With its annual show, King's Crown Shakespeare Troupe is turning campus into the island setting of William Shakespeare's “The Tempest.”
The group is presenting “The Tempest,” which is known as much for its characters—the magician Prospero and the air spirit Ariel who does his bidding—as for the enchantment they lend to the story, which, at its core, is about betrayal and coming to terms with mortality.
More than telling the Bard's tale, this production will take these traditions a step further by incorporating a choose-your-own-adventure, split path element, envisioned by the show's director Alex Katz, CC '14. Audience members will have the option of following the spirits of the island or the shipwrecked court around campus during the course of the performance.
The split path serves to immerse audience members in the ethereal island world of “The Tempest.”
“He [Katz] really wanted to do this version of The Tempest' where we were really stressing the participation of the audience in the show, so it's more of an interactive experience—which is awesome for spring show because it's all outside, and you can really do that,” David Gassett, GS '15, who plays Prospero, said. “I really wanted to see what that would be like if you were opening up the boundaries of theater to make the creative space not just the actors on the stage, or the directors and producers and people behind the curtain, but the whole audience, too. It's a very cool concept.”
The split is especially important in the case of Ariel, portrayed by Jaq King, CC '17. Katz divided the role so that it could be shared by two actors. Based on the varying descriptions of the mischievous spirit's traits throughout Shakespeare's text, he created Ariel's double, Umbriel, played by Raquel Chavez, CC '14.
“We kind of divided the show into east and west, which is the court and then the spirit world, and the spirit world takes on the fools, if you will, of Trinculo and Stephano and Caliban and that's the track that I focus on,” King said. “But we have our initial scene, and then we split for a lot of the main plot. But when it comes back together at the end, we have the great big ceremonies, and kind of the climax of the show is with Raquel. Ariel and Umbriel reunite, making everything happen, and you see how it all plays together.”
Despite the choose-your-own-adventure element, what drives “The Tempest” is the often-fraught emotions and motivations of its characters. While King, who is making her Columbia theater debut, found it difficult to determine how Ariel would interact with and relate to the world around him, Gassett contended with Prospero's power-hungry hostility and Devin Lloyd, CC '15, with Miranda's innocence and her subservience to her father.
“My character has been challenging because it's challenging as a feminist, as cheesy as that sounds,” Lloyd said. “It's been a hard thing for me to grapple with. And her relationship with Prospero is very weird. She calls him Sir,' and he's very dominant of her. I think it's been really cool to find all the moments in the script where she stands up for herself.”
The play will also feature original musical compositions by Jessica Kleinbart, SEAS '14, to bring to life the songs in Shakespeare's text.
Kleinbart's compositions, like the adventure component, will enhance the play's dreamlike atmosphere, since music is an organic aspect of the plot to begin with.
“You're going to have huge groups of people singing songs that you've never heard before on this island where Caliban talks about how he hears these songs in his head, vials full of voices, and you're literally going to be experiencing that,” said Lena Rogow, CC '14 and the show's co-producer with Amelia Lembeck, BC '14. “That's going to be pretty incredible.”
“It's been a really great process. It's been very magical,” Lembeck said. “There's been a little bit more fear, but there's a lot more magic.”
KCST will perform “The Tempest” on campus from May 1 to 3, starting by the sundial at 8 p.m. on May 1 and 3 and 11:59 p.m. on May 2. Admission is free.