Sitting in my seat, waiting for the lights to dim queuing the start of the show, I didn’t know what to expect. Performing Shakespeare can either go fabulously well or just horribly wrong.
I have been to many a play where they completely disconnect the audience and fail to capture the art of Shakespeare’s words. Yet, our very own theatre department’s performance of “The Tempest” was nothing of the latter. For the full two hours, they brought the magic, comedy, and deep emotions of Shakespeare’s play to life. Their performance was nothing less of spectacular.
“The Tempest,” tells the tale of Prospero, the Duke of Milan who was usurped by his brother and friends and left to die on a raft at sea.
Prospero and his daughter, Miranda, survive thanks to Prospero’s magical powers and now live on an island where they have been for the past twelve years. However, Prospero is full of anger and seeks revenge for his betrayal.
When he learns that a royal party, consisting of those who betrayed him, is sailing near the island, he purposely creates a storm that shipwrecks the passengers on the island and begins his journey of revenge.
Yet, along the way, Miranda falls in love with Ferdinand, Prince of Naples, and Prospero begins to view life from a different perspective, learning love and forgiveness.
Eventually, Prospero reveals himself to the royal party, forgives those who betrayed him and sets himself and the Spirits free.
Director Stephanie Daventry French said she chose “The Tempest” because Shakespeare was not read or performed very often anymore.
“The journey that the Spirits take is very different from other plays and that is what makes ‘The Tempest’ so unique,” French said. “When I read the script, the natural sounds of the island in the descriptions lived in me and that became how I wanted to create the play.”
The performance took on a little twist from the original script heavily incorporating visual design through projections and lighting done by Christopher Domanski and Kevin Hsiao.
With a simple set, the visuals really added something extra and helped tell the story. Shadows of the Spirits were utilized in the background to reflect the emotions being expressed in the dialogue.
Music and dance were also incorporated, particularly with Spirit Ariel, played by Senior Rashiek J. Lauren, who manipulated various members of the shipwrecked royal party through angelic song and dance.
There was also a great dance scene at the end of the play performed by the Spirits to represent them being set free.
While Prospero is a male, French said she decided to be ‘gender-blind’ in the casting of this play. Thus, Prospero became Prospera, performed by Senior Sarah Thatcher.
A few other characters were changed from males to females and even a few female members of the cast played male parts. Sophomore Emily McDermott played the comedic character Stephano, a drunken butler.
“I was very freaked out about it [playing a man]. I felt like I had to represent the male species, but I let it relax and it added to the comedy of it” McDermott said. “It’s a role I have never played before so I think being a man helped as I could completely turn into a different person.”
While the actors still spoke in traditional Shakespearean language, their expressions, emotions, and actions helped tell the story and made up for any confusion over the dialogue that was there.
McDermott said, “it’s kind of cool [speaking Shakespearean] as not many people are doing Shakespeare anymore because they don’t understand the language. We get to bring that to them.”
There were moments that the characters addressed the audience, making them feel involved. The actors even walked through the crowd and used the aisles to act in, interacting with their audience.
Many Shakespearean plays lose their audience when performed in today’s society, however, the cast and crew did an excellent job at finding ways to keep the audience engaged and full of laughter and anticipation.
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