Story Pirates is a theatrical company that invites students from around the world to submit original stories. The group travels the country bringing these stories to life onstage.
Lee Overtree and some friends came up with the idea for Story Pirates while they were in college. At Northwestern University, in Illinois, they heard about Griffin’s Tale. That’s a theater company that turns stories by elementary school students into sketches. “I was so inspired by the writing that kids do and the process of turning it into pieces of theater,” Overtree told TIME for Kids.
Story Pirates also hosts a podcast that uses kids’ submissions as a basis for songs and sketch comedy. “Now, the podcast is the reason why most people know who we are,” Overtree says.
Thousands of kids submit stories each year. “We’re not looking for the ‘best’ stories or the ones that we think listeners will even like the most,” Overtree says. “We’re looking for stories that inspire us as creative artists.”
Story Pirates responds to each submission. If a kid’s story is selected, Overtree interviews its author to find out more about the story. Then the group hires voice actors—sometimes, even celebrities. Once, actor David Schwimmer played a parrot in a podcast episode. Overtree says Schwimmer watched videos of parrots on YouTube so he could get the sound just right. “I was so impressed with the amount of attention and craft he put into the role,” Overtree says.
Overtree has some advice for kids who want to submit stories to the Story Pirates podcast. “There are no limits to your imagination,” he says. “You could write the silliest, wildest, weirdest, funniest, things that can pop into your mind. Don’t put any limits on yourself.”