Once upon a time …
… kids didn’t get their fantasy spoon-fed by computer games or CGI. They found strange worlds and adventures within their own imaginations.
Remember that time? Some of us can, I’m sure. And we can bring some of that imaginative magic into the classroom without a lot of trouble.
Way back in those days—in 1881, to be exact—an author named Robert Louis Stevenson was playing with his young stepson, Lloyd. Stevenson drew a map of a fanciful Caribbean island, and he and Lloyd thought up marvelous adventures to take place there. Soon, those adventures took the shape of a story, which became Stevenson’s the endlessly popular novel Treasure Island.
My wife, Pat Perrin, and I, have done a lot of work with this novel over the years. Pat wrote a retold version of it for educational use, published in 1994 by The Perfection Learning Corporation. Together, we wrote the script for a graphic novel version by Stone Arch Books, published in 2007. It was a finalist for the IBPA Benjamin Franklin awards.
I’ve always loved Stevenson’s work, and edited and introduced a gift edition of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1991. So when the editors of READ magazine asked me to write a play adaptation of Treasure Island for grades 6-10, I jumped at the chance.
This play is included in my new book, Classroom Plays, from ChironBooks. I call these short dramas “Classroom Plays” because they’re not specifically intended for the stage; they’re meant for students to read at their desks in the classroom. However, I hope that some teachers will try them out as formal Readers Theater pieces or in full production.
Classroom Plays includes 5 plays and 105 Reading Comprehension questions. Author notes and answers are provided in a free downloadable Teacher Guide. See www.chironbooks.com/classroomplays_wimcoleman.html
Here’s an excerpt from “The Sea Cook,” my free adaptation of Treasure Island—the famous and scary “apple barrel” episode. As in the book, the story is told in first person by a somewhat older Jim Hawkins (“Narrator Jim” in the script).
Narrator Jim: I won’t tell you about our whole voyage. It went well. The ship proved to be a good ship, the sailors able seamen, and the captain thoroughly understood his business. But the night before we reached Treasure Island, something terrible happened.
Jim: (to himself) I’m hungry. I’ll go get an apple out of the barrel on the main deck.
Narr Jim: It was dark when I reached into the apple barrel. By then, there were only a few apples left in the bottom.
Jim: (to himself) I’ll have to climb inside.
Narr Jim: I tumbled into the barrel and groped around for an apple. Just then, the barrel lurched as someone leaned against it. I looked up through the opening and saw that it was Long John Silver, but he didn’t see me. I could hear others walking about nearby.
Long John: Every man on the high seas was feared of Captain Flint. But Flint his own self was feared of me. I needn’t tell you mates that, eh? You all sailed with Flint, like I did. And ’twas me who got us all back together for this voyage, didn’t I?
Pirate 1: Aye.
Pirate 2: Aye.
Pirate 3: Aye.
Jim: (to himself) Pirates in our crew! And Long John is their leader!
Pirate 4: But look here, John—how long are we going to wait around?
Pirate 5: Let’s mutiny right now.
Long John: You ain’t the smartest swabs, so hear my orders. You’ll work hard, you’ll speak soft, and you’ll keep sober, till I give the word. Trelawney and Livesey have got the map, don’t they? And I don’t know where it is, do I? Nor do you. Well, then, we’ll wait for them to find the treasure and help us get it aboard.
Pirate 1: Then what’ll we do with the honest men?
Pirate 2: Let’s maroon them on the island.
Long John: And leave them some chance to escape? Nay, when I’m a rich gentleman back in England riding in my coach, I don’t want them turning up one day to tell their tale. Death to them all, I say, and be done with them. And now—I feel a bit peckish for an apple.
Narr Jim: I trembled with fear as Long John reached inside the barrel. But at that moment came the voice of the lookout …