A voyager is shipwrecked on the high seas, undergoes fantastic adventures and tells the tales in Victorian London – only, did these epic adventures really happen?
That is the essence of “Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventure of Louis De Rougemont (As Told By Himself),” a family-friendly play that opens June 3 at Players by the Sea Theatre.
Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies, the play chronicles the true story of a man who claimed to have a number of fantastic adventures which he recounted in a series of self-written articles published in a 19th century British magazine.
De Rougemont, whose real name was Henry Louis Grin, claimed to have searched for pearls and gold in New Guinea, lived with indigenous peoples in the Australian Outback who worshiped him as a god, and experienced outlandish animal encounters such as riding a sea turtle or witnessing flying wombats.
Initially convincing all but a select few, De Rougemont’s stories were discredited by experts and scientists.
“The premise of the play is we have a charlatan – a man who convinced almost an entire country, including the queen of England, about all these amazing adventures - and it turned out to be one big ruse,” said Jason Collins, the play’s director.
The play features a cast of three: Matt Tompkins, Kasi Walters and Tamara Arapovic. As De Rougemont, Tompkins provides a first-hand account of the events depicted in the play.
Walters and Arapovic, meanwhile, portray a total of 25 characters. In one scene alone, Walters plays six different characters within a span of two lines.
“It’s a very exciting challenge for an actress,” Walters said.
At 50 pages, the play itself is not long. Scenes will be broken down into 10 chapters, which Tompkins will take the audience through one by one.
Collins described the production as a high-octane, family-friendly romp.
“It doesn’t stop,” Collins said. “It just goes and before you know it, it’s all said and done.”
The play will feature a soundtrack created by Sound Designer and Assistant Director Erik Anderson, but individual sound effects will be provided by Jonathan Washington, who will use items such as thunder sticks, rain sticks and coconuts to create a clap of thunder or the creak of a ship that’s breaking.
And there will be swashbuckling too. At one point, the actors will actually be swinging from the ropes on set, which is designed to be an old theater – turned into a ship. Puppetry will also be employed.
Collins gives commendations to Properties Designer Allen Morton, who was responsible for creating the play’s puppets and props and Costume Designer Jane LaRoque.
“They have been instrumental in this show because it’s such a prop-heavy show,” said Collins.
The production will also feature a large curtain to be used as a screen for silhouette projection and shadow work.
“It takes a little patience, it takes a little time, it takes a little compromising, and the one thing that’s really the most important thing is the people who come to see the show, they have to be entertained,” Collins said.
“Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventure of Louis De Rougemont (As Told By Himself)” will be presented on the Studio Stage June 3-18.
General admission is $23; admission for seniors, students or military is $20. Tickets for children under 12 are $10. Players by the Sea is located at 106 Sixth St. N., Jacksonville Beach. For more information, call (904) 249-0289 or visit www.playersbythesea.org.