Shakespeare's "The Tempest" at SCT Center Stage

Feb 13, 2015

Springfield Contemporary Theatre goes "classical" with Shakespeare's "The Tempest" at SCT Center Stage.
Credit (Poster design courtesy Springfield Contemporary Theatre)

Springfield Contemporary Theatre goes classical with a production of Shakespeare's The Tempest February 13-March 1 in Center Stage at Wilhoit Plaza. The original “lost” island play about romance, magic and renewal, this beloved masterpiece places the desire for revenge against the demands of love and captures the essence of the human condition with its compelling and timeless themes.

Bryant Turnage plays the lead, Prospero, a thoughtful, gentlemanly magician who has fallen on some distinctly hard times.  Thanks to “his conniving brother,” Propero was forcibly put out to sea and has been stranded on a remote island for a dozen years.

But he’s not alone there, says Dr. Robert Bradley, who directs this SCT production.  With Prospero is his now-teenage daughter Miranda, who was three years old when she and her father were put out to sea and landed on this island. “But the major inhabitant of the island is Caliban, as well as a spirit, Ariel.”

Prospero hones his magic skills during his 12-year exile, but Bryant Turnage says, “I think, over time, he’s also become a good father as well.  There’s a genuine love between him and Miranda.” In fact, says Turnage, “I’ve always considered The Tempest a ‘romance’—it’s not a comedy, it’s not quite tragedy.” 

However, Bob Bradley reminds us there are two major comic-relief figures in the play: the drunken butler and the jester. “But,” he says, “eventually they get their comeuppance.”

So do Prospero’s enemies.  One day he discovers that a ship is sailing near the island—and guess who’s on board?  Prospero’s enemies, the ones who exiled him.  With the help of the island’s resident spirit Ariel, Prospero raises a torrential storm at sea, and brings within his grasp the enemies who robbed him of his dukedom.

Dr. Bradley says the play poses interesting challenges when staging it in a small venue like SCT Center Stage. “Let’s start with the advantage: in that space, the audience is, as the phrase goes, ‘up close and personal!’ And they are probably going to be more involved in the action of the play than they ever thought possible.  But the smallness of the stage itself becomes a little logistics problem, especially at the end of the play when there are nineteen characters onstage!”

And that doesn’t include the two live musicians who are onstage and visible to the audience the entire time: guitarist Todd Osbern (who composed the original music for this production) and percussionist Jeff Gouge.

Why does a Shakespeare play need live musicians onstage? Well, as Caliban says at one point, “Be not a-feared—the island is full of sounds and music.”  Dr. Bradley says that, taking their cue from Caliban’s comment, Jeff Gouge “has furnished a ‘soundscape’ throughout the play.”

An enchanted tale filled with humor, romance and adventure, "The Tempest" is ultimately a tale of redemption and forgiveness. Performances will be Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:00pm, through March 1st.  For ticket information call 831-8001 or visit www.springfieldcontemporarytheatre.org.