Strong Women Portrayed in Pirate Queen

Liam Dahlborn '20, Writer

During the first weekend in February, the Saint Ignatius choir and orchestra performed the show, The Pirate Queen, based on the true story of the adventurous life of the Irish chieftain and pirate, Grace O’Malley. She was one of the last Irish clan leaders to withstand the English conquest of Ireland. This show was written by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, the team who wrote many successful musicals, including Les Miserables and Miss Saigon. Ms. Schneider directed and conducted all four performances. It was double cast with each group performing in two shows with the ensemble and orchestra playing in all shows. The plot aimed to promote feminism and counter traditional gender roles of the time period.

“It was refreshing to see a play centered around the power of women as opposed to a traditional image of a
damsel in distress so often displayed in pop culture,” said Will Lopez ‘19, who played Donal, the first hus-
band of Grace.

The story begins with Grace trying to convince her father that she belongs on the ship and should not be sent away like the other women. After disguising her- self as a man, she stows away on the ship and proves her worth by saving the ship from a thunderstorm and by fighting off ferocious Englishmen. Due to her
bravery, her father allows her to sail with them.

Grace goes on to marry a selfish man named Donal O’Flaherty from a rival Irish clan with the purpose of joining the two strong tribes to fight the common enemy of the English. She agrees to the marriage for the benefit of her clan, but her heart belonged to her true love, Tiernan. At first, the clans fights successfully, but eventually Grace is captured by the English troops due to the betrayal of her husband who later is killed. After she is freed, she confronts the powerful Queen Elizabeth, begging for the rights of her people in Ireland.

In the end, the two strong women come together to create a treaty between the two nations. Later, she is
reunited with Tiernan and marries him.

“I thought it was an incredible opportunity to be part of a show that highlighted the strength of wom-
en and how powerful women can be when they work together,” said Nina Siwik, ‘19, who played Grace. “It was different than a traditional musical because it highlighted important issues of the time and was relevant in today’s culture.”

“It was great to be part of a production that showed a female character powering through a male-dominated society because it parallels to our present day,” said Sultan Lugboso ‘21, who portrayed the role of Tiernan. “It was also great to see the downfall of toxic masculinity.”

Many hours of hard work and dedication made the show possible. During the week of the show, the polar vortex was happening, so many rehearsals were shortened and even cancelled due to the snow and frigid temperatures.

“Pirate Queen was the hardest show I have ever done,” said Kate Hull ‘19 who also played Grace. “I have never had such a vocally strenuous role, so it was exciting and challenging. The rehearsals were very difficult because of the amount of singing in the show, so I had to make sure I was taking care of my voice.”

“In regards to Pirate Queen, the poor weather conditions caused by the polar vortex proved to be quite inconvenient,” said Kane Layng ‘19, who also played the role of Tiernan. “Almost the entirety of our tech
week rehearsals were cancelled making sufficient preparation for Opening Night almost impossible. However, much to the credit of my fellow cast mates and the perpetually stupendous Ms. Schneider, all of the performances were fabulous. So, in a sort of roundabout way, despite all the stress it caused before them, the weather, in the end, didn’t play a role in performances of Pirate Queen at all. Go figure.”

The choir and orchestra members created a production with a memorable message for the audience.