Directed by Beth Ann Hopkins
Produced by Smith Street Stage
Nominations: Outstanding Revival of a Play; Outstanding Original Music, Clara Strauch; Outstanding Ensemble: Raquel Chavez, Shannon Condon, Kate Eastman, Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy, John Hardin, Patrick Harvey, Brian Demar Jones, Joe Jung, Peter Molesworth, Catherine Mullins, Andrew L. Ricci, Sam Richardson, Nora Rickey, Kate Ross, Will Sarratt, Caroline Smith, JT Stocks, Corey Whelihan
About the Production: A revival of the classic Shakespearean play that mirrors the company's commitment to telling classic stories in exciting and imaginative ways.
The team behind The Tempest discusses their journey and process with this classic work.
What attracted you to this project?
Caroline: The wonderful group that is Smith Street Stage
Catherine: The incredible director and artistic team.
Clara: The Tempest is probably my favorite Shakespeare play. I have a weakness for ethereal spirits, tragicomedy, magic, romance, and obviously music. I also love Smith Street Stage's work, and have previously been a part of their "Christmas Carol." When Beth Ann asked if I wanted to compose the music for The Tempest, I was honored and psyched!
Joe: I've been a fan of Smith Street Stage for a long time. Any chance to work with them would be thoroughly worthwhile.
John: Word of mouth praise for the company.
Kate: Smith Street Stage is an amazing company doing inventive, top caliber work. And the role of Prospero was a dream come true!
Patrick: I've loved working with Smith Street Stage since 2011, and the role of Caliban in The Tempest has long been a dream role of mine.
Peter: Smith Street Stage is a company made up of wonderful people. They are interested in the work and have serious grit and integrity. The park we performed in was also a real bonus.
Raquel: Free & accessible opportunity for audiences of all ages to connect with Shakespeare in their neighborhood -- what a fantastically enriching gift for any community.
Shannon: The company, Smith Street Stage, has a great reputation.
Shaun: I have great respect for the company and I love working on Shakespeare.
What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Caroline: The incredible cast and the amazing, imaginative direction that Beth Ann Hopkins brought to the production
Catherine: The cast! We became a true team and works so well together.
Clara: Composing the music and soundscape was such a joy. Since I'm also an actor (NYU Tisch), a natural first step was to do my usual work on the play as if the music was my character. But then I found myself creating and acting out whichever character sang each song, and that's how the melodies were born. So my little secret is that in this creative process I got to play Prospero, Caliban, Ariel, and all the others. I found how I imagined each character's voice, instrument, sound, and theme, and expanded from there.
And then it was incredible to work with Beth Ann, the team, all the actors and the band, and to hear each song come alive.
Corey: The outdoor environment felt particularly appropriate for this show. Nothing like doing The Tempest under threat of actual storm clouds!
Joe: There's nothing like performing Shakespeare outside. It's a mystical experience.
John: Getting to perform with such wonderful people.
Kate: The cast and the entire team was just a joy.
Patrick: Working with this cast was a truly unique experience. In particular, my comedic co-stars, Kate Eastman (Stephano) and Will Sarratt (Trinculo) were unforgettable scene partners. We recently got together to reminisce about that time last summer where we just goofed around like drunk idiots in front of audiences of strangers. Yeah, that was fun.
Peter: Speaking with people from the neighborhood. It showed that the company makes an impact and has started a beloved tradition.
Raquel: The rest of the cast made the experience so magical and illuminating -- it was a fantastic reminder of the community-building power of theater, both on the stage and off.
Sam: This was my first time working with professional actors outside of a school environment, and it was wonderful to see everyone's process (and how the work is no different once you're out of school).
Shannon: The cast because it was filled of good hearted, fun people that quickly formed a tight bond.
Shaun: Our director, Beth Ann Hopkins, is clear eyed, imaginative, and generously collaborative, which made the rehearsal room a joy to be in. Smith Street Stage also has a great deal of respect for the work they do and the artists they hire and it showed in how we were treated. Lastly, performing outdoors for a wonderfully supportive community was an unbelievable experience.
What was the most challenging aspect of this production for you?
Caroline: Mastering the puppetry of the "spirit orbs."
Catherine: This was the first production I had done in a park. It took some time to adapt to the wildness and unpredictability of the park and how the affects a performance.
Clara: The weather. Outdoor theatre, you know.
Corey: The outdoor environment. You have to compete with a lot of ambient sound. So many environmental factors are outside of your control and you have to do your best to work around it, while maintaining your focus and the focus of the audience.
Joe: Performing outside - the ice cream trucks, car horns, ambient noise.
John: Getting myself to leave at night! I was having so much fun.
Patrick: I had the personal performative challenge of playing the most physically demanding role of my career on a concrete stage.
Peter: Filling the space with all the existing distractions.
Raquel: Because all Smith Street Stage shows go up in a non-theater space, we sometimes found ourselves competing with sirens, playground-shrieking, and ice cream trucks for control of the soundscape. During a few performances, the big crowd of the audience was so alluring to the ice cream truck drivers that the producers had to persuade them to turn off their music. But in the end, it made our resolve to maintain the audience's attention and sense of wonder that much stronger and creative.
Sam: The outdoor space was very challenging because it was difficult to feel truthful and also be loud enough that I wouldn't have to worry about being heard/seen all the way at the back of the crowd
Shannon: Being outdoors for rehearsals and shows made a lot of the work unpredictable.
Shaun: Working out of doors at the mercy of the elements. Also, since we were in a park we had to project quite a bit more than I was used to. However, the challenges made me a stronger actor.
Did anything unique or memorable happen during production?
Catherine: The cast became a family.
Clara: I wrote all the music over the winter and spring on a little Swedish island in the Baltic Sea, called Gotland.
Joe: It was nothing but a delight. I guess that's an oddity. Most of the times when working on a production, something gets under your skin. SSS allows its actors an open space to explore, experiment, fail, and create. That's incredibly special.
Peter: When we staged Ariel's confrontation of Alonso, Sebastian and Antonio-- I told Beth Ann that I really wanted wings.... so she and Sherry Martinez (our costume designer) made these awesome black wings that moved during the speech that we blocked at the back of the theater on a picnic table.
Shaun: One day, as I was putting on makeup before the show, a sparrow flew into my lap. It scared the living daylights out of me. Our director came in, chased the bird down, and lovingly escorted it out of the dressing room in her cupped hands. I was hugely impressed. It was a Disney moment.
What did you learn from your time working on The Tempest?
Catherine: I learned how to amplify a smaller role and be present even when you are in the background.
Clara: I learned the accordion.
Joe: 6 year olds are great at interpreting Shakespeare!
John: I learned more about how to play a romantic lead -- I had to play simply and be emotionally open. It was a welcome challenge!
Patrick: I'd worked on Shakespeare quite a lot before beginning this process, but I'd never fully appreciated just how playful you can be with his language before beginning rehearsals on the comic scenes in this play.
Shannon: I learned of how taxing it can be working with an ensemble and exactly what it takes to put on a show without the safety or background provided by a university. I was surprised at how hard working the team was and truly had to be to pull it off.
Peter: Dive in first, then think/talk about it... not the other way around.
Contributed by Victoria Fernandes