The Legend of Cutlass Kate: The Making of Mutiny on the Sea Witch (Part 1)

Squalls

“There be squalls ahead.”

And, as Jaq the Sea Cook later clarifies, we don’t mean thunderstorms. We’re talking about emotional squalls. There’s a mutiny brewing as bad as a hurricane on the notorious Sea Witch, the pirate vessel run by the fearsome Cutlass Kate. Her exploits have become legend, a legend that has passed down generation to generation until reaches a great-niece in the future named Suzie. Suzie spins and epic tale, but where did that legend originate? Find out the origins of this seaworthy legend and the story behind our latest Master Mystery Production in this behind-the-scenes blog post!

THE LEGEND OF CUTLASS KATE: The Making of Mutiny on the Sea Witch (Part 1)

Pirates seem like a simple concept. Everyone has a picture of a pirate. Fantasy pirates are the easiest to understand. Hook hands, peg legs, eye patches, and so on. What’s tricky is blending the history and reality of pirates with the fantasy version to keep it family-friendly. After all, this was our first ever show involving kids in the production, and we wanted families to be able to see the show together.

Kate's Flag
Cutlass Kate’s Jolly Roger

Real piracy wasn’t all that pleasant, and we didn’t want to promote it. We wanted something akin to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney theme parks. Since the whole play is framed as a favorite story told by a child, we wanted the story to reflect a child’s sensibilities about pirates. Where parrots have conversations with you, and the treasure they are after is a fabled buried one far from innocent people. Murder mysteries are traditional for our company, but we chose to leave the murder out of it. We focused on a mutiny instead with the goal of the mystery being to find out who started the mutiny in the first place. Who has been a thief and angering the crew? Who has revved up the tension aboard the ship? Who is undermining the captain and preying on the crew’s doubts and complaints? That was the core of our pirate legend.

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The British flag flown over Charleston, South Carolina during the 1700’s before the American Revolution–our pirates’ “false colors.”

The book, Under the Black Flag by David Cordingly, was an outstanding piece of research for us as we plotted our pirate tale. It provided us a source of info on the lore, legends, and history of piracy. Mutiny did happen with one famous case being based on a charge of mercy against the captain, a concept we worked into Mutiny on the Sea Witch. Female pirate captains did exist which gave us the background for Cutlass Kate. We learned about different sorts of flags and Jolly Rogers, such as the Red Jack, a solid red flag flown when the pirates intended to show no mercy to their opponents (sensing a theme yet?) and the concept of “false colors” where a pirate vessel would fly the flag of friendly nation to sneak into port undetected. They would change the false colors to their Jolly Roger in the midst of the raid, which you will see happen in the show.

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Throughout the play, we make lots of winks to the pirate life with sword fights (handled by our talented fight choreographer, Skeleton Key and Diamond Mask winner Brianne Hardwick), a talking parrot puppet, treasure maps hidden in plain sight, pieces-of-eight (a kind of coinage used in the period) hidden in secret chests, and so on. But each reference we try to twist just a little to make it our own. You can almost taste the salt in the sea air in our pirate adventure. Not only that, but we plan to involve the guests in ways they haven’t seen yet. Ever been on an island searching for lost gold? At Mutiny on the Sea Witch, you just might get your chance!

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So there’s some background on the legend of Cutlass Kate! But who be these salty ol’ pirates that populate this sea tale? On Halloween, we reveal the background and have our cast tell you all about the pirate’s life in our next behind-the-“seas” post–Not Exactly Honest Folk: The Making of Mutiny on the Sea Witch (Part 2)!

And don’t forget your tickets at Red Rock Books!

–Master Mystery Productions

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