Turning a piece of literature into a stage show can be tough, especially when it is a grand adventure story on the high seas.
And even more tough when it is being done by marionette puppets.
But Rob Brock, master puppeteer and owner of Lancaster Marionette Theatre, is more than up for the challenge.
His production of “Treasure Island,” which runs for nine more performances between Saturday and Nov. 10, is a more intricate and longer production than shows meant for younger kids.
“We’ve done ‘Pirates of Treasure Island’ for younger kids, but this is for older children and grown-ups,” Brock says. “It’s a little longer than my other shows (40 minutes), and it’s a little scary at times.”
The pirates are not nice fellows, and two are murdered in the course of the show.
Or as Brock puts it, they go to Davy Jones’ locker.
The music, written by Brock, gets a little spooky at times as more of the Robert Louis Stevenson story is portrayed on stage with 11 puppets.
“We are very faithful to the book. About 95 percent is Robert Louis Stevenson,” Brock says.
It’s a story Brock has always loved.
“It’s a literary classic. It makes for good theater and good marionette theater. And people should be exposed to classic literature,” he says.
When Brock changed the name of his theater from Hole in the Wall Puppet Theatre to Lancaster Marionette Theatre several years ago, he had a plan to go into repertory, starting with two shows — one for young kids and one for older kids and adults.
And that plan is now in action.
“Treasure Island” will be performed at 7 p.m., while “Aladdin & His Magic Lamp” plays at 11 a.m. this coming Saturday and the following Friday and Saturday.
“Aladdin,” the tale of a young boy and his wish-granting genie, is for younger kids, though under age 2 is not recommended.
Eventually, Brock hopes to have three shows in repertoire.
Brock not only writes the shows, he makes all the puppets for them.
“I spend about 50 to 60 hours on each puppet. Each step of the process is time-consuming,” he says. “(But) writing is the hardest thing. It takes the longest.”
In the 29 years he’s been running a puppet theater, Brock has learned how to create a show.
“Early on, I wanted them all to be big, but now I will cut down at the beginning,” he says. “You have to find a hook and then keep it simple.”
The marionette has a long tradition. Brock notes that the methods he uses go back 300 years.
The key to success is focusing on keeping the attention on the puppet.
Brock wears all black and is visible throughout his shows, but the audiences soon forget he’s there and often forget the actors are puppets, too.
In “Treasure Island,” those puppets include Jim Hawkins, the young boy who sets sail to find a treasure; Squire John Trelawney, a country squire who finances the trip to Treasure Island; and Captain Smollett, the captain of the Hispaniola, the ship Trelawney has bought for the trip.
And then there are the pirates, including Billy Bones, whose stay at the Admiral Benbow Inn draws Jack Hawkins into the adventure, and his nasty colleagues, Black Dog and Blind Pew.
There is the reformed pirate, Ben Gunn, and the most famous pirate of them all, Long John Silver, who is not reformed at all.
To add to the pirate fun, the narrator of the tale is Jolly Roger, who is actually a skeleton.¶
IF YOU GO
n What: “Treasure Island.”
n Where: Lancaster Marionette Theatre, 126 N. Water St.
n When: Various Saturdays through Nov. 10, including this coming Saturday, 7 p.m.
n Cost: $15.
n Contact: 717-394-8398; lmt.yapsody.com.