"The Tempest" will be performed at Drayton Hall Theatre from April 15 - 23, coinciding with the exhibit of the First Folio at USC. The play offers Shakespeare enthusiasts and students alike an opportunity to experience one of the last works written by the great English playwright.
The play follows revenge, redemption and romance in the lives of the wrongly exiled duke, Prospero, and his daughter, Miranda, on a remote island, with mysticism and mystery at every turn. As Prospero works to enact vengeance on those who did him wrong, he employs his skills in magic to bring his plans to completion.
The set looks like an intricate combination of an island and cave. Director Robert Richmond found that as the story developed, it was not a normal vision that usually comes to mind when one pictures an island.
"We started to have the sense that this was not a typical sand-drenched, kissed island — sand-kissed island," Richmond said. "But a psychological space. A cave. The insides of somebody's mind."
The inspiration of the set included a combination of "'Pan's Labyrinth' meets 'Life of Pi' meets William Shakespeare," according to Richmond. A large slide was incorporated into the set.
"The idea, I think, is that there is an inaccessible portal in which some people will enter and some people will not," Richmond said.
To aid in creating an inaccessible portal, the lighting played an important role for the set. Lighting designer and second year MFA in lighting design student, Chris Patterson made the effort to create the feel of multiple spaces and a world of fantasy.
"It has to be bigger and better and different than the last magical element that happened five minutes before that," Patterson said. "And then five minutes later there's going to be another high-spectacle effect that happens as well."
The realistic fantasy continues to flourish with the costumes by April Traquina, a theatre MFA program alumna. Showcasing what 13 years of seclusion from the world can do, Traquina gives the island dwellers an interesting twist that departs from your traditional take on Shakespeare.
Two of the major roles are being played by second-year MFA students Candace Thomas, who plays Miranda, and Carin Bendas, who plays Ariel. Both are looking forward to playing their roles for the first time.
Bendas finds that her character's magical nature is shown off in the costume design and the slight acrobatic elements involved in her movement.
"The costume is incredible ... I just kind of have to step in and try to be of service to the beautiful art that they've created," Bendas said.
The difficulty of getting modern audiences to be interested in Shakespeare was a real concern for Bendas at first, but she believes audiences will find it interesting.
"What Robert (the director) does and the design elements make it all really exciting and there's always something to look at, so that modern audiences can still be stimulated," Bendas said.
Candace Thomas looks forward to bringing audiences this production of "The Tempest" while the Shakespeare First Folio is on exhibit at the Ernest F. Hollings Library. The exhibit comes from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C.
"I wanted to ... bring a production of 'The Tempest' that was accessible and understanding to the university, the students, the faculty and the greater Columbia area," Richmond said.
Richmond is an associate artist for the Folger Shakespeare Theatre and he was the first to develop the approach to the story with guest actor Richard Willis. Both have many years of experience working on Shakespeare plays and they want to give this production a memorable one.