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A production of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” had its opening night Thursday in Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Waller Hall and is set to run until Sept. 7 for a total of eight performances.
“The Tempest” tells the tale of Prospero: the overthrown, rightful Duke of Milan who has been stranded on an island for several years with his daughter, Miranda. Prospero spends the play attempting to restore Miranda to her rightful place in society using his skills as a sorcerer.
Presented in “The Tempest,” as in other Shakespeare plays, are a host of unique characters, comic subplots and a command of the language that still holds audiences’ interest today.
This production features a unique twist on the classic fantastical romance, as the the play is staged as a 1930s circus act. The decision to stage the play as a big-top extravaganza instead of in a more traditional setting is not merely a gimmick, according to the director of “The Tempest,” Dr. Rick Kemp, head of acting and directing at IUP.
“The decision arose intuitively, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more it makes sense,” Kemp said. “The way Prospero controls the action on the island is comparable to a ringmaster’s control of the action in a circus.”
Kemp, who was once a professional clown in London, feels a personal connection to the circus theme he added to the show and hopes that this setting makes the often-intimidating Shakespeare accessible to more people.
“I have a great desire to present Shakespeare and all theater in a way that is engaging to a wide range of audiences,” he said.
Other elements of the circus used in the show are professional aerial-silk dancers, fire-breathing and the portrayal of Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano as a trio of traditional Auguste clowns.
The cast of “The Tempest” includes a diverse range of ages and talents.
Current students perform alongside IUP alumni who have since become professional actors and IUP faculty.
Kemp said that this production is the equivalent of an internship at the professional level for current students involved in the production.
Indiana’s geographical location makes finding professional theater internships more challenging for IUP students, according to Kemp.
“The nearest large-market theater city is Philadelphia and, after that, Washington,” he said.
This production will also include live music composed and conducted by current IUP student Joe Boboige (senior, music education) and performed by IUP students.
Tickets are available for purchase at the HUB box office or at the door 45 minutes before curtain.
Tickets are $15 for general admission or $10 for current students and children.