Composer Laurelyn Dossett speaks about her time working on Bloody Blackbeard for Perseverance Theatre’s STAR summer youth program on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Composer Laurelyn Dossett speaks about her time working on Bloody Blackbeard for Perseverance Theatre’s STAR summer youth program on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

North Carolina songwriter helps bring Blackbeard to life on stage

Laurelyn Dossett brings musical talents to town this weekend

You could be forgiven for thinking that a singer-songwriter and theater composer focused primarily on her connection to the hills and lives in the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains would have little to connect her work to Juneau. But in this case, you might find yourself surprised.

“(The play’s about) that idea of who we are and we create ourselves to be,” said Laurelyn Dossett, singer-songwriter and composer for the theater. The composer of music for more than seven plays, one of Dossett’s works, Bloody Blackbeard, will be performed here at the Perseverance Theatre this weekend by the Student Theatre Arts Rendezvous (STAR) program.

The play, about the story and legend of the pirate Blackbeard, who sailed and eventually died off the North Carolina coast, was written by Preston Lane in 2009 for the Triad Stage in Greensboro, N.C. The story concerns itself with the eponymous pirate, whose true origins are murkier than the waters he sailed.

“The theme song is “Remember my Name” and it’s ironic because of course we remember the name Bloody Blackbeard but we’ll never know his real name,” Dossett said. The pirate died in battle off the coast of North Carolina in 1718, but his birthplace and date are unknown. “He really was actively creating his own legend and we actually really don’t know who he was. People say it was Edward Teach but they don’t really know that,” Dossett said.

When she was first approached about composing music for what would become Bloody Blackbeard, she thought that Blackbeard was a myth like Paul Bunyan.

“I know more about pirates than I ever wanted to know,” she laughed. She recalls citing such sources as history books and the Pirate Dictionary in her quest for authenticity and accuracy in the often complicated nautical jargon as she wrote such songs as “Remember my Name” and “Beat to Quarters.”

While in town to help with the theater’s Alaska premiere production of Bloody Blackbeard, Dossett will also hold a songwriting workshop and several shows in Juneau this week and weekend. The workshop is free, and will be at 6 p.m. at the Douglas Library on Wednesday, July 17.

There are a number of differences between writing for music and for songs attached to a play, says the veteran singer-songwriter/composer.

“When you’re writing for a story, for a play in particular, it’s like, I need a song right here. And it needs to connect that scene to this scene. And it needs to sounds like it was written in 1843,” Dossett said. “And this one needs to be upbeat because this is the effect we want it to have, or this one needs to be melancholy, or this one needs to be whatever. The song has all these jobs and and it has to do all of them.”

Still, Dossett says that looking at the song analytically, answering questions like “what is this song for” before she begins writing, has streamlined the rest of her songwriting process.

“It’s a fun puzzle. If you just wanted to write about, you know, whatever bird you saw today, that’s fine. But it’s a real challenge. And it’s gone on to inform my other songwriting, so that every time I write a song, I’m like, why am I writing this,” Dossett said.

There’s still plenty of room for expression, though. Dossett said that even if she’s writing a song to fill a specific requirement, there’s a way to give it her own flair and personality.

“I’ll still end up saying something about my own life or something that I identify with with a character that ends up coming out in a song, but it’s from someone else’s point of view,” Dossett said. “I’ve been able to tell all kinds of secrets about myself that noone will ever know.”


For those interested in learning more about the songwriting process, or to simply enjoy listening to Dossett play, there are several opportunities this weekend. She’ll be playing music from the theatre on Thursday, July 18 at Centennial Hall at 7.30 p.m., admission fee of $20. And she’ll play an acoustic folk/country set reflecting her North Carolina background at McGivney’s Sports Bar and Grill in the Valley on July 20 from 10 p.m.-midnight.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 523-2271.

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