Freshman Greta Hallberg makes her high school acting debut as Treasure Island launches a production full of sword fights and adventures
It’s the instigator of countless “X marks the spot” adventures, the beginning of the iconic one-legged pirate with a parrot companion trope, the original swashbuckling pirate manifesto: Treasure Island.
Since its conception as Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel in 1883, this buccaneer tale has been transmitted to the stage and the big screen multiple times, the result of immense, and unwaning with time, popularity.
Every version of the story has subtle differences, but the most prevalent theme is a focus on the golden treasure the protagonist Jim, a 13-14-year-old boy, sets off on an adventure for. The goal in these renditions is physical, a monetary reward for the toil of Jim’s quest with the pirates.
However, when the Minnehaha Players present Treasure Island April 16, 17, 18, the focus instead will be on the journey that Jim takes to realize that “treasure is not this external thing, but something inside him,” according to director Nicholas Freeman.
As Jim moves through his buoyant journey to self-discovery, a coming of age story that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats with their hearts in their throats, the actress that plays him is growing along side the youthful hero.
Freshman Greta Hallberg is a new voice in the Minnehaha theatre department, and Freeman is sure she’ll bring a new perspective, “a sense of wonderment and adventure,” to the role of Jim. Hallberg has been waiting for this opportunity for years.
Where other freshmen might falter under the, what Hallberg calls, “immense pressure” of being the youngest cast member, Hallberg claims she’s only “really excited to show what [she’s] got.”
Treasure Island is Hallberg’s first upper school acting role, but it’s not her first theatre department rodeo.
With the help of her mother, Diane Hallberg, orchestra and band director, Hallberg was introduced to the Minnehaha acting circuit at a young age.
She grew up going to the Upper School’s musicals and plays, as Hallberg put it, “I’ve been watching for a while, and now it’s really fun to be like, ‘now it’s my turn.’”
It was these Minnehaha plays and musicals that ignited a passion in Hallberg.
In the past years she has committed to various classes and theatre camps to grow her talent, as well as participating in middle school plays.
But the best introduction to the way high school productions are run came with the help of her music.
Hallberg has been playing the flute for five years, and when she didn’t make the cast of 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in the fall, she used that musical talent to join the pit orchestra.
Participating in pit allowed Hallberg to witness the “other side of production, the side the audience doesn’t really see very often.” The camaraderie in the pit also taught her the value of thinking “for the team.”
This team spirit is part of what drew Freeman to picking Hallberg, as he considers this an important aspect of all his actors and actresses: “They want to be a part of a team, and they want that team to do the best it can do.”
Pit was also the foot in the door Hallberg needed to become familiar with many of the older faces she is now acting along side. Freeman has noticed this dynamic as “everyone seems to know and respect Hallberg, she fits in really well with our core theater people.”
Dustrude, for example, credits Hallberg as having “a lot of talent” and he thinks, “she’s going to do really well in that role [of Jim].”
Hallberg’s “old soul,” and “maturity beyond her years,” are other aspects Freeman considered when he cast her as Jim. Jim has had a tough life, his father recently died, and he and his mother own an inn that is barely keeping afloat.
And even when Jim embarks on his great adventure with the pirates, and develops a key relationship with iconic pirate Long John Silver he maintains both a childlike sense of wonderment and glee alongside a maturity that makes him “almost the wisest of all the characters,” according to Freeman.
Freeman says this dualistic nature is reflected in Hallberg [because] “she’s a freshman, yet she seems wise beyond her years.”
Hallberg believes part of this similar nature is due to the unique perspective her age gives her: “Jim is supposed to be this 13 [or] 14-year-old boy, I’m 14 so it works out.” While the outsider might see being a freshman lead as a disadvantage, for Hallberg, her youth gives her the edge she needs to pull ahead.
A freshman lead isn’t the only unique twist in Minnehaha’s production of Treasure Island. In a method rarely utilized at M.A., Treasure Island will be shown with a black box style. Instead of a gulf of empty space separating the crowd from the stage, the action will be occurring all-around and through the audience, allowing a “fun and personal experience,” according to Dustrude.
Freeman believes the black box will transform “the [stage] into an adventure.”
He claims the black box will allow the audience to “feel like they’re part of this adventure, frightened in the right moments, and happy and joyous in the right moments… [Feeling] with the characters.”
Hallberg especially is excited for the opportunity for, “the audience [to] connect more.” “It’ll be good!” she exclaimed with a smile.
When the audience walks out of the black box in mid April they’ll have witnessed not only the sword fighting and gun shots of pirates and the coming to age of the brilliant Jim Hawkins, they’ll also have been privy to the first performance of an actress Freeman believes will be a “bright star in the theatre department for at least three years to come.”
Hallberg is most excited for the audience to see Jim finding, “this adventure of his life that he’s been waiting for,” but the audience should be on their toes not only for pirates, but also for the group dynamics of a fresh spectacular cast.