What do a shipwreck, two murder plots, island sprites, drunk jesters, a love story, a sorceress, a deformed islander man, and Isla Vista have in common? They’re all part of William Shakespeare’s famous play, The Tempest, soon to be staged by the production company Shakespeare in the Park on June 6 and 7 at 7 PM in Anisq’Oyo’ Park.
The play follows a group of Dutch nobles who are trapped on an island following a shipwreck. Twelve years before the wreck, the Dutchess of Milan, a sorceress, and her daughter were exiled to the island by the Dutchess’ brother. One day, the Dutchess’ brother and his men sail close to the island, and the Dutchess causes the shipwreck in an act of revenge. The play focuses on the incidents that happen a few hours after the shipwreck.
Shakespeare in the Park, led by University of California, Santa Barbara theater and dance professor Gerry Hansen, has made a few changes to the original play. Their adaptation of the play is much more condensed than the original, and some of the characters’ genders were changed, such as the main character’s, who is normally male but was made into a female for this production. Also, one of the characters, Ariel, is being played by three different actors, giving the character a unique trinity dynamic.
“Gerry plays around with it a lot and lets us play around with it,” said Christine Hamlin, a third-year College of Creative Studies literature major and stage manager for the production.
Shakespeare in the Park is a course offered every spring at UCSB. The full title of the course is Group Studies in Acting and Directing, and because there are no prerequisites, anyone is welcome to enroll. The class isn’t limited to those who want to act either, as students have the opportunity to work with makeup, technology, and other administrative aspects of stage production.
“There’s two people in the class who are not actors,” said Hamlin. “There’s lots of room for people who don’t want to be on stage.”
As for The Tempest itself, audiences can expect a shorter version than they’re used to this weekend. The play is being put on in a park, creating a different dynamic than if it were in a theater, as there will be no backdrop, sets, or microphones.
“I would say it’s very minimalist,” said Emilio Olson, a third-year sociology major and theater minor, who plays Antonio in the play. “It’s just costumes, and that puts a lot of reliance on the actors.”
Being set in a public space can create quite a few challenges. According to Olson, one major challenge is “being able to maintain volume, because if the audience can’t hear you, they’re not going to know what’s going on.” Both Olson and Hamlin recall audience members shouting at the actors during rehearsals, not realizing that the actors were performing for an actual production. In the past, audience members have even gone onstage and attempted to perform with the actors.
The play is free for anyone to go to and is being held on two different nights, giving eager Shakespeare fans multiple opportunities to come out and support the UCSB class’s production.
“Bring a blanket, bring a friend,” Hamlin said. “It’s going to be lots of fun.”