Aspen High School Theatre presents ‘The Pirates of Penzance’

The Pirates of Penzance will be seniors Willow and Isabella Poschman's final Aspen High School Theater performance.
Courtesy Photo

Aspen High School Theatre’s spring musical production, “The Pirates of Penzance,” will be seniors Isabella and Willow Poschman’s final one, at least in high school.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Isabella. “(“The Pirates of Penzance”) is a good last show to be going out on.”

The sisters have been a part of Theatre Aspen for over eight years and did theater in high school for all four years.

Students rehearse for Aspen High School Theatre’s spring production: “The Pirates of Penzance.”
Courtesy Photo

“I think before I started doing theater I had a hard time expressing myself. Theater has really helped me with that,” said Willow. “Acting is one of the ways I can most easily express myself.”

Both of them agreed theater is a strong part of who they are and helped shape them throughout high school.

“If I hadn’t done theater in high school, I’d be a completely different person. It’s where I found my sense of self and the community I belong to. It’s where I learned how to connect with other people,” said Isabella.

“The Pirates of Penzance,” a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, premieres at the Aspen District Theater on Thursday at 7 p.m. and has showings Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m..

“It’s an operetta, which is somewhere between an opera and a musical theater show,” said Director Vanessa Strahan.

The plot centers around Frederic, who was mistakenly apprenticed to a pirate instead of a pilot by his nursemaid, Ruth (played by Willow Poschman), at the age of 8. Frederic is now 21 and chooses to go out and be the good person he wants to be, but realizes to do that he has to destroy the pirates who raised him.

“They’re very bumbling pirates,” Strahan said. “They don’t attack anyone they think weaker than themselves. They’re all orphans, so if they capture a ship and they say they’re orphans, (the pirates) let them go.”

Aspen High School Theatre’s spring production, “The Pirates of Penzance,” premieres Thursday at Aspen District Theater at 7 p.m..
Courtesy Photo

After leaving the pirates, Frederic comes across a group of maidens and their father, one of whom steals his heart. The group has a run-in with pirates but escapes because the general lies and says he’s an orphan.

Just as Frederic is ready to lead a band of policemen to take out the pirates, a secret is uncovered that will change his fate forever, but naturally, all comes out right in the end.

Strahan said the operetta is vocally challenging, even for adult performers, and is often put on by opera companies rather than theaters because of the score and the nature of the show.

“The singing is very demanding. A good 90% of the show is song instead of spoken,” she said. “Musically, these kids have tackled a huge amount, which is very impressive.”

The 14 students in the play have been rehearsing since the second week of January and have put in a lot of time and work, Strahan added.

“The kids work incredibly hard at bringing these shows together,” Strahan said.

In her time with Theatre Aspen, Strahan’s focus has been on high school, especially in the past six or eight months. She said that just walking the halls and accomplishing your day in high school can feel like a risk, but they have created a safe environment with an ensemble that’s supportive of each other and allows risks to be taken.

“Theater, I think, allows them to let go and feel that sense of empowerment and confidence. Finding these choices and making them work within the context of the show is a way to practice doing that in your own life,” Strahan said.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students and Aspen School District staff and are available at or at