For Director Susannah Clark ’17, the choice to produce “The Tempest” was simple.
“There’s so many student-written plays,” she said. “Shakespeare just doesn’t get done very often here.”
Clark broke the stereotypical mold of Wesleyan esotericism in assembling a classic work from the bard, but the work was not totally true to its original form. This production gender-bended traditional male roles to play with power and gender dynamics.
“The Tempest” ran from Thursday, Oct. 13 through Saturday, Oct. 15 in the ’92 Theater. Stage managers Pryor Krugman ’20 and Annie Ning ’20 ensured that the show ran smoothly.
A veteran of Second Stage, Clark relies on the ability to play around with new ideas.
“Our director Susannah has such strong vision while at the same time giving her actors and designers plenty of space to create,” said Maggie Rothberg ’20, an actress in the play.
This freedom led to some stunning theatrical moments on stage.
“There is no universe in which I know more about acting than my actors,” Clark said. “No universe in which I know more about lighting than my lighting designer.”
Her trust in her cast and crew is well warranted, as the acting and technical aspects of “The Tempest” truly delivered.
The lighting and sound brought new flare to the old play. The lighting, exquisitely designed by Philip Heilbron ’18, created a mystical world that propelled the story forward. Strings of lights hung from the ceiling and lit up sporadically to highlight the magical nature of the setting. The relatively simple set, designed by Eli McClintock-Shapiro ’17, enabled the scenes to smoothly change with just a switch in the light’s hue. In conjunction with Heilbron’s lighting, the show’s sound by Griffin Deary ’17 created the chaos of the opening, violent storm.
During the dizzying storm, we see eight mariners as their ship begins to wreck on a nearby island. As it turns out, the island’s ruler Prospero, played by Edward Archibald ’17, orchestrated the tempest to enact revenge on Alonso and Antonio (Noah Miller-Medzon ’19 and Alex O’Shea ’19), who conspired to kill Prospero in Milan years earlier. Archibald’s presence is forceful, and he expertly displays Prospero’s harsh demeanor in words, but gentle nature in action.
Ariel (Liam Tran ’17), Prospero’s servant, does his magical bidding, tormenting and helping the wrecked crew. Tran’s performance was dynamic, and his appearance is otherworldly. Costume designer Lila Levinson ’18 and makeup artist Jordan Roe ’19 make a formidable team in creating the image of all the magical beings on the island, including that of Tran. Around the fairies’ arms were strings of lights that indicated their magical statuses. Near the end of the show, in maybe the most heartfelt moment, the lights strung on Tran’s forearm turned off when he was freed from the curse Prospero had cast on him, perhaps indicating that his spectacular identity also enslaves him.
Nate Ko ’18 masterfully portrayed Prospero’s other servant, Caliban. Ko brought athleticism to the role, leaping about the stage and even climbing up the side of the theater wall. Although Caliban is traditionally the monster of the play, sympathizing with Ko’s character was easy, especially when he beholds the raucous, drunken, and hilarious Stephano and Trinculo (Connie Des Marias ’17 and Jess Cummings ’17) as his gods.
On the other side of the island, Antonio and Sebastian (Rothberg) entertain with sardonic comedy to balance the virtue of Gonzalo (Iris Ridley ’20) and Alonso. The convincing, conniving relationship and hilarious antics of duo O’Shea and Rothberg make the rehearsal process evident.
“She fosters an almost childlike sense of play and exploration in the rehearsal room that really allows you to work without inhibition,” Rothberg said of Clark’s skillful directing.
Finally, the highlight of the show was the love story between Ferdinand and Miranda (Prospero’s daughter) played by Jack Warren ’20 and Ruby Fludzinski ’20, respectively. Warren and Fludzinski each portray innocence quite convincingly. Although Warren’s character is the third human she’s ever seen, Fludzinski’s endearing attachment to them is genuine. And Warren’s earnest willingness to please Prospero evidences their character’s love for Miranda. Together Warren and Fludzinski have chemistry on stage that is bound to make the audience smile.
In the final moments of the play, the entire crew is reunited, including the captain of the sunken vessel (Henry Lombino ’18), and Prospero’s murderers are forgiven. But before the show can end, Archibald delivers one last compelling monologue as Prospero, in which he repents for his wrongdoing. Not only was this a powerful note to end the play on, but it was a powerful conclusion to Clark’s Shakespearian endeavor with Second Stage.
Whether this was Clark’s final involvement with Second Stage remains unclear for her. It is certain, however, that the three-time Second Stage director left her mark on the theater community at Wesleyan. Much of the cast was new to Wesleyan theater, but after “The Tempest,” they made it clear this would not be their last show.