By Rachel Judy
August 21, 2015
The Tempest runs Oct. 12-14 and Oct. 19-21. Photo courtesy of School of Communication & the Arts
Shakespeare's The Tempest has taken its place among his romantic works, particularly because of the play's quixotic setting a lush, enchanted island far from the reach of ordinary life. But, as the classic tale comes to life at Regent University, it is not the setting that will take center stage.
"We've re-envisioned some of the traditionally male characters as female; not just asking women to play men but wholly reimagining the relationship dynamics of a mother and daughter, of political alliances between women, and the depth of female friendships," explained Eric Harrell, the play's director and an associate professor in the Theatre Department. "It's been a satisfying, artistic exploration for our company, reframing this classic story and deepening its thematic reach."
The play runs Oct. 12-14 and Oct. 19-21.
Shakespeare's masterpiece traditionally tells the story of Prospero, the former duke of Milan and a sorcerer, who lures his brother and the king to an island in order to exact revenge on them for leaving him and his young daughter stranded on an island. In Regent's production, Prospero has become Prospera.
This approach to The Tempest has become popular in recent years. In the '90s, actress Vanessa Redgrave played the role in an acclaimed production at Shakespeare's Globe. More recently, actress Helen Mirren played Prospera in the 2012 film version directed by Julie Taymor, known for her directing work in the stage version of The Lion King. In addition to reimagining the lead role, Regent has transformed several other characters as well.
While the approach is untraditional, Harrell is quick to point out that the heart of the production remains the same. "One of the reasons The Tempest has long been a favorite of mine is that it has a little bit of everything: romance, mystery, revenge, tragedy, comedy, illusions and an inspiring moral," he explained. "The characters are as complex as the genre. Like each of us, they have the capacity to love and hate, to seek revenge and forgiveness, to be blinded by professional ambition and romantic love, and to merit both judgment and empathy."
On Sunday, Oct. 21, Regent president and literature expert, Dr. Carlos Campo, will lead a pre-show presentation with Curt Tofteland, the founder of Shakespeare Behind Bars. Their discussion will touch on several themes found in the play, among them redemption, slavery, ownership, ruling with integrity and the relationships between characters. The presentation will take place at 1:15 p.m., in the Center for Performing Arts, prior to the final showing of The Tempest.