Editor’s Note: The 32nd Annual International Fringe Theatre Festival will be held May 16-29, 2023 at different venues in and around Loch Haven Park and downtown Orlando. Freeline Media will be previewing the shows right up to the festival date.
ORLANDO — In 2022, Thom Mesrobian had a successful run at the Orlando Fringe Festival will his comedic show Be A Pirate. It won the Critic’s Choice and Best of The Fest awards, high enough praise to convince Mesrobian to make a return visit to Orlando Fringe this May, with his new show, Let Me See Your Booty.
Written by Mesrobian, who also plays SharkTooth Sam, he will bes joined by Sarah Lockard as first mate Barefoot Billie. As Mesbrobian notes, the two prates “have gathered to prepare for The Telling of Tall Tales, an annual event where pirates from around the world gather for a competition to tell the wildest and most fantastical tales ever told.”
There will also be several pirate songs written by Mesrobian that give the audience an opportunity to provide some feedback during the show.
Let Me See Your Booty, Mesbrobian notes, was inspired by a young boy who saw Be a Pirate during its 2022 run.
Mesrobian said his show “prompted the child to access his imagination in a new way,” so the playwright used these thoughts as the basis for this new pirate adventure. He also promises there will be “a serious and meaningful message behind the laughter along with a surprising twist at the end.”
What’s the Background Story to this Play?
Freeline Media reached out to Thom Mesrobian to learn more about this upcoming Fringe show.
Freeline Media: How did you develop an interest in Pirate-themed shows?
THOM MESROBIAN: So in 2020, I was sitting home alone … a lot. I had been part of the Orlando Fringe Artist Community since 2014 and I was greatly impressed by solo performers and story tellers like Martin Dockery, Chase Padgett, Paul Strickland and Erica Kate MacDonald. I had been thinking for a while that I wanted to try my hand at a solo show. In 2019 I was hired to do Pirate Storytelling at ZooTampa. So I came up with this character, SharkTooth Sam to tell the stories and got great feedback from the crowds. So “Be A Pirate!” was a natural combination of these two streams. Pirates are universal. Everyone loves them. So, it seemed like a natural choice to slide into his skin. Be A Pirate is basically a thinly veiled autobiography of my own journey to become a professional actor and once I found SharkTooth the metaphor worked perfectly and the show just kind of wrote itself. Be an actor, be a pirate, be whatever it is that you were born to be.
FM: Tell us more about how this show was inspired by a child in the audience of Be A Pirate.
TM: During the ’22 festival I met a young boy and invited him to see the show. He came dressed in full pirate regalia and he had a fantastic time. A couple of days after the show I spoke to his dad. He told me that before seeing the show, his son had been writing narratives, things that had happened, but after the show, the boy had asked if I was really a pirate. The dad told the boy, no. He’s an actor. He made all of that up. The boy’s eyes went wide as a light went on over his head.
You mean I can just make things up, he asked. And then the boy wrote a story about time travel!! To see a child’s imagination “unlocked” by my show was incredible. It reminded me of the powerful gift we have as writers and spurred on by that thought, I began writing the sequel and it was done within a month of closing Be A Pirate!
FM: Is there a bit of a double entendre in the title?
TM: More of a single entendre, actually! A title is a very important part of a marketing strategy. There are five songs in the show, one of them is called “Let Me See Your Booty” and it just seemed like a good title for the show. It’s something that both kids and adults can laugh at and serves as a microcosm of the show.
FM: What can you tell us about SharkTooth Sam?
TM: SharkTooth was born out of my improv work for ZooTampa and really coalesced into a fully rounded character in “Be A Pirate!” with a complete backstory. Born on the small island of “Bocas De Toros” to the pirate scourge, Blackheart Bart and his mother, a music teacher and part-time wench named Polly. SharkTooth grew up in the dark shadow of his father and longed to be a pirate but his father would never allow it. It was only after Blackheart’s death that Sam took up his birthright at the age of 40 and became Sharktooth, Captain of “The Lady Christine,” his father’s ship that had been known before as “The Bloody Cutlass.” SharkTooth became a kinder, gentler pirate who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, explored the oceans and pledged to boldly go where no one has gone before! If you saw “Be A Pirate!” you know all that but “Let Me See Your Booty” has a surprise twist ending that will change everything you thought you knew about old SharkTooth.
FM: What kind of audience feedback do you tend to get at your Pirate-themed shows?
TM: The reaction has been so rewarding and humbling. From being awarded the Critic’s Choice award from both the Orlando Sentinel and The Orlando Weekly as well as “Best of the Fest” to heartfelt comments often with tears in their eyes from audience members. One comment I will never forget came from a fellow fringe performer who said “Not only did this show change how I think about storytelling, it changed how I think about being a father.” I can’t imagine higher praise than that.
I’m really looking forward to including award-winning actress Sarah Lockard in this show. Sarah and I first collaborated on “Callbacks” for the Tampa Fringe and then she appeared in the same show when it came to Orlando in 2018. She plays multiple roles in the show and she is such a chameleon. I can’t wait to see what she brings to the stage. She plays the role of Barefoot Billie who is mentioned prominently in the first show and she ends up being very important in the sequel.
Sarah is highly sought after at the Orlando Fringe so I started pitching the show to her before the 2022 festival was over. She was tremendously excited by the concept and agreed on the spot to do it if we made it into the lottery. When the lottery happened we were third on the waitlist and were pretty much resigned that we wouldn’t get in, but the cards fell in our favor and here we are!
Where Can I See this Pirate Show?
Let Me See Your Booty: The Return of SharkTooth Sam will have its premiere at the Orlando Fringe Festival in May. Tickets are $15 plus a one time purchase of a Fringe button for $10. Discounts are available for Fringe artists and volunteers.
There will be a special $6 admission show on Thursday May 18 at 7:45 p.m. The show will also be available with an ASL interpreter on Sunday, May 28 at 5 p.m. Additional information is available at RogueStage.com.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book A Christmas Eve Story. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.