Jeff Bezos: The Pirate King?
Rhett Guter (center) as the Pirate King in a scene from The Pirates of Penzance, 2021.
By Rhett Guter
Editor’s Note: This is third installment in a series of blog posts from actor and choreographer Rhett Guter. He has appeared in numerous roles since 2005, including Tom Tucker inH.M.S. Pinafore,Tommy Djilas inThe Music Man, Peter inPeter and the Starcatcher,and this year as The Pirate King inThe Pirates of Penzanceand Houdini inRagtime*. He also choreographed this season’sThe Greenshowand in past seasons has choreographedThe Music Man, Peter and the Starcatcher,andAnything Goes.*
As an actor it’s my job to create the inner life and backstory of a character. No matter how silly, or over the top a character may seem I always strive to create a relatable scenario, even if I’m the only one who knows it. For me, the role of the Pirate King proved especially challenging.
I had never seen the play before; and, admittedly, the first several weeks in rehearsal I just wandered around the room in the Jolly Roger tricorn hat and pirate boots taking haphazard stabs at being the Pirate King. Finally, one afternoon during a break, I asked Brad Carroll, our music director and resident expert in all things Gilbert and Sullivan, what he thought. He replied, “Well I’ve never thought of them as actual pirates, just a bunch of guys playing pretend.” It seemed far-fetched and a bit ridiculous. No one would do that, except . . .
LARPing is an acronym for Live Action Role Playing. Perhaps you’ve seen this when passing a park. A group of fully-grown adults wearing costumes and armor, usually meticulously designed and homespun, bearing weapons, also homespun and not actually dangerous, are engaged in battle with one another. They are often playing out a character with special abilities, backstories, etc. It’s very much a real thing, and it’s practiced all over the world. It may seem silly to some, but I think we all have an inner child that yearns to play pretend long after our costume trunk gets put away and we are knighted with the daunting title of adulthood.
Now, what if someone very rich, say Jeff Bezos, was to embark on such a journey? Could he be the inspiration I was looking for for my Pirate King? Of course he could buy a full pirate ship, bring all his friends along the way and afford to do pretty much whatever he pleased. (After all, the man did just buy the most expensive ship ever—one that takes him to the moon.) Even Jeff Bezos longs for adventure and to show the world that he is, more or less, the king.
So, come see Jeff Bezos, errr—I mean me, in The Pirates of Penzance!