BEN PAPLHAM | ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR & GUEST NEWS CORRESPONDENT
There is a storm a-coming to St. Norbert College. In the first two weeks of Nov. (see “Upcoming Events” in the Entertainment section), SNC Theatre Studies will present their fall production, Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” The timing could not be more perfect, as the opening performance on Nov. 3 will almost coincide with the first ever recorded performance of “The Tempest,” over 500 years ago on Nov. 1, 1611 in front of King James I and his court at Whitehall Palace.
While they are not expecting a royal audience, everyone involved still appreciates the extra significance this academic year marks, as it is the tenth anniversary of the SNC Theatre Studies department. Last spring, in the process of choosing a play for the 2017 fall semester, it was quickly apparent the department needed something that matched the weight of the anniversary. As Stephen Rupsch, director of “The Tempest,” Associate Dean for the Visual and Performing Arts and Associate Professor of Theatre Studies, stated, “We wanted something to match something similar to what we did ten years ago—something magical.”
And if you are going to produce Shakespeare, there is arguably none more magical than “The Tempest.” For those who may not know the story, “The Tempest” features the redemption of magician and former Duke of Milan, Prospero (played by Elynor Gregorich). Many years earlier, Prospero had been almost assassinated and exiled to an island with her daughter, Miranda (Taylor Donoval). With the assistance of a spirit named Ariel (Alex Gruber) and the forced servitude of the island native Caliban (Lindsey Bosetski), Prospero does quite well as the island’s master. (You could even say she is…prosperous.)
However, when a magically-summoned tempest shipwrecks the nobles who had exiled her all those year ago, the extent of Prospero’s humanity and mercy will be tested. Using all the magic at her disposal—illusions, spellbooks and Ariel’s theatrics among others—Prospero staves off attempted treason from Caliban, saves the King of Naples (Erin Hunsader) from his sister and shames Prince Ferdinand (John Berens) before matchmaking the Prince with Miranda.
It’s impossible to count how many hours each of the cast and crew have devoted to this venture. “This is the culmination,” said April Beiswenger, the designer of the show and Assistant Professor of Theatre Studies at the college, standing on the stage recently painted in a mosaic pattern with a giant set piece of the head of Sycorax (the mother of Caliban who was exiled to the island) in the background. “Stephen and I started discussing what we were going to do eight months ago.”
Although the production of “The Tempest” and thus its end are close for its cast and crew, the reality of these events still seem far away to them. As of the writing of this article, less than ten days away from opening night, there were still construction, painting, costumes, makeup and numerous light and sound cues to be completed.
The increase in urgency does not detract from the excitement and anticipation for the main event. 406 years ago, it is hard to believe that Shakespeare could have imagined “The Tempest” would continue to be produced and inspire. But here it is at St. Norbert College, and SNC Theatre Studies is determined to put on production fit for a king. It may not make you “believe in unicorns,” as one character in the play exclaims, but it will, its cast, crew and directors hope, be a magical performance.
The “Tempest” will run Nov. 3, 4, 9, 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 5 at 2 p.m. It will be performed in the Webb Theatre in the Abbot Pennings Hall of Fine Arts. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office in the APHFA or online at snc.edu/tickets. Tickets are $5 for students and $15 for non-students; those tickets purchased online have a $2 fee added to their price.