the regions interest in the 137-year-old story leading up to the musical’s debut on June 26. “Treasure Island” has sparked imaginations since its 1883 release, inspiring cartoons, radio and television broadcasts, and numerous film adaptations, including a musical featuring The Muppets.  

The combination of the literary aspect of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel and what we bring to the community as the largest arts organization in the Midcoast is vital to this area,” he said. “It’s important that we continue to do things like this and keep it spinning forward. Any area is only as strong as the arts organizations that are in it.”   

The initiative was not only designed to inspire collaboration among local organizations using creativity, but also to encourage family audiences to discover the magic of “Treasure Island.” 

Clark hopes to revitalize the popularity of the classic tale among younger generations by building a broad audience for the novel and the musical theater production. 

“At the time that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the book, Jim Hawkins was sort of like the original Harry Potter,” Clark said. “The character was so beloved at the time. … There was something about that book that my partner and I were both drawn to, magnetically. We felt like it needed to be musicalized because that would give it a boost. 

“We just felt that if people touched it again, some of those feelings would be rekindled. And that has proven true,” Clark added. 

Maine State Music Theater originally introduced the idea to three local libraries, only to find that more wanted to get involved. 

Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Topsham Public Library, Curtis Free Library in Bath, Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library, Orr’s Island Library, Cundy’s Harbor Library and Wiscasset Public Library started hosting “Treasure Island”-inspired community events in April and will continue to do so through July 13.  

Each library received five copies of the novel. Patten Free Library’s copies are almost constantly checked out, according to Carol McFadden, head of children’s services at the library.   

“Most libraries use the same summer reading template and I’ve always found it canned and repetitive,” McFadden said. I always create a literature-based theme to expand children’s book knowledge and get the whole community involved in the artistic process of transforming the Storytime Room into the theme, much like a stage setting.” 

Each library is offering pirate-themed enrichment events for all ages. They include screenings of various film adaptations dating back to the 1950s, targeted reading lists, comprehensive summer reading programs, book discussions, historical lectures, a children’s treasure hunt, pirate-themed games and crafts and a pirate parade.  

The partnership also ties in historical elements, telling the story of pirates in and around Maine.  

Due to a lack of prominent naval powers in the area, Maine became a popular place for pirates to explore, especially during the summer when hurricane season made the Caribbean treacherous.  

Pirates are sort of like cowboys of the sea. They were independent. Americans have always enjoyed people who are fiercely independent that live by their own rules,” said Greg Latimer, an author and historian.  

Latimer is offering a series of educational programs about pirates at Patten Free Library. 

Full schedules are available on the libraries’ websites.  

Clark hopes to encourage library patrons to compare the novel with the script for “Treasure Island: A Musical Adventure” while increasing access to the arts and motivating people to visit their local libraries.  

“It was born out of a desire for people to read the actual script material, the actual book,” Clark said. “We say we wrote the musical, but the reality is that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the musical, we just adapted his script.”   

For more information on upcoming events, visit msmt.org 

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