‘The Female Pirate Project’ at the Waterfront Museum

Ship shapes! Shadow puppet show highlights female pirates

The Brooklyn Paper
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A crew of puppeteers will perform a show highlighting the most ferocious female pirates in history aboard the floating Waterfront Museum in Red Hook from May 16–31. The shadow puppet performance explores the reasons real women decided to give up their landlubbing existences for a life of piracy, according to the director.

“These women had choices and they chose this,” said Gretchen Van Lente, who is also one of the actors in the show “Blood Red Roses: The Female Pirate Project.” “Why in the world did they ever do this?”

There were at least 50 known female pirates throughout history, according to Van Lente, but the show focuses on six of the most famous freebooters from the 1300s until 1869. The performance is divided into five scenes, each about 10 to 15 minutes long, about the marauders’ lives in chronological order with segments on revenge, adventure and escape, justice, power, and survival.

The life of a pirate is often glamorized in movies such as the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, but Van Lente said it wasn’t all buried treasure and sea shanties.

“We have this romanticized idea of pirates — we have this Jack Sparrow-Orlando Bloom ideal around them,” said Van Lente, adding that life on the boat is more miserable. “You can imagine being on a ship with 20 other guys — stinking it up, with scurvy.”

But the troupe’s buccaneering puppeteering doesn’t focus on dissecting the lives of pirates. Instead, Van Lente said the show highlights the tough women who decided to set sail for a life of swashbuckling adventure.

“All of these woman had to have a steel constitution or they wouldn’t survive,” she said.

“Blood Red Roses: The Female Pirate Project” at the Waterfront Barge Museum (290 Conover St. near Reed Street in Red Hook, May 16–17, 22–24, and 29–31 at 7:45 pm. $20 ($15 advance).

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at or by calling (718) 260–4507. Follow her
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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