Warrior Theatre Blows Audiences Away With Production of ‘The Tempest’

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  • In the opening scene of the play, Prospera, played by Eva De Guelle ’22 talks to her daughter Miranda, played by Sabrina Kim ’25, explaining how they came to end up on the abandoned island.

  • The Ariels listen intently to Prospera as she lays out her plan. The Ariels used to be one role, but it got split into five for this rendition of the play.

  • Smiling, Stefano gives Caliban his first taste of alcohol. After this, Caliban started worshiping Stefano.

  • Holding hands, Miranda and Ferdinand say their wedding vows.

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The atmosphere provided by Westwood’s outdoor amphitheater proved to be the perfect setting for the cast and crew of The Tempest to capture the mystique, humor, and turbulent spectacle of Shakespeare’s last and greatest political drama, shown on Thursday, Oct. 7, Friday, Oct. 8, and Saturday, Oct 9. 

The famous tale tells the story of a group of shipwrecked royals and misfits bound to bad luck by the enigmatic and scheming Prospera, former Duchess of Milan, now a powerful magician and commander of the mischievous Ariel spirits. Leaving the crew stranded on the island she and her daughter were exiled to after a political coup, the narrative follows her plans to enact revenge for the wrongs committed against her. 

Eva De Guelle ‘22 portrayed Prospera. In the original writing, the principal figure is Prospero, another male in a long patriarchal line of Shakespearean protagonists. However, for the purposes of the Westwood production, the duke became a duchess, and in doing so, De Guelle was able to express more emotional nuance in her performance. 

“We don’t see any powerful, controlling women in Shakespeare, and I had the opportunity to change that narrative,” De Guelle said. “The language surrounding Prospera’s daughter Miranda would be seen in a sexist manner if I had played the role as a male. Playing Prospero as ‘Prospera’ shined a new light on the mother-daughter relationship, and turned the once sexist language into a more positive and loving narrative.” 

Aiding Prospera in her devious actions are the “Ariels,” played by Sophie Steinhauser ‘22, Kaya Contello ‘24, Rohan Satija ‘25, Cleo Steinhauser ‘24, and Emily Rose ‘24. (The Water Ariel, Fire Ariel, Wind Ariel, Earth Ariel, and Ether Ariel, respectively.) In the original production, Ariel was one character, a powerful sprite bound to Prospera after she rescued him from his prison in a pine tree. 

“Ms. Coats, [the head of the Theatre Department], decided to split the Ariels up because she felt that the character worked better in separate character [interpretations], as they were able to break apart the lines helping the flow and involve more actors in the production,” student assistant director Zoe Ostebo ‘23 said. “[Another change] from the original production was the gender swap and some alterations to the script as the only female character was Miranda. It allowed for characters such as Prospera to have a more caring and motherly presence as she is originally Prospero in the script. The thing is, her actions would feel more selfish and uncaring for characters such as Miranda, as it’d come off as a father simply using his daughter as a bargaining chip instead of a mother who also wants what’s good for her daughter.” 

Onstage for almost the entire duration of the show, the Ariels were vital to Prospera’s plan and the creation of the ambience of the production. Fantastical costumes and expressive makeup helped define the Ariels’ characteristics, as well as evocative body language and movement. 

If Prospera is the puppet master of The Tempest, the Ariels are her strings, using their magic to manipulate the other oblivious characters.

“[Prospera] has such a complex relationship with all the characters, Miranda, Caliban, and the Ariels being the first that come to mind,” De Guelle said. “Once I was able to emotionally connect myself, I really just let loose. From the meticulousness and rage I felt in the beginning, to the forgiving feelings I released in the end, I truly felt like I was living in Prospera’s shoes.

Audiences were also treated to a touching story of love against all odds: that of Miranda, Prospera’s daughter, and Ferdinand, Prince of Naples, played by Sabrina Kim ‘25 and Francois Le Gall ‘23. Amidst the shocking events of The Tempest, Ferdinand and Miranda’s story is the eye of the storm, with their eventual marriage a symbol of reconciliation and promises for the future. 

“I was really happy to get that role. It was an open call for freshmen through seniors and I wasn’t really expecting to get a role because this is my first year here,” Kim said. “Shakespeare is really what made me get into theater because I really like reading and English language arts stuff. So Shakespeare is kinda like the connector between English and art. I definitely learned a lot of acting from TV because [my family and I] watched a bunch of TV together and I think that’s what really taught me how to act.” 

Meanwhile, boisterous butler Stephano and court jester Trinculo, played by Baker Tuthill ‘23 and Emma Portnoy ‘23, hilariously caravan around the island as pawns in Prospero’s game, soon joined by the misfortunate fool Caliban. Betrayed and under Prospera’s servitude, Caliban drunkenly attempts to overthrow Prospera’s power. Cait Lackowski ‘22 portrayed Caliban as both fearful and pitiful, a miserable creature whose past led to his wretched actions in the play.

“Caliban certainly had a rough past, with his mother being killed and then being taken under the wing of an abusive master [Prospera],” Lackowski said. “I think that these hardships really drive Caliban to be as desperate as he is when he finds Stephano. It ramps up the stakes for Caliban when he feels that he needs to find a new master that can do him better and keep him safer than the current tyrant that he serves. My favorite part about acting in The Tempest is how unrealistic the show is. The fantastical setting and scenarios allowed for us to take some really fun risks physically and technically.”

Along with the troublemaking trio of Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban, Colin Partridge ‘22 and Cara Tome ‘22 portrayed Antonio and Sebastiana, the mean-spirited siblings of Prospera and Alonso, King of Naples. Their characters added a delightfully dry humor and action to the performance. 

“My favorite part of playing Antonio is just being partners in crime with Cara. We got to play around with banter and side talk,” Partridge said. “I prefer comedic [acting] so much more than [dramatic acting]. Dramatics are possible, but a comedy with a good amount of drama is better than a drama with a good amount of comedy.”

As a whole, the company of The Tempest put on a cohesive and entertaining show, both visually captivating and emotionally touching. Shakespeare is a difficult conquest for even professional actors, and the Westwood Company did an admirable job relating a difficult story filled with subtitles to the audience with both grace and flair. The actors’ subtle yet detailed performance illuminated the importance of a story hundreds of years old, and the versatile set and magical costuming and makeup completely transported the audience to a tale of revenge, power, intrigue, and love.  

“The final line of the play is when Prospera says ‘let your indulgence set me free.’ She asks for the audience to clap for her in order to set her free of all her wrongdoings,” De Guelle said. 

The rapturous applause after such a performance was certainly a liberation from both the character’s mistakes and the year-long absence of live crowds Westwood Theatre faced, marking a new beginning for both Prospera and the fine arts department as the ship left the island’s harbor to new horizons.