Weber State University’s theatre department is preparing to transport audience members to a deserted island in the upcoming production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
“The Tempest” follows Prospero, the sorcerer and former duke of Milan, as he plots his revenge against the nobles that overthrew him and banished him to a desolate isle.
“The plot involves power struggles, magic, revenge, comedic relief and romance,” said Kassie Winkler, who is playing the lead role of Prospero.
Jenny Kokai, the director of the show and assistant professor of theatre, cross-cast a few of the roles for the play, giving typically male roles to female actresses.
“When I cast the play, I didn’t cast parts. I just cast actors. We then read through the play several different ways with every person playing every part, and we just decided who read the part the best — regardless of their gender,” Kokai said.
Kokai said this casting choice was keeping with the idea of “play,” to help keep the show light and fun.
“It is a really fun play. I think a lot of people think of Shakespeare as being hard, but it’s really silly, it moves really fast, it’s very easy to understand and the cast is great,” Kokai said.
Keeping the idea of “play” in mind, Kokai called on WSU student Lydia Oliverson to help write new music for the show.
“I did a lot of research into vocal harmonies and listened to the original music to get an idea of how the songs all came together,” Oliverson said. “We wanted to focus on the idea of ‘play’ and thinking about when kids play and when they decide to give that up,” she said.
To get the specific sound needed for the play, Kokai and Oliverson decided to have the music be performed by the cast on “kid instruments.”
“The instruments include glockenspiels, small drums, egg shakers and instruments that could have been made out of things found around the house — because children are resourceful and could make instruments if they needed them,” Oliverson said.
Winkler said the cast works hard on and off the stage by playing more than one instrument at a time.
“If audiences could see backstage, they would occasionally see cast members playing two to three instruments at once in order to create a specific sound,” Winkler said.
Behind the silliness and the singing and dancing, Kokai said there are some important themes that this show brings to the audience. One of those themes is the idea of sacrifice.
“Prospero, in the play, talks about what he has given up to make magic,” Kokai said, “and so I think our students think a lot about what they give up to make theatre, which is a kind of magic.”
Winkler said another strong theme from the show comes from one particular line from her character.
“The strongest underlying message comes from a specific line near the show’s end. In this line, Prospero says ‘the rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance,’” Winkler said. “This show leaves viewers with the notion that choosing a higher road leads to greater happiness than seeking vengeance ever can.”
“The Tempest” is showing April 15-16 and 19-23 at 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on April 23. For tickets and more information about the show, visit WeberStateTickets.com