By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — Lifelong theatre enthusiast James Trainor has noticed that most of the people who try out for school plays are female. However, most scripts do not reflect this trend.
“It varies from group to group, but a lot of companies have one boy to every five girls, sometimes one in 10 or sometimes no boys at all. Yet somehow most scripts seem to have more boys than girls in the main parts,” he said.
As the director of Regina Catholic Education Center’s junior high play, he decided to write his own script to give more students an opportunity to engage their interest in acting. Students performed the play “Legend of the Pirate Queens” at the school during the first weekend of April.
Trainor, 38, is a freelance writer/theatre educator/soon-to-be stay-at-home dad. He studied playwriting at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. He has acted, directed and/or written scripts for a variety of theatre companies and youth theatre programs in the Iowa City–Cedar Rapids corridor. His wife, Genevieve, is also involved in local theatre.
This is Trainor’s first year directing plays at Regina; he directed William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for the high school in the fall.
“Pirate Queens” is the sixth script Trainor has written for teenagers. He tries to write about “serious issues” in a fun way. He believes there are “not a lot of good plays out there that really speak to young teens, so I decided to write my own.” He observes the language and verbal “quirks” of teens to write scripts that sound more authentic.
Trainor wrote “Legend of the Pirate Queens” as an adventure story with the “somewhat childish” theme of “good guys vs. bad guys,” but the tale has a poignant moral message. “The heroes have to learn how to treat people with mercy even when they’ve been mistreated by them. Specifically, Chen, the warrior, wants to take revenge on Duke Amon because he killed her family. Her journey is about deciding how far she’ll let her anger take her. In the end, love and mercy save the day …I think that’s an important lesson for young people to learn.”
The script itself was “flexible,” offering the opportunity to change the gender of roles as necessary. For example, the role of jester was intended for a male, but student Maddie Maley “was so funny in auditions that she just had to be the jester! The jester was named “Jovan” … but it was a simple matter to switch to Jova and change a bunch of ‘he’s to she’s.’” Additionally, many of the roles were written as gender neutral, using character names like Sam, Chris and Alex.
Students were welcome to offer feedback on the script, which led to a few minor revisions, Trainor said. “Having a company that is really engaged and honest about how they feel about the story is really helpful with a new script like this.”
Trainor is proud of the work the students put into making the script come to life. “They had so much energy and enthusiasm.”