Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Shakespeare's ‘The Tempest' with twists is in the works in Appleton

Lawrence University Theatre

APPLETON, Wis. - Lawrence University Theatre will present the William Shakespeare drama “The Tempest” in four performances Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 15-17, in Cloak Theatre on campus. Info: lawrence.edu/conservatory/box_office/tickets.

Snapshot: Trickery and magic, romance and revenge highlight Shakespeare’s late masterpiece in which sprites, goddesses and fools hold court. Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan and now a powerful magician, raises a great storm to wreck the vessel bearing his betrayers onto the shores of the mysterious island he has made his home. There, attended upon by his daughter, a magical sprite and a villainous prisoner, Prospero leads them through a mysterious dream on the course from vengeance to reconciliation.

According to a press release: A William Shakespeare classic is getting a gender and time period twist in Lawrence University’s production.

Written in 1610-11 and widely believed to be Shakespeare’s final play, “The Tempest” is filled with trickery and magic, romance and revenge.

In this production, director Aram Monisoff, lecturer of theater arts at Lawrence, set the play in the late 19th-century “Steampunk” era to fully contrast the heavily industrialized noblemen who crash onto the island with the more naturalistic natives. The sorcerer Prospero, the deposed ruler of Milan, is cast as a female sorceress, but with the same name.

“By changing the role of Prospero to a woman, it allows us the opportunity to present ‘The Tempest’ as an exploration of a mother-daughter relationship,” said Monisoff, a 2008 Lawrence graduate.

The basic storyline remains. Set on a remote island, Prospero uses magic to conjure up a storm, for which the play is named. A ship containing her enemies, Alonso, the king of Naples, and his entourage, struggles to stay afloat during the storm. Prospero’s goal is restore her daughter, Miranda, to her rightful place by using trickery and manipulation, resulting in the marriage of Miranda and King Alonso’s son, Ferdinand.

“The character of Prospero, the enigmatic and all-powerful magician, is believed by some to be a representation of Shakespeare himself – as playwright, actor and producer all rolled into one all-powerful magus,” said Monisoff. “Whether true or not, ‘The Tempest’ dives into the mysteries of life in a timeless and profound way.”

The play, Monisoff says, “celebrates the awesome curiosity and capacity of the human mind and exposes the fears, anxieties and self-serving impulses that threaten to overwhelm it.

“Prospero, who has devoted her life to knowing all there is to know about the universe, must fully confront how much she knows about herself and others. Knowledge alone is not enough to heal the wounds caused by her insular thinking and selfishness in her past as ruler of Milan. Prospero’s journey is one of returning to the fold, to society itself and to her own humanity. That which makes us human, as Shakespeare shows us time and time again, is our struggle to reconcile the enormity of our dreams with the exquisite vulnerability of our brief lives.”

Sophomore Caro Granner from Evanston, Ill., plays Prospero. New York City sophomore Samantha Torres portrays Miranda. Senior Jenny Hanrahan, Johnsburg, Ill., is cast as King Alonso. Appleton native Oscar Brautigam plays the king’s son, Ferdinand.

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays.


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