Shake on the Lake presents 'The Tempest'


Posted: Thursday, July 23, 2015 5:00 am

SILVER LAKE — The simple way to differentiate William Shakespeare’s comedies from his tragedies is all in the ending. At the conclusion of the comedies, everyone gets married; in the tragedies, everyone dies. The histories, of course, are based on real events.

But then there’s “The Tempest,” a fantasy play with an open ending. There’s no wedding, although we see there’s going to be one. Nobody dies. And it certainly isn’t based on actual events, since sorcerers don’t exist.

The differences that make this play stand out from most of Shakespeare’s other works, which can be formulaic, made it a favorite for Pilar McKay and Josh Rice, founders of Shake on the Lake, an outdoor Shakespeare production company. And it’s why the troupe will present its touring production of “The Tempest” beginning next week.

The play tells the tale of Prospero, an exiled Duke, who lives on an island with his daughter Miranda and several magical creatures. Using sorcery and manipulation over the other island inhabitants, he lures his enemies, including his brother, Sebastian, to the island in an effort to return to his rightful status. It’s a story of revenge and redemption.

“I like ‘The Tempest,’ because it is a mix of comedy and tragedy,” said Rice, who is directing this year’s show. “It’s one of the few, maybe only, real fantasy plays that Shakespeare wrote, even though it’s not really considered part of his canon.

“There are so many magical elements to it with regards to the music that fills the island, but also the spirit characters.  Being able to play with those magical elements is always really exciting for us, because it allows us to play with spectacle.”

The Shake on the Lake crew has place it’s on interpretation on the story. One main theme is using puppetry for two of its central characters, Ariel and Caliban. Ariel is a spirit enslaved to Prospero in exchange for saving him from an evil sorceress. Caliban is the deformed son of a witch, who also works for Prospero.

“We’re really playing with the idea that all of the people (Prospero) interacts with on the island are puppets,” Rice explained. “He’s puppeteering everything on the island. Using a puppet for a puppet’s sake never works. You always want to find a reason artistically to use that particular form. Because Prospero is enchanting all of these things and has power over them, having them be puppets under his control makes sense to me.”

Ariel will actually appear in three forms, as an actress wearing a mask, as the mask on a stick when it flies around the island, and as a 2-foot puppet.

The producers have also removed all of the text during the storm — The Tempest — that brings Prospero’s enemies to the island. It will be done entirely with music and visual effects.

And since the play is performed in the round — the audience surrounds the stage — McKay and Rice want the audience to interact with the production. They will be given instruments so they can “contribute to the sound and feel of the island.”

Tackling the demanding role of Prospero is  Chad Bradford, an experienced actor who has previously worked for the American Shakespeare Center. Bradford has appeared in every Shake on the Lake production, which made him an easy choice for the main role.

“Chad is as much Shake on the Lake as the two of us,” McKay said, motioning to Rice. “Because we’re a theater production, some people know Josh and some know me, but they see Chad. They know him. It kind of makes sense to make him Prospero.”

What’s wonderful about Chad is that he’s such a versatile actor, Rice added. “He really gets the language in Shakespeare. He knows how to speak it; he knows how to tell the stories; he knows how we like to work.”

Bradford will also serve as music director and vocal coach.

Also in this year’s cast are:Courtney Bennett Baker, Samantha Harrington, Josh McTiernan, Jordy Neill, and Matthew Duncan.