The new theater at the Weitz Center for Creativity was inaugurated in spectacular fashion last weekend as the Carleton Players presented William Shakespeare’s romantic play, “The Tempest.”
The production, which included 32 actors and around 70 Carleton students in total, was a successful beginning, with all showings selling out well in advance. There were three evening performances (Oct. 27-Oct. 29) and one matinee performance (Oct. 30).
The Players’ Production, which took about six weeks to create, featured the talents of guest director Ed Berkeley ’65, a faculty member at the Juilliard School in New York City. Berkeley has directed a number of successful productions of plays by Shakespeare and other writers.
In an interview before the first performance, Berkeley said he was contacted over a year ago about the possibility of directing the Weitz Center’s first production and immediately accepted. He said the new theater seems to be audience-friendly and have good acoustics.
“For years, everyone will be discovering this theater — and its remarkable equipment — which offers challenges that should stimulate students’ imagination,” Berkeley said. “The Weitz Center’s bringing theater, dance and CAMS into one building will encourage exciting collaborations among the arts.”
The players did have to face some of the drawbacks of working in a new space.
Josh Davids ’15, who played the role of Ferdinand, recalled that lights and other accessories needed to be unpacked and set up, and during the technical preparations for the play, “things often had to proceed slowly.”
However, Davids said that the director and technical staff were able to unleash their creativity on the new theater.
“The flexibility of the configuration of the new space allows so many possibilities,” he said
Berkeley said “The Tempest” was chosen as the inaugural production after he signed on as director, largely because it was new to Carleton, but also in recognition of the impending 400th anniversary of its debut. The first known performance of “The Tempest” took place on Oct. 31, 1611.
“The play’s theme of renewal, of looking into the future, was very appealing,” Berkeley said.
“The Tempest,” believed to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone, takes place on a remote island. It is centered around the character of Prospero (Daniel Peck ’13), the rightful duke exiled by his scheming brother Antonio (Chris Densmore ’13) 15 years earlier, who has studied the magical arts and seeks to restore himself and his daughter Miranda (Caitlin Unumb ’12) to their rightful place. The play begins as Prospero summons the titular tempest; it wrecks a ship containing Antonio, his crony, King Alonso (Patrick Stephen ’15) and numerous other characters on the shore of the island.
After this first scene, the play splits into three plot threads. Miranda encounters Alonso’s son Ferdinand (Davids) and the two immediately fall in love.
Meanwhile, Prospero’s resentful servant Caliban (Connor Lane ’13) encounters two members of the shipwrecked party, Stephano (Brady Soglin ’15) and Trinculo (Alec Scott ’14). Caliban is duped into worshiping Stephano as a god and enlists the pair in a plot to murder Prospero.
In the third plot line, the bulk of the shipwrecked party wanders the island, and Antonio plots with Alonso’s brother Sebastian (Max Henkel ’14) to murder Alonso and steal his crown, only for their plot to be foiled by Prospero’s spirit helper Ariel (Chelsea Lau ’12). Other prominent members of Alonso’s entourage include Adrian (Freddy Stein ’14), Francisco (Simon Lansberg ’14) , Gonzalo (Ben Stroup ’14) and lord (Soren Hopkins ‘15).
As the play progresses, the other characters are drawn increasingly closer to Prospero and are caught up in sorcery. In the climax of the play, Stephano and Trinculo are tricked, and Caliban realizes his mistake in worshipping Stephano and begs Prospero’s forgiveness. After the shipwrecked party is brought before him, Prospero forgives his enemies and reveals the engagement of Miranda and Ferdinand; Prospero’s title of duke is restored to him, and the wrecked ship is revealed to be in fine working order for the group’s impending return home.
In the epilogue, Prospero tells the audience that he has renounced magic and asks them to set him free from the island with their applause.
“The Tempest” contains several musical portions including a lengthy scene in Act 3, during which Ariel assembles a host of magical beings to celebrate the marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda. Magic plays a prominent role, with the character of Ariel confounding Prospero’s enemies with spells.
Davids, who was excited at the opportunity to be in the Weitz Center’s first production, said that he was drawn to the character of Ferdinand and his “emotional journey” after the apparent death of his father and his encounter with Miranda and Prospero.
“He has a kind of innocence and vulnerability that I really connected with, and that I think the audience can connect with as well,” Davids said.
In a similar vein, Unumb said that her character, Miranda, goes through a period of adolescent growth over the course of the play.
“I thought it would be a fun challenge to try and portray that teenage angst on stage,” Unumb said.
While Unumb said her best memories of the production came from rehearsal — specifically in preparing the scene in which Miranda and Ferdinand declare their love for each other — Davids said that actually performing the show was his most memorable experience.
“Rehearsals are a lot of fun, but during a performance the entire cast is working and hanging out together, and giving everything possible to provide an audience with a good show,” Davids said.
For his part, Berkeley described his experience with “The Tempest” as “a great and trying time.”
“The cast understands the play’s subject and can talk about these issues,” Berkeley said. “Finding the ways to act issues with humanity and passion is the work of rehearsal, and it has been great fun finding solutions with the cast.”