When the curtain goes up on Alpena Civic Theatre's March 13 performance of "Pirates of the Great Lakes," a special guest will be seated in the audience.
Detroit area resident Tim Kochenderfer, the show's playwright, plans to travel north to witness his spoof on pirating being performed in Alpena.
"Sitting in the audience is a lot of fun," Kochenderfer said. "It helps me as a playwright. When you actually see your work performed, it's interesting to see how different theatres interpret your work, such as how certain characters are performed."
A television producer for ABC affiliate WXYZ in Detroit, Kochenderfer is a 2000 graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in telecommunications. He has written more than a dozen plays, including several spoofs on Shakespeare works such as "Hamlet," "Romeo and Juliet" and "Othello."
Kochenderfer also currently has a Hallmark card in stores, wrote for a brief period of time for Cracked magazine and has won five Emmy Awards. He penned "Pirates of the Great Lakes" in 2005 and published it in 2006. The play has since been performed numerous times, including in land-locked Nebraska, although ACT's production marks the first time it is being done in a community situated on one of the Great Lakes.
The playwright's inspiration for the script is rooted in the pirate attacks that have become prevalent off the coast of Somalia.
"I wrote it the summer I met my wife," Kochenderfer said. "She was a production assistant at Channel 7 at the time. We saw a story on some pirates from Somalia who attacked a couple and the couple managed to fend them off. We started joking about that to be pirates and be defeated by this couple. There were a lot of pirate-related jokes between us that summer that worked their way into the script."
Kochenderfer has given some consideration to what he would do for a living if he ever lost his job as a producer.
"Being a pirate would be my second career choice," he joked, "but since I don't live on the Indian Ocean, I would have to settle for the Great Lakes. That got me thinking about what it would be like to be a pirate on the Great Lakes."
In the true spirit of a farce, his pirate's tale revolves around a group of hapless pirates who have gotten lost on what they thought was the ocean, but really turns out to be the Great Lakes. Complicating matters, they think they have spotted an island in the ocean, only to discover it's Michigan.
Kochenderfer said his play is suitable for both kids and adults, and that he hopes those who see the show are in for an entertaining experience.
"I hope they are in for an entertaining time and not something that will put them to bed early," Kochenderfer said. "I hope they laugh."