BRATTLEBORO -- "I get to crawl around and use crazy voices and scream and hurl myself at people's feet."
In any other setting, Alanna Ward's declaration might be cause for concern, but at New England Youth Theatre, it's just another day, especially for an intrepid troupe of pirates putting the finishing touches on the latest production, a new adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's beloved "Treasure Island," which opens Friday and runs through Feb. 16.
This version, adapted by director Peter Gould, puts an adventurous and comedic spin on a swashbuckling story of buried gold, buccaneers and barrels of fun.
"There's a bunch of funny characters, and there's lots of jokes," said Lucy Parks, one of the young pirates in this cast of 30 actors ages 9-13. "It's kind of like a twist on ‘Treasure Island.' It's funny and very kid-friendly."
And full of pirates. So many of them that Gould had a little bit of a problem at the start of rehearsals.
"We had more people come out than we had room for in the cast, so I had to invent some new pirates," said Gould, who is proud to introduce audiences to fearsome buccaneers named Jack Powder, Ringer, So and So and Giggles, in addition to the well-known characters of Old Flint, Black Dog, Billy Bones and Jim Hawkins.
And then, of course, there's Long John Silver, a sea dog whose imposing countenance and salty speech hide a tender heart.
"He's a pirate, but he's a nice pirate. His crew basically wants to kill everybody, but he doesn't want that," explained Aiden Meyer, 13, who plays Long John Silver. "I'm kind of torn between piratey-ness and non-piratey-ness."
Audience members will be less conflicted, as they fall under the spell of this energetic cast of characters who are bringing a classic tale to life with added touches like sea chanteys, gags and physical comedy in Gould & Stearns style.
"There's some Peter humor classic Peter," said Meyer. "It's adventurous comedy."
"Treasure Island" has been a favorite of Gould's for a long time, and he's been pleased to dive into it, creating a script which echoes Stevenson's language but tells the story from Long John Silver's viewpoint. As he developed the play, Gould reveled again in the 1950 Walt Disney film version, which has taught two or three generations how to speak pirate.
Gould has also reconnected with another old friend, woodcarver Mark Fenwick, a pal of his from the days when they both lived on a communal farm. Visiting his Fenwick in his studio, Gould spied an impressive wooden chain Fenwick carved from a single piece of wood.
"I saw this chain and said ‘Fenwick, I'm going to use this chain for Treasure Island, arrrrrrr!'" Gould recalled.
The chain is just one of the pleasing bits of scenery and stage craft that help bring this tale to life. Performances of "Treasure Island" run Feb. 7-16 on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $12, $10 for seniors and $8 for students. For information and tickets, visit www.neyt .org.