Hudson Shakespeare Company’s ‘Tempest’ reveals new slant
By William Shakespeare
Presented by The Hudson Shakespeare Company (HSC)
Thursday, June 14, 7 p.m.
Montclair Public Library, 50 South Fullerton Ave
By STEFANIE SEARS
For Montclair Local
Shakespeare’s fantastical play “The Tempest,” a romance that includes sorcery and sprites and women playing in several of the male roles, is being presented by the Hudson Shakespeare Company production this summer.
The company is celebrating its 27th season of library and parks tours.
In addition to the cross-gendered casting, HSC has added a pirate theme to support the adventure on the high seas element of the play (it begins with a shipwreck).
The main character, Prospero, is a self-taught magician and the former Duke of Milan. Before the play begins, Prospero was usurped by his brother Antonio and exiled to an island with his young daughter Miranda. Years later, Prospero uses his sorcery to create a tempest and shipwreck Antonio on his island.
This is the third time the Hudson Shakespeare Company is performing “The Tempest.” In earlier productions, Prospero was played by men. In this version Kitty Mortland plays “Prospera.”
Having Prospero be a woman is not original to HSC. Helen Mirren starred as Prospera in the 2010 Julie Taymor film, and in January 2017 director Phyllida Lloyd presented an all-female “Tempest” at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, starring Harriet Walter. In that production however, women played roles that were still men. HSC changed the gender of some of the characters.
Alonso, initially the King of Naples, is now a queen in HSC’s version, making Alonsa an adversary to Prospera.
“We’re doing a purposeful two queens in the story, so to speak,” said artistic director Jon Ciccarelli. In a release, Ciccarelli noted that female rulers were present in Europe when Shakespeare wrote the play.
Lily Warpinski plays Alonsa ,and Julia Geromin plays Sebastine (formerly Sebastian). Alonsa and Sebastine had helped Antonio (still a guy here, played by Jeffrey Robb) to overthrow Prospera, and are shipwrecked along with him.
The final male character turned female is Alonso’s counselor and Prospero’s friend Gonzalo, now Gonzala, played by Emily Ann Banks.
“Prospero looks very affectionately to Gonzalo. There is that friendship relationship. Then there’s a parental connection with Alonso. So, with this, we were like, ‘How would that work out?’ or ‘How would this vibe feel being played by women?’ In the context of the show, they are all around the same age. That was an interesting different slant we put on it,” Ciccarelli said.
Montclair Library will host the free play on June 14.