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Story Pirates Storm Upper West Side With New Kids' Show

By Emily Frost | February 20, 2013 9:31pm

UPPER WEST SIDE —  A band of pirates is peglegging its way to the Upper West Side — and they're after your kids. 

The Story Pirates wield creativity rather than weapons, working with children to turn their own stories into captivating live theater.

"[The name is] a play on the fact that regular pirates steal treasure and we’re in the business of stealing kids' stories," said Lee Overtree, the pirates' artistic director.

On April 7, the Story Pirates will debut a new show at Symphony Space that brings to life a new book from author Pseudonymous Bosch's popular "The Secret Series."

Bosch is a secretive young adult author who is capping his mystery series with an interactive final installment called "Write This Book: A Do It Yourself Mystery," and the Story Pirates, commissioned by the book's publisher Little, Brown and Company, are creating a special show that mirrors the book's "choose your own adventure" format, Overtree said.

"The kids in the audience will be writing a mystery with us and will be bringing it to life in front of our very eyes," Overtree said.

Founded in 2003 by a group of Northwestern University grads, the Story Pirates have since expanded to work with more than 250 schools across the country. 

Their mission is "to take the stories kids write and turn them into a big crazy loud sketch comedy and musical theater," Overtree said.

A sketch based on writing from a fourth-grader in Williamsburg was called "Skinny Jeans," about his dislike of being made to wear the stylish pants by his mother, while a sketch from a student in The Bronx was called "The Kung Fu Fighting Ninja Girls." 

Jennifer Brennan, who oversees literary programs at Symphony Space, said the Story Pirates drum up a lot of enthusiasm.

"They’re just really fun and high energy," Brennan said. "Kids get very excited... It’s something parents can enjoy too."

Overtree said Bosch's writing is very much in line with his organization's mission: "The tone is so un-condescending and so smart and treats kids as equals."

At the core of the Story Pirates' philosophy is an emphasis of putting kids at the center of the experience, drawing directly from their writing in creating sketches and bringing them on stage.

"We’re validating the ideas of kids," Overtree said. "They’re used to being condescended to. They’re used to being told how to feel and what to think."

The Story Pirates will perform at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway, at 1 p.m. April 7. Tickets cost $15, $12 for members.