Brenau, GTA welcomes all ages to experience first WonderQuest show in two years

The Gainesville Theatre Alliance will put on its first WonderQuest show in two years this October in Brenau’s Pearce Auditorium on the historic Gainesville campus.

The Pirate Queen was written by Brenau Theatre Associate Professor Gay H. Hammond, WC ’82, and was inspired by the folklore of Irish brigand Grace O’Malley. Because the stories can be too harsh for children, Hammond adapted the Irish legend of the nickname “Grace the Bald,” in which O’Malley cuts her hair to prove to her father she can captain a ship.

“I’ve focused more on her origin story, on what kind of girl becomes a pirate queen in the man’s world of 16th Century Ireland,” Hammond said. “And also I’ve added a magical element, because who doesn’t want magic? Magical ocean creatures, kelpies, make deals with Grainne Mhaol, and they help her.”

Young audiences and the young at heart can experience The Pirate Queen from Sept. 30-Oct. 2. Hammond said the cast has been working hard to master the appropriate sound for the Irish tale. 

“We had to figure out how strong to make the dialect, because a real Irish dialect can be hard on the ear,” Hammond said, noting that she wanted both kids and adults to understand the dialogue without difficulty. “So we had to give it some flavor, we had to figure out the rules for that flavor of Irish, which was then written into the script.” Hammond said the play also uses the Irish names of the characters rather than the English, “Grainne, instead of Grace – but we keep the O’Malley.” 

The Pirate Queen will feature sword fights and special effects on a set designed by Celeste Morris and with costumes designed by Julia Rodriguez. The play is mostly geared toward older children. 

Brenau Theatre Department Chair Tracey Brent-Chessum said WonderQuest has been a major player in exposing the local youth to the magic of theatre for almost 50 years.

“After a two year gap due to the pandemic, we are thankful to pick up right where we left off and continue to provide quality experiential theatre productions for our local community, schools and the young people they serve,” she said.

Chessum said The Pirate Queen was originally scheduled for fall 2021, and Hammond said the show was recast after students involved graduated.

“It was moved to the spring of 2021 at the request of many of our area schools who were still dealing with COVID-19 protocols,” Chessum said. “It was canceled in the spring of 2021 due to closures for the omicron variant. We are thankful that our audiences will finally get to see what we’ve been working on for the last two years!”

After The Pirate Queen closes on Oct. 2, the musical Urinetown will open in November at Hosch Theatre on Brenau’s historic Gainesville campus. Brenau Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre Michael D. Jablonski will direct and choreograph the show. Recommended for ages 13 and older, Urinetown will run from Nov. 11-19.