‘The Tempest’ to hit campus this weekend

There’s a storm about to hit the ’62 Center this weekend, and it’s not surrounding Afroman, Girl Talk, or any contemporary celebrity, but a dead guy – William Shakespeare, that is – and the storm is his final play, The Tempest. Produced by Cap & Bells and co-directed by Lydia Barnett-Mulligan ’10 and Liza Curtiss ’10, the production will show on Saturday and Sunday night with a preview performance on Saturday afternoon.

“It’s one of my favorite plays and I’ve seen lots of productions of it, but never one I really loved and thought was mind-blowing,” Barnett-Mulligan said. “This is our humble attempt to make a production that is exciting and beautiful of this play that I’ve never really seen done justice.”

Co-director Curtiss was recruited by Barnett-Mulligan due to her shared love for the bard. “I’ve directed some before but not a lot, and I love Shakespeare and haven’t done it in awhile, and this school doesn’t really do a lot of Shakespeare,” Curtiss said. “There’s a push more towards modern stuff, and I think that has to do with a lack of formal training that this school offers, at least as I see it. There’s not a lot of voice work, there’s not a lot of movement classes and there’s definitely no fight choreography, all of which is very, very crucial for Shakespeare.”

In particular, The Tempest stands out from among Shakespeare’s other works due to its multi-faceted nature as not simply a one-dimensional standard of a genre, but an amalgam of many different styles – a “kind of a greatest hits of Shakespeare,” Barnett-Mulligan said. “This play provides a really good vehicle for the actors that are at Williams right now because it’s a great ensemble piece. It has a lot of really interesting, meaty roles and different kinds of roles – clowns and lovers and villains and monsters and magic,” she said. “It really touches on all of the genres that he wrote during his life, so it feels like a good first one to direct because it sort of lets me take a whack at all the different styles melded into one. Plus, it’s just a great story.”

The Tempest tells the tale of unjustly banished sorcerer Prospero (Alex Kopynec ’09) and his daughter Miranda (Hannah Smith-Drelich ’10), who are forced to live on a deserted island due to the machinations of Prospero’s conniving brother Antonio (Andrew Dominitz ’11). To avenge his wrongful exile, Prospero conjures a storm that causes Antonio to shipwreck on the very same island, along with a host of other characters both good and evil. The ensuing love that develops between Miranda and co-conspirator Alonso’s (Adam Stoner ’11) son Ferdinand (Ben Kaplan ’11) and antics of the other stranded passengers on the enchanted island tell a supernatural story part comedy and part romance.

The performance space of the CenterStage also gives a fresh perspective to the island the characters inhabit by using the theater itself as inspiration. “It’s a very kind of man-made, somewhat harsh, steel and brick environment, whereas The Tempest is this sort of beautiful outdoor experience,” Barnett-Mulligan said. “The way we’re seeing it is that there’s ruins of past civilizations on the island, and that’s reflected by the fact that instead of living in a cave in the rocks, Prospero’s cell is a room upstairs in this ruined factory or castle or abandoned civilization. On the stage there’s washed up all these memories of past civilizations and nautical-trash-type things, because just as the characters wash up on the beach, there’s also all these material objects that wash up on the beach.”

The production doesn’t completely abandon the ethereal, supernatural aspect of Shakespeare’s work, by casting five actresses as spirits of the island: Caroline Chiappetti ’11, Amanda Keating ’11, Tess McHugh ’11, Marissa Pilger ’11 and Chandler Sherman ’11. “These earthy creatures weave themselves in between these really hard steel structures because we don’t want to fight against the architecture of the building, and it just ended up looking like a really cool juxtaposition of what the play is about,” Curtiss explained. “It’s like the modern world crashing into this natural, crazy, animalistic place, so I think the space actually works really well for that.”

For Kopynec, the production’s unconventional rehearsal process presented a unique opportunity to familiarize themselves with Shakespeare and their characters in a more intimate way. “We’ve been committed to this play for half a year at this point – we got cast in December,” Kopynec pointed out. “In Winter Study while everybody had a lot of free time we had pretty low key rehearsals that were just working with the text, going through and doing dictionary work – so that was a huge part of the rehearsal process and really helpful for me to get into my character’s head. It was good to just have a month devoted to that and to put the play aside while our directors were involved with another show and then come back to it to actually do rehearsals, to get up and move around and start talking and acting with that ownership of the text.”

Joe Lorenz ’10, who plays the island’s monster and Prospero’s slave Caliban, agreed that working on the show over such a long period of time was to everyone’s benefit. At the directors’ request, rehearsals started “off book,” meaning the actors already had all of their lines completely memorized and no longer needed to use scripts. “It just made rehearsal a lot more productive and allowed for, I think, a lot more exploration in these last few weeks,” Lorenz said. “I don’t have to worry about silly things like holding my script, especially because my character has a lot of like complicated movement and stuff – it’s just really opened up a lot of doors in terms of exploration for this past month.”

In addition to entertainment and aesthetic value, The Tempest also holds deeper philosophical themes concerning the unknown and self-discovery. “Prospero is a father, and he was a duke, and he is a scholar and through the play those titles get stripped away from the characters because they’re removed from the context of their normal lives and placed in this neutral, new space which is the island,” Barnett-Mulligan said. “It’s kind of about finding identity without your identifying characteristics – who are you at the very core after you lose your titles.”

“It’s very much about personal choices and what people do when they’re placed in this environment where they’re not bound by their titles and they’re not bound by the consequences that they would suffer for their actions in their home setting, and what people do in that setting is very revealing,” Kopynec said.

The production also features performances from David Brett ’11, Carrie Clark ’10, Jordan Dallas ’11, Nick Herzik ’10, Kaveh Landsverk ’09, Evan Maltby ’11 and Sidhant Mehra ’10.