A New Look at The Tempest

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

This weekend, senior theater majors Jessie Bear, Cara Arcuni and Jackie Avitabile present their honors acting theses in an original take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The show is also Kim Comer’s honors set design thesis.

In this show of 20-plus characters, the three actresses, along with several dolls, fill all the roles. They each have a few primary parts, but they often take on additional roles and play other people’s characters. Jessie Bear says “I actually counted the other day, and I think I play a total of 11 different characters.”

In addition to this unique casting, the nontraditional directing of Randolph Curtis Rand, a New York actor and director hired for the show, adds a dimension of originality to the performance. Bear describes his style as extremely collaborative. The actresses worked with Randy to figure out the staging of the show and delivery of their lines as they went along, rather than receiving instructions from him beforehand. Arcuni says The Tempest was a real challenge because working with Randy required putting aside her ideas about how one should act. The acting for this show is very physical and focuses on precision and timing in a way in which none of the actresses had experienced before. Avitabile explains that a crucial part of their performance is literally interacting with the objects in their set, a “functional, if a little bizarre office-esque space”.

As an honors thesis, this performance is the culmination of the actresses’ work at Swarthmore. Avitable said this performance brought together all of her theater work at Swarthmore as well as her training at Shakespeare & Company. Bear elaborated, “At the end of the day, we’ve created something unique and interesting that I think we’re all very proud of. It’s sort of the perfect crazy ‘ride’ to mark the culmination of our Swarthmore theater experiences.”

While this performance for the most part sticks to a shortened version of The Tempest, there have been some significant changes. Arcuni hopes the audience sees these changes and thinks about if and how they affect the show. Avitable says “The story that we’re ultimately telling is not exactly Shakespeare’s.”

The cast declined to ruin too many surprises about the performance, but it will include Avitable playing opposite herself as the lovers Ferdinand and Miranda and Bear showcasing her newly developed skills in basic pyrotechnics.

Other people involved in the production include Troy Herion, sound designer, and Matthew Armstead ’08, light designer, as well as current students Adrian Davalos ’09, costume designer, Sam Goodman ’10, stage manager, and Dan Perelstein ‘09, sound technician.

The Tempest will be performed in the Frear Ensemble Theater in LPAC at 8 pm Friday, 2 pm and 8 pm Saturday, and 2 pm Sunday.


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