Port Tobacco Players present ‘The Tempest’
Port Tobacco Players production of Shakespeare’s play begins tonight
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on,” says the sorcerer Prospero in “The Tempest”, the latest play by William Shakespeare to be performed by the Port Tobacco Players.
The play was to be the last for director Jim Kleyle, who has directed most of the Shakespeare plays performed by the PTP over the past four years.
Kleyle died in March, however, after an illness, and assistant director Rachel Wallace stepped up to direct the play, her Shakespearean directorial debut.
“After we got the show, he sat me down one day and told me he probably wasn’t going to make it to showtime, and he wanted me to know what I was getting myself into if I agreed to do this, and I said absolutely,” Wallace said.
Wallace said she first began working with Kleyle at the age of 16, when she first became involved with PTP and has worked with Kleyle for all of his Shakespeare performances at PTP.
“The Board of Directors for PTP was very much on board with me stepping into the role, so it was really a very seamless transition,” Wallace said.
Written around 1610 or 1611, the play is believed by some scholars to have been the last play Shakespeare wrote alone, and some have interpreted the final scene where Prospero, having abandoned his magic, turns to the audience and says that he needs their applause to send him home as representative of Shakespeare himself, although the historical record is unclear.
“A lot of people believe it was Shakespeare saying goodbye to the stage, so for this to have been Jim’s last play is fitting,” Wallace said. “We’re using it as our farewell to him as well.”
Wallace said the play is being dedicated to Kleyle’s memory.
“The Tempest” tells the story of Prospero, exiled Duke of Milan, and Prospero’s daughter Miranda. Prospero and Miranda were overthrown by Prospero’s brother Antonio, with the help of Alonzo, the king of Naples, and cast out to sea. Twelve years later, Prospero, now ruler of a small island, discovers that Antonio and Alonzo are sailing in a ship nearby, and raises a storm through sorcery and commanded spirits to strand the travelers on the island and exact revenge.
While Shakespeare’s “Tempest” only had one female character, Miranda, the PTP production changes the gender of several characters, most notably making Prospero and spirit-servant Ariel female, as well as Alonzo’s counselor and servant.
“One of the things that I really like about Shakespeare is that you can play with gender,” Wallace said. “We went into auditions saying almost every role, with the exception of three are gender open, anyone can play them,” Wallace said. “So Kristen [Page-Kirby] tried out for Prospero, and she just nailed it. So I said, ‘OK, we’re having a female Prospero.”
Kristen Page-Kirby, who plays Prospero, said the character’s gender change also changes the tone of the show.
“She’s a very smart woman, who got usurped by a guy, working in tandem with other guys,” Page-Kirby said. “So it was interesting to deal with power in that way.”
Page-Kirby said it was a challenge to find her own interpretation of the character.
“I had to throw out everything I knew,” Page-Kirby said. “So I really had to re-ground it in a way that resonated with me. So I had to start at the very ground level. The first thing you know about Prospero is she is a super powerful wizard, and I don’t know what it’s like to be a super powerful wizard, but I do know what it’s like to be a mom, and so I started from there.”
Kaitelyn Bauer Dieguez plays Ariel, the ofttimes invisible spirit freed from imprisonment by Prospero and bound into his service.
“I see Ariel as the spirit of the island, almost a fairy but not quite,” Diequez said. “Prospero set her free and she feels almost like she owes her … but she wants her freedom, just like anyone else would.”
Dieguez said the change in genders also affects the relationship between the two characters.
“Prospero does respect Ariel, and what she’s able to do, and appreciates what she can do, but still needs her to do what she needs her to do. And Ariel cares for Prospero, she loves her and her daughter, and there’s that mutual respect,” Dieguez said. “And while she loves Prospero, she wants to be free.”
Anthony Dieguez plays Caliban, the “monstrous” child of the island’s former ruler, a witch named Sycorax. Caliban taught Prospero and Miranda how to live on the island, and they taught him their language and civilization. But after Caliban attempted to rape Miranda, he was cast out and made a slave by Prospero.
“He had almost a mother-son relationship with Prospero,” Anthony Dieguez said. “But over time, he began to feel more the servant than the family member.”
“The Tempest” is filled with lines that most people are familiar with, even if they haven’t seen the play, Wallace said.
“‘What’s past is prologue’ is in this one, ‘Hell is empty and all the devils are here’ is in this one. ‘Brave new world’,” Wallace said. “It’s interesting how many things from this play bleed into everything else.”
The play will be performed Fridays through Sundays beginning tonight at 8 p.m. and continuing until Sunday, May 21. All Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m., all Sunday performances are at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $18 each, $15 for seniors 60 or older, youth 18 and younger or members of the military.
The Port Tobacco Players Theater is located at 508 Charles Street in La Plata.
Tickets and additional information can be found online at ptplayers.com.
Prospero (Kristen Page-Kirby) and Miranda (Allison Claggett) discuss how they came to be exiled to an island in the Port Tobacco Players’ production of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”