Auditions for “Shakespeare in the Arb” took place Nov. 5 – 6 with more than 30 students trying out for a spot in “The Tempest.” The directors, senior Alex Tiren and junior Audrey Gray, are pleased with the cast they chose.
Senior Daniel Spiotta was picked for the lead role of Prospero, a magician who is exiled with his infant daughter to an island. Most of the play takes place years later, when his daughter Miranda (sophomore Maran McLeod), is grown up. By that time, Prospero is the master of a fairy named Ariel (senior Rachel Kalthoff) and a grotesque creature named Caliban (freshman Catherine Coffey). The plot involves Prospero raising a tempest to shipwreck his enemies on the island to take his vengeance on them. Among them is a young man named Ferdinand (freshman Nick Gibbs), who falls in love with Miranda.
Tiren said what he primarily hopes to express to the audience is Shakespeare’s treatment of Prospero’s character.
“I’m excited about exploring the character of Prospero: his journey into the nature of humanity and his reentry into community,” he said.
Spiotta, who has written a 20-page paper on the play, is looking forward to portraying Prospero.
“The focus of my paper was the study of Providence in ‘The Tempest,’” he said. “And I think that Prospero is an extremely interesting character to look into as far as Providence is concerned, and how he’s an agent of supernatural grace — also an agent of preternatural grace.”
Gray is excited to have Spiotta on the team.
“When Daniel came on and read, he just was Prospero. It was perfect,” she said, adding that because he understands Shakespeare so well, he was able to put exactly the right feeling into the lines.
Tiren agreed, but Spiotta himself was more skeptical.
“I’m not a good actor,” he said. “But Alex knew that when he asked me to be Prospero, so it’s his fault.”
McLeod, who will play Miranda, said she’s never had such a prominent role before, but she’s excited about the challenge of exploring the father/daughter relationship as well as the romantic side of her role.
“I like the idea of Miranda being someone who is in the dark a little bit about her past and yet she is intelligent and she’s compassionate and inquisitive,” she said.
Gibbs, who will play opposite McLeod, has never acted before but said he’s excited about his role.
“It’s going to be really fun trying to act out romance,” he said. “It’s going to be a learning experience.”
He also said he is curious to see how they will show the storm in the Arb.
Spiotta echoed his sentiment.
“There are no special effects,” he said. “So it will be interesting to see how we work that through, because it’s called ‘The Tempest’ for a reason.”
Spiotta, who played Oberon in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” last year, is also excited about the prospect of once again working with a “sidekick” character similar to Puck.
“It’s always fun to have kind of a little spiritual imp to work with,” he said.
Tiren and Gray both said they were looking forward to working together as directors. The directors for each year are chosen by the previous directors.Tiren and Gray said their individual theatrical talents complement each other.
“She has a lot of experience with the production side of things,” Tiren said. “I have more experience with the acting side of things. So we bring together those two aspects of theatre.”
“Working with Tiren on this production has already been interesting, partially because he has a different perspective on theatre from my own,” Gray said. “He’s an English major with a passion for Shakespeare and tends to pick out and show me aspects of the characters and script that I hadn’t noticed.”
Tiren said he chose “The Tempest” because for his last play at Hillsdale, he wanted something with more depth than most of Shakespeare’s comedies.
“I think [Shakespeare] has more to say philosophically in ‘The Tempest’ than in most of his comedies,” Tiren said. “It definitely comes with a lot of laughs but there’s also some great drama [and] some really deep characters as well.”
For Tiren, one reason this play is significant is that in addition to being his last college play, it was also the last play Shakespeare wrote.
“At the end of the play Prospero throws down his magic staff. That’s Shakespeare putting down his pen in the same way. He’s almost written himself into the character,” Tiren said.
The play will be performed in the Arb on April 20 and 21.