By Lauren Jurgemeyer
Assistant Web Content Manager
The Tempest is a whimsical experience that awakens and invigorates the senses. Directed by Bruce Turk, the show runs Feb. 12-17 in the Patti Strickel Harrison Theatre.
The Tempest is a siren’s call. The production lures the viewer in and creates a magical air that enchants and excites. With originally composed music by Laura Brackney and an all-female cast, Texas States’ production is thrilling and allows for aggregation of talent throughout the cast and crew.
Written in the early 17th century, Shakespeare’s classic centers around a usurped duke, Prospero, who has been exiled to an island; there, he lives with his daughter, Miranda, with the company of an airy spirit, Ariel and an enslaved Caliban. The show opens with a great tempest, the work of Prospero’s magic, that shipwrecks Prospero’s foes.
In the time of Shakespeare, female performers were unheard of–if fact, it was illegal; men played the female and male roles. Turk challenges this tradition by casting women and those who identify as such. The Tempest is traditionally a male-heavy show, and even though women now fill those roles–the characters become present without gender biases.
Rachel Webb, whom you may have heard in a live, on-air interview with KTSW this past Friday, is proud of the gendered decision.
“There’s something powerful about a group of women sharing the stage while each standing in their own light,” Webb said.
All the actresses are brilliant. In particular, actresses that I have seen in multiple Texas State productions aptly demonstrate their great acting ranges. Jessica Healey, who played Abigail in the Crucible, now graces the stage as the young prince Ferdinand. Healey’s chemistry with her counterpart Amber Mawnde-Spytek (who plays Ferdinand’s love interest Miranda) will cause the audience to fawn over the genuine portrayal of their romance.
Elizabeth Rees, who I have seen in the Crucible and the Rivals, plays Prospero. Rees delivers a wonderful performance as the ruling body on the island, commanding the spirits and elements with a bewitching hand. Webb, who plays the wind spirit of Ariel, delivers a memorable performance alongside Rees. Both actresses drive the fascination in the show with the assistance of the technical aspects of the production.
I would be remiss not to mention Payton Mayfield (who plays Stephano), Lydia Landrum (who plays Trinculo) and Daniella Treviño (who plays Caliban) whose characters offer an abundance of comic relief throughout the first and second act. The actresses physical characterization of their roles only demonstrates the range and commitment of these actresses.
The technical aspects create an ethereal atmosphere. Carlos Nine, the lighting designer, artfully crafted the different semblances to reflect the nature of the scene. Nine efficiently created a great tempest on stage using different lights, aided by the projections designed by Max Wallace. Nine was also able to visually depict “sorcery” using different hues. The set, designed by Cheri Devol, gives the essence of the shore– rocky patches in sandy tones, platforms that resemble nautical elements and other immersive elements. Stacey Herrison, the costume designer, centered her designs around 1918 period clothing.
“I dedicate myself to understanding each character’s individual psychology and personality so that they can really come to life on stage,” Herrison said. “I feel like a vessel for these characters to essentially dress themselves.”
Shakespeare is timeless and translates to the modern stage effortlessly. The elevated language is easily understood because it is evident that the actors clearly understand what it is that they are saying. The reason Shakespeare’s works stay relevant is that the stories he told are stories that reflect issues and themes that are still seen in today’s society. Healey said, “Shakespeare’s stories are our stories, they are just told in poetry! It is the human experience we all know and love, just communicated through literary artistry.”
Tickets are available online, by phone at (512) 245-6500 and at the box office an hour prior to the show.
Featured image by Lauren Jurgemeyer.