A Tale of Blackbeard Opens Monday

Debbie Leonard
A Tale of Blackbeard Opens Monday

Ocracoke's own original musical will run every Monday through August 12.

Edward Teach, also known as the pirate Blackbeard, will once again be roaming the island of Ocracoke and the halls of Ocracoke School when Julie Howard’s musical "A Tale of Blackbeard" opens its doors on Monday, July 1. Sponsored by the local non-profit arts organization, Ocracoke Alive, proceeds from the show go towards sponsoring events such as the Ocrafolk and Latino Festivals, as well as promoting arts education and programming for Ocracoke School students. 

Written during the winter of 1973 as a fundraiser for the Ocracoke School and performed for the first time in 1974, this is the 13th season for the play. The show is full of catchy tunes, memorable characters, and even some factual information as it recounts Blackbeard’s last days on earth and his demise at the hands of the British Royal Navy.

Directing this year’s performance is island resident Desiree Ricker. Desiree first came to Ocracoke in 2012 and quickly became immersed in the arts community. As a child growing up in Hendersonville, NC, she was involved from her early years in dance, music, and theater and is a member of the Actor’s Equity Association. Desiree was involved in bringing "A Tale of Blackbeard" back to the stage in 2014 after an absence of 20 years by co-directing and choreographing the show. She also co-directed in 2015 and choreographed in 2015 and 2018 in addition to the current year.  

Blackbeard & crew, 2018
Blackbeard & crew, 2018

David Tweedie, Executive Director of Ocracoke Alive (and a pirate in this year’s production) says that one of the things he most appreciates about the play and about community theater in general is the blending of ages. “It gives community members a chance to interact with different generations and people they might not otherwise get to know," he said. “It bonds community members together.”

This year’s show again features Peyton Piquard in the starring role of Blackbeard. Peyton first arrived on the island in time to play the Helmsman in the 2015 production and hoped that he could one day play the pirate himself. A natural fit for the role at 6’2” tall with long black hair and bushy beard, Peyton creates an impressive character.  When asked why he once again signed on to play the most notorious person to ever traverse Ocracoke, Peyton said, “For me, it’s about being part of carrying on a tradition older than myself, and being able to bring someone’s vision to life is a pretty magical thing too!” Peyton, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, can also be seen on the stage at Deepwater Theater on Wednesday nights as part of the "Dingbatter’s Guide to Ocracoke, Part II" cast.  

Most of the cast members are either making repeat performances or have long histories and family connections with the play. Two sibling groups are involved this year; Ocracoke high school students Whisper Meacham and Karen Jordan play a Village Girl and Elizabeth Farthingham respectively. Whisper’s younger brother Django is the Cabin Boy, while Karen’s younger sister Sally plays Katherine Farthingham, her younger sister in the play. 

Bill Cole is reprising his popular portrayal as Ezekiel, the ship’s cook. This is Bill’s fourth time to play Ezekial but each year has been unique partly due to the differences in directors, the different cast members, and Bill’s talent as an actor and singer.

Katy Mitchell is once again playing Ms. Euphemia, proprietor of the local boarding house. Katy, owner of the coffee shop The Magic Bean, has a long history with the play; she played the boarding house cook in 2014 and her parents, sisters, and grandmother have all been involved in past performances. Katy says she feels like part of a legacy. “Julia Howard’s original work has been a wonderful long running community enterprise that has showcased Ocracoke’s unique personality and talented residents,” she said. “I feel very blessed to be a part of it and hope that the show continues to fuel the arts community here on Ocracoke for many years to come!” 

Cast from the 2018 production
Cast from the 2018 production

Ocracoke veterinarian Laura Trent is playing Mrs. Farthingham, wife of the town watchman; she formerly played a Village Girl in 1983 when her mother Marian Trent also played the role of Mrs. Farthingham. Playing Mr. Farthingham is Gary Coye, husband of Julie Howard. Gary has played many roles over the years. Always an essential member behind the scenes, this is his first time on stage since the 1990’s.

Another actress with family connections is Starr Ely who is playing a village girl for the second time. Starr is the fourth generation of her family to appear in the show. Emilie Wilkes, Starr’s great-grandmother was a village girl in the first production in 1974. Starr’s grandmother and aunt have also had roles. 

Returning for her second year in the cast is Zoe Howard, who is sharing the role of Elizabeth Farthingham, daughter of the town watchman, with Karen Jordan. Her grandmother is Julie Howard. Her grandfather Philip Howard, father Stefen, and aunt, Amy Howard, have all played various roles over the years. Zoe is especially excited to be wearing a dress that her mother made for the show based on the original Elizabeth costume. “To be the third generation of my family involved in 'A Tale of Blackbeard' is incredible," she said. "I grew up singing the songs and watching videos of old shows, and I always wanted to be in it, so I am thankful to be involved in something so important to both my family and Ocracoke.” 

“When I wrote the play I had no idea it would continue for decades,” said Julie Howard reminiscing about the play as she took a break from her busy day to relax on the front porch. “Over the years I’ve changed things such as adding new characters.” For example, in 1982 the younger Farthingham daughter Katherine was added so that Julie’s daughter Amy could be in the play along with the Cabin Boy role for Amy’s friend and classmate Stevie Wilson. 

In addition to new roles, Julie has added new songs, taken away songs, “whatever seemed to fit,” she said. Indeed a new song called “Euphemia's” was added for the 2015 production. “Euphemia was a real person and she ran a boarding house although not during Blackbeard’s time,” said Julie. She discovered Euphemia when she and her husband were clearing the lot to build the Village Craftsmen and found a tombstone engraved with the name Euphemia Curtis. When Julie’s father-in-law told her that Euphemia had been the proprietor of a boarding house, she said, “it just stuck in my head.”

Julie likes making changes and giving visitors something different to see. The popularity of the show keeps people returning year after year and makes a lasting impression on some. A couple of years ago Julie was summoned to the Village Craftsman shop only to be greeted by a group of people serenading her with one of the songs from the show, "Ocracoke Cutie." The group had seen the show in the 1970’s and still remembered the song! “I’m delighted it’s still going on!” said Julie.

A Tale of Blackbeard will run on Monday nights from July 1 until August 12 at 8:00 PM in the Ocracoke School Gym. Admission is $15.00 for adults and $7.00 for children 12 and under. You may purchase tickets at the door or online here: https://www.ocracokealive.org/tale-of-blackbeard.html

A Tale of Blackbeard 2019


Director & Choreographer ~ Desirée Ricker 

Music Director ~ Julie Howard

Costumes & Props Manager ~ Debbie Leonard

Sound ~ Christian Stevens

Artwork  ~ Mark Brown

Set Design ~ Steve Smith

Lights ~ George Roberson

Makeup ~ Megan Aldridge 

David Tweedie ~ Producer, Ocracoke Alive Executive Director 


Blackbeard-Peyton Piquard

William Howard-Will Adams

Oliver Farthingham: Gary Coye

Victoria Farthingham: Laura Trent

Elizabeth Farthingham: Karen Jordan, Zoe Howard

Katherine: Sally Jordan, Melanie Perez

Richard Evans: Parker Gaskill

Ezekiel the Ship’s Cook: Bill Cole

Helmsman: Kevin Morand

Sailors: John Brodisch II, Russell Stevens, David Tweedie

Cabin Boy: Django Meacham

Miss Euphemia: Katy Mitchell

Marjorie O’Neal, the Boarding House Cook: Kim France

Village Girls: Starr Ely, Tory Kane, Emily Kerben, Whisper Meacham, Milagro Raquel Ortiz

Scullery Maid: Elsie Kattenburg

A Tale of Blackbeard Opens Monday


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