A year ago, the shadow of the Isla Vista shootings hung over that June’s Shakespeare in the Park performance, which laughed in the face of tragedy with
“Twelfth Night.” Now with an all-new cast, the all-student company has nothing so sad hanging over their production, the culmination of their UCSB theater course. This Saturday and Sunday they return to the Anisq’Oyo’ Park amphitheater in Isla Vista with “The Tempest.”
Reputedly Shakespeare’s final play, “The Tempest” hovers somewhere between comedy and fantasy, but with death, grief and parental politics as its vital ingredients. There’s magic too, and sleight of hand, monsters and sprites.
“It takes place on an island, which is great because the little Isla Vista Amphitheater is our island,” says Gerry Hansen, who directs and produces these annual productions. “And Ariel has sent all these people from the wrecked ship to different parts of the island, so you can have them coming in from all different areas.” Ms. Hansen has always used the open-air environment to her advantage, and “The Tempest” has many a scene set in the wilds of nature, from whence the captive Caliban comes.
This year there were more females than usual, and more students in general, signing up for the class. So there is a female Prospero, aka Prospera (Danielle De La O), and a female Alonso, aka Alonsa (Maddie Martin). There will also be females in the male roles of Caliban (Emily Hansen), Sebastian (Megan Connors) and Gonzalo (Emily Ogle).
The change of Prospero to a woman opens up interesting dimensions to the character.
“If you think about the history, she is exiled by her brother, the excuse being that she’s doing black magic,” Ms. Hansen says. “And in fact she is.
Prospera admits that she has been paying attention to magic and not to government. But this play is around the time when women were punished for being witches.”
Likewise, making Alonso a female (and therefore a queen, not a king) has shifted the relationship between her and her son Ferdinand (Austin Jiang). “She has a different relationship with her child, and at one point she is surprised that she will have to take instruction from her child. . . . The way a woman
works with her son, if different from how a father and son work.”
The production also offers three Ariels for the price of one, casting Ami Shimada, Scarlett Jia and Kassidy Klinesmith in the roles. Sometimes they triple their lines, sometimes they finish each others’ sentences. “It’s a very interesting dynamic,” Ms. Hansen says. “Both within the role itself and among the other characters and how they function. The spirits do have the ability to be in several places at once, so having three people do that makes it really interesting.”
Rounding out the cast is Matilda Mead as Trinculo, Ziming Mo as Adrian, Emilio Olson as Antonio, Lexi Scanlan as Miranda and Cody Shindelbower as Stephano.
Audiences for these productions average around 125 people, while last year the camaraderie in Isla Vista resulted in quite a large crowd.
“I ask at the beginning of class what students’ expectations are for the course, and then I ask it again at the end,” Ms. Hansen says. “And I’m surprised how many say they absolutely treasure the class and how much more they’ve learned about how wonderful Shakespeare is. It’s the relationships they form.
One student told me that she’d had a really rough quarter and had to drop all her classes except this one. She kept Shakespeare.”
When: 7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Where: Anisq’Oyo’ Park Amphitheater, Isla Vista
Information: www.ihc.ucsb.edu/ivarts, www.facebook.com/ivshakespeareinthepark, email@example.com