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“Shipwrecked! An Entertainment” Is a Swashbuckling Show by Pulitzer Prize Winner Donald Margulies

"Shipwrecked! An Entertainment" opens Dec. 1st at PlayMakers Rep

"Shipwrecked! An Entertainment" opens Dec. 1st at PlayMakers Rep

PlayMakers Repertory Company will present Shipwrecked! An Entertainment — The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told by Himself), a swashbuckling 2009 Off-Broadway show by award-winning playwright Donald Margulies, who won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Dinner with Friends, on Dec. 1-5, 7-12, 14-19 in the Paul Green Theatre in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Dramatic Art. (Note: Louis de Rougemont [nee Henri Louis Grin, 1847-1921] was a self-proclaimed explorer who claimed in The Wide World Magazine that he had had a series of hair-raising adventures in Australasia. After his truthfulness was later called into question, The Wide World Magazine quipped: “Truth is stranger than fiction/But De Rougemont is stranger than both.”)

“When I heard PlayMakers was considering this play, I picked up a copy,” recalls PRC guest director Tom Quaintance. “It sounded like exactly the kind of play I like to work on, and I immediately fell in love with the script….

“My favorite plays are filled with impossible challenges, such as a text that has stage directions like ‘Splash! He is underwater’ without any other suggestions as to how to make that happen,” admits Quaintance, who previously staged UNC’s professional-theater-in-residence’s 2007 and 2008 productions of The Little Prince and co-directed PRC’s epic two-part 2009 presentation of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, with PlayMakers producing artistic director Joseph Haj.

Quaintance explains, “Donald Margulies wrote a play that is a celebration of theatricality. I have long felt that if something could be done as well on television or film, then I wasn’t interested in directing it on stage — [Shipwrecked! An Entertainment] is a play that revels in that aesthetic, and I love it.”

He adds, “Hardly a page goes by in this script without a wild theatrical challenge. We must construct a ship on stage, and destroy it in a huge storm, complete with a whirlpool. A giant octopus drags a pearl fisherman to his death. Louis rides a sea turtle in a large tank of water.

“Some of these challenges are solved by the designers, some by the actors, some with light, some with sound and music,” says Quaintance. “Our ingenuity as storytellers is tested at every turn. This, however, is the fun part. The true challenge is to do this in a way that is both entertaining and genuine. There are many interesting adult questions in this play about truth, the nature of celebrity, the mob mentality, and the need to find love and acceptance in the world. If those questions are lost in the spectacle, we will not do the play justice.”

Shipwrecked! An Entertainment had its world premiere on Sept. 23, 2007 at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mess, CA. The show made its Off-Broadway debut, directed by Lisa Peterson, on Feb. 8, 2009 at the 59E59 Theater A, where it closed on March 7, 2009. The Off-Broadway production starred Michael Countryman as Louis de Rougemont, Lavinia Grays as Player 1, and Jeremy Bobb as Player 2.

Shipwrecked! An Entertainment was nominated for the 2009 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play, the 2009 Drama League Award for Distinguished Production of a Play, and the 2009 Henry Hewes Design Award for Notable Effects (John Gromada). Gromada won the 2009 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Sound Design.

PlayMakers guest director Tom Quaintance says, “Shipwrecked! An Entertainment is the amazing story of Louis de Rougemont (Scott Ripley), one of the most colorful figures in recent history, as told by himself. Louis leaves home as a boy; meets Captain Jensen (Jimmy Kiefer); and embarks on an adventure on Jensen’s ship, the Wonder World. With his loyal dog, Bruno (Derrick Ledbetter), Louis is shipwrecked on a remote island off the coast of the Coral Sea.

“Over the course of 30 years,” Quaintance explains, “Louis [de Rougemont] makes a home for himself amongst Aborigines, and finds love with the beautiful Yamba (Dee Dee Batteast). His adventures can be best summed up by the headlines of The Wild World Magazine — ‘Truth is stranger than fiction!’ ‘Shipwrecked! Amazing True Life Adventures of Castaway!’ ‘Lived among cannibals!’ ‘Survived 30 years in the Outback!’

“Louis’ story brings him fame and fortune, but takes a turn when he is forced to defend his honor after the truth of his adventures is called into question,” notes Quaintance.

In addition to the actors named above the Shipwrecked! An Entertainment ensemble includes Kelsey Didion, Lauren Klingman, and Josh Tobin.

In addition to guest director Tom Quaintance and PlayMakers Repertory Company producing artistic director Joseph Haj, the PRC creative team for Shipwrecked! An Entertainment includes music director/composer Mark Lewis, movement coach Craig Turner, vocal/dialect coach Bonnie Raphael, production manager Michael Rolleri, scenic designer Robin Vest, lighting designer Tyler Micoleau, costume designer Rachel E. Pollock, sound designer/engineer Ryan Gastelum, dramaturg Mark Perry, and stage manager Sarah Smiley.

“The play takes place in a wide array of locations over the course of many years,” notes director Tom Quaintance. “[Scenic designer] Robin Vest has given us a fantastic open canvas on which to paint this story with bodies, light, narration, and a few well-chosen set pieces. Louis de Rougemont, who steps out of the turn of the 20th century to tell us this story, is dressed from that period. The actors around him, who are from our time, are in base costumes that use bold patterns and interesting choices that look both modern and archaic.”

Quaintance adds, “In the spirit of celebrating the theatricality of the play, the mechanics of the production are visible and embraced. [Louis de Rougemont’s] amazing story is supplemented by sound created by Foley artists in clear view of the audience. [Music director] Mark Lewis has composed a fantastic original score, and we are lucky enough to have him perform it live on stage.

Shipwrecked! is an amazing story, one that you must give yourself to wholly in order to be in it,” claims Tom Quaintance. “Like children, audience members are required to use their imagination.”

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents SHIPWRECKED! AN ENTERTAINMENT — THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF LOUIS DE ROUGEMONT (AS TOLD BY HIMSELF) at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1-3 Previews, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 Opening Night, 2 p.m. Dec. 5, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7-10, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11, 2 p.m. Dec. 12, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14-18, and 2 p.m. Dec. 19 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, 120 Country Club Rd., at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC 27514.

TICKETS: $10-$35, except $45 Opening Night show and reception of Dec. 4th.

BOX OFFICE: 919/962-PLAY or

GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/843-2311,, or





NOTE 1: On Dec. 9th and 12th, there will be FREE post-performance discussions with representatives of the show’s creative team, including designers, production staff, and/or actors.

NOTE 2: There will be an 10:30 a.m. Student Matinee Performance on Dec. 9th (for details, see

NOTE 3: There will be a VIP theater experience called “An Afternoon with PlayMakers for Shipwrecked!,” starting at 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 11th, with an afternoon tea and luncheon at The Carolina Inn (, 211 Pittsboro St., Chapel Hill, NC 27516, and concluding with the 2 p.m. performance of Shipwrecked! The $49-per-person price includes the tea and luncheon, a show ticket, complimentary parking at The Carolina Inn, and transportation to the Paul Green Theatre and back to The Carolina Inn. To make an advance online reservation — which is required — telephone 919/918-2718, e-mail, or click and select “PlayMakers Tea Luncheon.”

NOTE 4: The Prologue Series, created by PlayMakers and the Chapel Hill Library, will present a pre-show conversation with a member of the PlayMakers creative team at the library at 12 noon on Dec. 11th. (For details, click

NOTE 5: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh ( will audio describe the 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14th performance, which will also be sign-language interpreted.

NOTE 6: The Lucy Daniels Foundation ( and the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society ( will sponsor “Mindplay: A 50-minute Hour,” a FREE psychoanalytic discussion led by Peter Perault, MD, after the 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18th and 2 p.m. Dec. 19th performances.


The Play: (Internet Off-Broadway Database).

The Script (excerpts): (Google Books).

The Playwright: (Wikipedia), (Internet Off-Broadway Database), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Internet Movie Database).

Louis de Rougemont: (Wikipedia).

The Adventures of Louis de Rougemont: (Project Gutenberg).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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