Dinner Detective Regular and Kitchen Experimentalist, Stephen Gillespie, makes his OpenStage Theatre debut as Squire Trelawney in "Treasure Island"

Tell us about yourself! What theatre or other experiences did you have in this discipline before working on this show?

I’ve been on stage starting in the fourth grade. I played a “herald” in a holiday show that my school produced. I was in many shows, mostly musicals throughout my formative years. My favorite and most memorable role in high school was Sheriff Billy in the melodrama Tied to the Tracks.
I attended Casper College (Casper, WY) as a Theater Major, getting to play several roles, including Matt in The Fantasticks, Gideon in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and a puppeteer in Little Shop of Horrors.
Although I had dreams of being a professional stage actor, I never completed that degree. I took a hard left and enlisted in the Navy during the first Gulf War. If this feels peculiar, it was. I was at a strange place in my life, seemingly missing a purpose and a mission, and extremely lonely. It did give me a distraction and eventually helped me earn a degree in Architecture.
I happily returned to Fort Collins after a year-long exile in Indiana. While my daughter Lauren performed in some shows here in FoCo, I was exploring training in Narrative Trauma Therapy where I discovered how theater was helping military veterans diagnosed with PTSD connect with themselves and others. Theater as therapy, who knew?
I was cast in The Little Mermaid ensemble, then I was cast as Marley in A Musical Christmas Carol and others. Fun fact: I would have panic attacks nightly before going on stage, which led me to improv classes, which is not only ridiculously fun; I’ve developed lifelong friendships and it is my secret sauce for performance. Improv has helped me develop an inner confidence that no matter what happens on stage I can improv through it to a beautiful solution.

How did you hear about OpenStage?

I think it was through a friend who suggested I see Avenue Q. I went to see it with my cousin and we laughed ourselves silly. I knew I wanted to be a part of it when I had the chance.

How familiar were you with "Treasure Island," the book or the stage adaptation, before you were cast in this show?

Not familiar at all. Is this strange? Ha.

What made you decide to audition for this production?

I was in a show directed by Kate Austin-Gröen, and she had let me know about the auditions. Her directing approach felt kind, genuine, and inclusive. I wanted another show, and this was my opportunity. And I’m deeply grateful.

What was the most challenging part for you throughout rehearsals?

Well, getting sick and recovering. As I am writing this, I’m recovering from a full on lost voice. For the past three days I have used my voice minimally so I can be 100% for my fellow cast mates and our upcoming audience. This has been a challenge in that learning lines and music requires my voice, learning it again and again.

What was the most exciting thing you did in rehearsals?

Play. We get to play. We get to be in concert with other artists and move in the same direction.

What is your favorite scene or sequence in the show?

The first that comes to mind is scene 9, “Crew Hiring”. It’s been revealing my character’s way in the world, how Squire Trelawney is naive, playful, trusting, pompous and kind. He wants adventure, and doesn’t know how perilous it will be.

Which sea shanty sung in the show is your personal favorite?

Downed and Drowned.

If you couldn’t pick the one you play, who is your favorite character in the show?

Grey. The character just cracks me up. It’s an interesting character thread and it has me curious about how Grey became Grey. And Nicole plays the character brilliantly.

What is something you spend your free time doing, outside of theatre?

I like to play in the kitchen, seeing what I can make from what’s in the refrigerator and pantry. I’ve come up with some winners, and plenty of duds.

What is the importance of this show today? What do you hope the audiences get out of it?

It’s important to be grateful for what one already has, including relationships and community. It’s cliché, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say it: the grass is greener, the treasure is better, on the other side. Is it? The story is being told from Jim’s perspective and probably we are all in her mind’s eye. She has a moment in the show where she thought she was betrayed, she wasn’t, in a way she betrayed herself. And at the end of the day, it’s only her in there. It doesn’t matter what’s on the other side, it matters what’s on the inside. Nurturing this is the true treasure.

What projects are you working on next? What is your dream role or dream show to work on?

I’m a regular performer in A Dinner Detective, and I’m expecting to audition for some upcoming shows; stay tuned.
Dream roles: Jean Valjean of Les Miserables or Seymour Krelborn in Little Shop of Horrors.

By Robert Louis Stevenson
Adapted by Bryony Lavery

Directed by Kate Austin-Gröen

June 3 – July 1, 2023
Playing at the Park at Columbine Health Systems

Come see Stephen and the rest of the cast in "Treasure Island" June 3 – July 1!

Set sail on a thrilling journey with cutthroat pirates, a treasure map, and a courageous young girl named Jim, who becomes entangled in a dangerous swashbuckling expedition. Jim gets more than she bargains for when she embarks on a daring sea voyage to an exotic island where a hoard of gold and gems is buried. Awash with treachery, mutiny, and unforgettable characters, including the infamous Long John Silver, Treasure Island comes alive in an epic theatrical adaptation of one of the world’s greatest adventure stories. Featuring nightly food trucks!