Santa Maria Sun / Art
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 51
Chase the stormPCPA Theaterfest goes deep into the heart of William Shakespeare's The Tempest, exploring magic, power, and love
BY JOE PAYNE
Powerful forces are building at the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts, swirling together into a potent hail of visual, aural, and emotional might. In the chaos of the storm that is William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a light breaks, illuminating the truth of matters as deep as the ocean itself, truths that are further examined and polished by the masters at PCPA Theaterfest.
The Tempest was originally inspired by a shipwreck in the Bahamas in the early 1600s. That’s where Shakespeare set the play, which features Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, who was ejected from his kingdom by a conspiring brother, Antonio, to a remote island where he’s been long forgotten by Alonso, King of Naples, who acquired Prospero’s territory after his disappearance.
PCPA brilliantly decided to set the story in the early 1900s on the island of Socotra off the Yemen peninsula. The decision, made by Director Patricia M. Troxel, provides a stunning setting for the play.
“It’s a magical place, if ever one existed!” Troxel stated in a press release. “The colors, flora, and cultural traditions shape many of this production’s visual and audial elements.”
The Marian Theatre—a main stage for PCPA—is currently closed for renovations, so this play is performed in the next-door Severson Theatre. The Severson, though smaller, seats the audience on all four sides of the room, which contributes to the cerebral nature of the play, with the audience looking in on—and often welcomed into—the action.
Prospero (depicted poignantly by Andrew Philpot) opens the show by conjuring the storm that gives the play its name and grounds the ship that contains his brother and the King of Naples, as well as the king’s son and others. The story quickly diverges into several different strands as we get introduced to more characters.
Magic is a huge theme in The Tempest, with the onus on the power it affords and how it’s used. Prospero is aided by the sprightly spirit Ariel, played by an energetic Karin Hendricks, whom he holds power over, swearing that he will free her if she helps him confront those who betrayed him.
Ariel and her pack of island spirits are the living, breathing magic of the island. The conjurous chants of these characters have been set to music by PCPA resident sound designer Elisabeth Rebel, which makes the moments more potent. Rebel utilized Middle Eastern chant styles and instruments to add an aural element to the magical realism of the play.
The costume design by Frederick P. Deeben conjures the feeling of a very near past with a mysterious timelessness of ancient culture. The shipwrecked mariners are clad in crisp uniforms indicative of the colonial era of the late 1800s and early 1900s, which serve as a foil to the magical cloak worn by Prospero, which appears to be a fishing net bogged down with seaweed and shells.
PCPA’s myriad resident, guest, and student actors have a profound handle on the complicated language of Shakespeare, often clarifying the prose with simple body language. It’s easy to get lost in the dense dialogue and monologues of Shakespeare, but PCPA’s actors seem quite comfortable, even on opening night, with the nuances of the Bard’s language.
The combination of all these elements—the masterful acting, sound design, lighting, set design, and costumes—makes for a powerful experience. Even though these words were penned centuries ago, they ring through with a crackling energy, reminding us in the modern era of the fundamental truths of art, language, and love.
Arts Editor Joe Payne believes in the magic of live theater. Contact him at email@example.com.