Get ready to meet some pirates who are not your typical swashbuckling sailors. They don’t steal gold, pillage villages or claim land. They’re bringing a different kind of treasure — kids’ wildest, most imaginative stories.
Since 2004, this kid-centric performing troupe has been acting, singing and dancing across the country. They come to Napa on April 21 for two shows at the Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center.
The genesis of Story Pirates began in a school auditorium in Harlem, New York when a ragtag group of improvisational comedians put on an absurdist sketch comedy show inspired by stories written by kids. Since then, the company has launched a hit radio show, a top-10 podcast for kids and their first book, “Stuck in the Stone Age,” released in March. (The book will be available for purchase at the shows.)
They first received national attention in 2008 when comedian Jon Stewart called Story Pirates “crazy entertaining” on CNN. “We’re often described as a mix between Schoolhouse Rock and Monty Python,” said Duke Doyle, artistic and producing director.
Story Pirates maintain headquarters in both Los Angeles and New York and draw top talent for their touring shows and in classroom activities. Cast members have performed in lead roles on Broadway, often appear on television and film, publish books for young readers and are on the writing staffs of shows such as “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show.”
For Story Pirates’ “Greatest Hits” show in Napa, the company has chosen some of their favorite stories collected over the past 14 years. Whether it’s a world where cats can fly, or a rock opera about fuzzy alien tickle monsters, the Pirates can turn any short story into a hilarious sketch comedy musical. (The final story performed in each show will be created from kids’ suggestions in the Napa audiences.)
Twins Emerson and Mikayla Stevens, fourth-graders at Vichy Elementary School, have been writing their own stories in school and at home since age 6. “I think my first story was about a blueberry,” Emerson said. “It was called ‘A Berry Named Jerry,’ and I’m obsessed with unicorns. I like everything with a horn!”
Mikayla’s first foray into story writing was 10 pages long, and based on a dream in which she found herself entering the Candyland game board. “I like coming up with ideas,” she said, “because sometimes they can be really funny, and I like drawing pictures for them.”
“We believe that kids have the best ideas,” Doyle said. “Adults are very nervous about getting it right. Kids, however, will be silly and unfiltered as a default, which leads to the discovery of new ideas. In Story Pirates, we like to grant everyone ‘permission to be weird.’ Kids are not afraid to take us up on that offer, which points us to some really exciting stories.”