The Department of Theatre is closing this semester with one of Shakespeare’s most well-known works, “The Tempest.”
“The Tempest” tells the story of Prospero, the former Duke of Milan who was betrayed by his brother and left stranded on an island with his daughter, Miranda. Twelve years later, Prospero conjures a storm to bring those who betrayed him to his island and change their lives forever.
With a work that is centuries old, what do audiences have to look forward to in this production that makes it different from any other?
One example is the casting. Kristopher Kuss, a third-year Master of Fine Arts (MFA) student in directing, wanted to cast the parts not based solely on how the actors performed each individual role, but also the chemistry they had with the other actors.
“With a work like this, it’s a good chance to reimagine the casting,” Kuss said. “I wanted to look at each actor’s potential for growth.”
Parker Singletary, a senior Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) student, said this was his first Shakespearean play to act in.
“I really had to work hard on my chemistry with the other actors I had a lot of my scenes with,” Singletary said. “We really feed off of each other’s energy. If one of us isn’t feeling it, you can really tell in the way we perform.” Singletary plays the part of Stephano, the drunk butler.
Derrick Phillips, a third-year MFA student in acting, plays the protagonist Prospero. Phillips is able to add a new angle to the character because he, like Prospero, has a daughter that he loves very much.
“A lot of what Prospero does is for his daughter,” Phillips said. “He doesn’t want her stuck on this island for the rest of her life, and I really understand where he is coming from and why he wants the best for his children. Prospero really is a father first.”
Another thing that sets this production apart is all of the unique technical aspects to it. Kuss has worked with his design and technical crew to set “The Tempest” in a world that does not even seem to be real.
“I didn’t want the music or costumes to be set in any specific time or place,” Kuss said. “When I imagined this play, I imagine it to be in a place just otherworldly.”
Kuss was even able to collaborate with the Department of Dance to feature some aerial dance work in the play. The dancers appear to be weightless as they move about the stage, almost mesmerizing the audience so they forget where they are.
Kuss and Phillips have poured a lot of energy into this production as it will be their last one at USM.
“I’ve always seen ‘The Tempest’ as Shakespeare’s love letter to the stage, and that’s one of the reasons we wanted to do it as our final production,” Kuss said. “We both came on together for ‘King Lear,’ so it only seemed fitting we would end with Shakespeare as well.”
“The Tempest” will continue to run April 22-27. The play begins at 7:30 p.m., except on April 27, when the play begins at 2 p.m. with a pre-show talk at 1:30.