An Aerial “Tempest”


Shakespeare’s The Tempest has always been a favorite of mine. Why? That’s easy. It’s full of beauty and magic. Prospera brings to life an “insubstantial pageant” in which she creates “the cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself.” She is the playwright of her own performance, and this performative layering utilizes and embodies the magic of theater in ways that Shakespeare excels over the majority of other playwrights. By tapping into new art forms and technologies, HHS’s theatre department delivers the beauty, artistry, and magic I would expect…nay…demand of a production of The Tempest.

The most unique aspect of the play are Ariels’ aerial; the character of Ariel, Prospera’s spritely servant is not portrayed by one good actor but by three: Khoi Do, Bella Gabor and Emily Harley. Having three Ariels intensifies the character’s mystic and ominous presence, especially in the scenes where Ariel condemns and threatens Prospera’s enemies. In these scenes, Ariel is reminiscent of the mysterious and frightening witches from Macbeth. Yet, through the use of aerial silks, the Ariels also flits and floats about like airy spirits. Ariel’s aerials adds an extra level of beauty and grace to a play known for indulging in theatrical magic. The Ariels purposefully manipulate the silks to cause certain effects. Sometimes they wrap themselves in the silks as if bound or hiding; they also use the silks to simulate wings or represent airy flight. They climb, tumble, and fly over and across the stage.

Prospera’s magic and Ariels’ mysticism is enhanced by the use of creative video projection used to show the swells of the storm, Prospera’s magic, and the pageant of the goddesses. I’m not a Shakespeare purist by any means, but I do worry sometimes that all of these bells and whistles take away from the content of the play. Thankfully that is not the case with HHS’s production. The aerial silks and video projection create a wondrous vision that adds to the magic of the play as a whole instead of detracting from it.

The play is held together by a fantastic group of actors. All of the aerial silks and video projection in the world are nothing without the actors. Silma Berrada proves her command of the stage in her depiction of Prospera. Her Prospera is young, active and vibrant. While this youthful depiction complicates Prospera’s self-acknowledged preoccupation with her own death; it does make the character timeless while she controls her magic and the island. Derrick Karas brings a male take on the refreshing innocence to the character of Mirando, but yet it is an innocence tempered and shaped by a strong will. He and Sophia Nelson (Ferdinand) have fantastic chemistry. While that romance can be seen as tainted through Prospera’s manipulation, these two make the relationship seem pure and loving.  The added use of aerial silks and the lyra to create a partnership when these young lovers only enhance their relationship.  Through the comedic talents of Lily Higgins (Stephano) and Claire Looker (Trinculo) this production brings a great deal of humor in the play.

Overall, I think Homestead High School’s production of The Tempest is a beautiful representation of the magic theater can perform. I highly suggest that you check out this unique production before it goes away. The Department of Theater will be performing The Tempest this weekend. Check out their website for showtimes and ticket prices.

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