Two local actors join the crew in 'How I Became a Pirate'
by: Jaime Valdez Niko Jacobson is one of the two young actors who shares the lead role of Jeremy Jacobs in "How I Became a Pirate." Dylan Earhart of Cedar Mill is the other actor who portrays the wee lad in the play.

Two young actors got the feel of the timber under their toes in Oregon Children's Theatre production of 'How I Became a Pirate.'

Dylan Earhart, a Bonny Slope Elementary School fifth-grader, and Niko Jacobson, a sixth-grader at St. Pius X Catholic School, share the lead role of Jeremy Jacobs in the raucous play.

The two boys have been entertaining audiences this month with their adventures as the 8-year-old lad, who is recruited by pirates to join Captain Braid Beard's crew to use his vast digging skills to help them bury a treasure.

They will each take the Winningstad Theatre stage for the last time this weekend, and both say the audience is in for some blustery excitement

'The storm is my favorite part,' said Earhart, who is a veteran actor in live theater productions. 'We have all these cool lights, the ship is rocking back and forth and a big mast falls down toward the audience.'

The scene is also a highlight of the show for Jacobson.

'I love the storm scene, when the mast falls, and I can really see the audience on the edge of their seats,' he said. 'The sound, the lights, the actors, the director, the choreographer - they all pitch in and make this scene amazing.

'It's always fun to run it. We all have to pretend we are knocked out with no smiles on our faces, but inside, we're all smiling.'

Being able to feed off the energy of a live audience has hooked both Earhart and Jacobson.

'You get this thrill of being up there and seeing their expressions and hearing their laughs,' said Jacobson, who is in his second major theater production after several film projects. 'It really gives you energy, and it makes you feel great.'

Earhart added, 'It's fun to get to hear the laughs and see people have a good time. I also like hearing the funny things kids say when they comment back during the show.'

The biggest challenge for the two local actors was tapping into the awe of their 8-year-old character as he learns that as a pirate, he doesn't have to eat vegetables or go to bed. Instead, he can talk rough, sword fight and say, 'Arrrgh!' any time he wants.

Jacobson is 11, and Earhart is 10.

'We have to capture the fun, have a great time and always smile,' Earhart said. 'The challenge is acting younger than you really are and capturing the energy of Jeremy Jacobs - the excitement and the joy.'

In his preparation for the role, Earhart said he constantly asked himself what he would do if he were experiencing the crazy antics of the pirates for the first time.

'The director really wanted us to make it real,' Jacobson said. 'We're both older and more sophisticated than 8. It makes it awkward, but I definitely think we got it.

'I related to Jeremy because he doesn't understand the pirates in a way we all don't understand something in our lives.'

The boys also share their character's affinity for the game of soccer.

'Some of the specifics in the soccer song are incorrect,' Earhart confided. 'In the play, the referee gives a gold card instead of yellow, and it's not getting three card - it's two - that get you thrown out of a game.'

If audiences look beyond the technicalities, they will be treated to one of Jacobson's favorite lines in the production.

'When a shark comes up and grabs the soccer ball we're playing with,' Jacobson recalled, 'one of the pirates in the crew turns around and says, 'Well that was just weird.' And everybody laughs.'

He thinks people should know that the play has been a lot of fun to rehearse and run.

'I will look back on my first pirate play and remember how it was great,' Jacobson said of the experience. 'It's everything one kid can want.'

Earhart said audiences would be in awe of the pirates and the ship itself.

'I was amazed and blown away by the big ship,' he said. 'I think audiences will remember the humor, the excitement and the fun of the play. They're in for a really good show.'

It's showtime

Oregon Children's Theatre presents 'How I Became a Pirate,' based on the book by Melinda Long.

Location: Winningstad Theatre, 1111 S.W. Broadway, Portland.

Time: Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Tickets: $16 to $26.

Box office: 503-228-9571 or through TicketMaster.

Recommended for ages 4 and older.

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