Pictured: Drew Foster plays Caliban in SCT’s latest production, “The Tempest.” (Photo: Geisel)/
SCT’s annual Shakespeare summer production opens this weekend
A tempest is, according to both definition and legend, emblematic of a storm, typically one at sea. But it can also describe the emotions raging inside a man in turmoil, thus William Shakespeare’s story of Prospero, who wrestles with his inner and outer tempests.
For this year’s Shakespeare in the Woods presentation, Sierra Classic Theatre presents “The Tempest” with an emphasis both on the characters and their rather complicated traits and foibles, and (naturally) the humor found therein. The play opens this Friday, July 20, and plays for two weekends, Friday through Sunday, at 6 p.m. nightly.
“Tempest” is directed by Lesley Bruns, one of SCT’s original founders, who also recently did “Lysistrata.”
As Bruns joked, “The theme for the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics is ‘The Tempest,’ and it will be direceted by Danny Boyle, who did ‘Slumdog Millionaire.’ Rumor has it he’s been snooping around our rehearsals the past few mlonths looking for ideas.”
Producer and SCT Board Director Allison McDonell Page, who directed the first two Shakespeare in the Woods shows, is helping with everything from marketing and advertising to programs to making sure dumpsters and port-a-potties are in place, serving essentially as Bruns’ right hand.
While last year’s “Twelfth Night” was set in the Old West, this year’s production is set in the Caribbean! “Tempest” takes place on an island, where Prospero and his daughter, Miranda, are castaways from a shipwreck.
“Mammoth is something of an island itself, so we can relate to that,” said Page.
Miranda, who has only ever known her father, eventually meets the island’s only other denizen, Caliban, whom she falls in love with.
Prospero, however, who has the ability to conjure up tempests, uses one to being Prospero’s usurping brother Antonio and the complicit Alonso, the King of Naples, to the island, and Alonso’s eligible son Ferdinand.
Shakespeare called it a drama, but it’s humorous in parts, leading Page to refer to it as a dramedy. “If we run out of Shakespeare, then I guess we’ll go to Oscar Wilde, but we want to keep [the shows] light and funny and entertaining,” Page quipped.
Bruns, she added, has a great sense of comedy, and is also adept at bringing out the characters. “It will be funny and the relationships should be real,” Page noted. “It’s a deceptively complex emotional piece, and there are some strong messages and big lessons. There are some big changes with some of the characters. You’ll be laughing, but I think you’ll also find it’s very moving.”
The cast includes Kenji Kawaguchi (“Little Shop of Horrors”), who plays the title role of Prospero, and Stacy Corless, former SCT Board Member, who returns to the stage as Miranda. Alice Suszynski is completely disarming as the sprite, Arial, a Voodoo Priestess who casts spells for Prospero. Jimbo Marcotte is finely fitting as a fetching Ferdinand. Scottie Marzonie is a menacing Alonso, Drew Foster is a delightfully dreadlocked Caliban, Todd Roberts makes his SCT debut as Sebastian and Kris McDaniel is Antonia.
Rounding out the cast: Marlene Piper (Gonzala), Jarrett Smith and Jill Orozco as Stephana and Trincula, Sally Gessford is the Boatswain and Juno, Billy McDaniel, Charity McDaniel and Savannah Orozco make spirited Spirits, and all are accompanied by Gessford on Caribbean recorder.
Look for wacky accents, Calypso musical numbers, reggae references and even a bit of “Laverne & Shirley.”
When asked how the wrecked ship somehow got magically restored by the end of the play, Bruns deadpanned, “Well, I sold them a good policy.”
In her non-theatrical life, Bruns works as an agent for Brett Walters Insurance.
“People will find the magic in the play … magic and storms!” exclaims Page. It was the rainstorms last summer that led Page and Bruns to consider doing “Tempest” as the next show.
Three times, she added, is the charm, and perhaps given its popularity, Page indicated this could be the show’s time to evolve. “It’s been growing and this year the advance questions … what show are we doing, when is it happening … have been the biggest ever.”
As a bonus, Page pointed out that Bleu Handcrafted Foods is planning special picnic baskets, prepared just for audiences of the show. (Call ahead and reserve one for your night.)
Chairs are provided at the site, but patrons can also bring blankets or their own comfy festival or lawn chairs. The show is suitable for all audiences and is free, but if you really want to help SCT continue to produce shows, a $10 donation would make them very appreciative. “People have been VERY generous, and we are so pleased to see this is something we can do to give back to our community. It’s an awesome event that doesn’t cost a lot.”
With it being on the for sale market, not to mention sharing valuable space with the still burgeoning Bluesapalooza and Festival of Beers, how many more years will they be able to hold the show at the Woodsite? “After this one, we might have to find another venue,” Page responded.
She’s seriously considering a partnership with Mammoth Lakes Repertory Company and its Director, Shira Dubrovner, and the Mammoth Lakes Foundation. The current show could morph into a full Shakespeare festival, which Page said she would jump at in a second. There are some issues to be worked out, but the vision is having it as part of an indoor and outdoor festival, with sword fighting lessons and kids’ camps, and a variety of other Shakespeare-related offerings.