The Tempest
by William Shakespeare
artwork by CAP Designs
based on "Guardian Spirit of the Waters" by Odilon Redon

December 9-11 at 8 PM
December 12 at 2 PM
Power Center

press release | program | photographs

Press Release
An all-star cast to perform the U-M Theatre Department production of William Shakespeare's magical play, "The Tempest"

The University of Michigan Department of Theatre and Drama will mount its final show of the millennium with an all-star production when it presents "The Tempest" for four performances from December 9 through 12. This magical "comedy in five acts" will find its form in Ann Arbor's largest theatrical venue, the Power Center for the Performing Arts. Director Philip Kerr (with the assistance of Consulting Director Mark Lamos - a Tony Award nominee) has assembled an all-star cast of more than a dozen top faculty actors, dancers and singers to bring this tale of magicians, fairies, goddesses and kings to life. The cast includes six players who are also members of the Actors Equity Association: Philip Kerr (as Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan), Leigh Woods (as Alonso), Erik Fredricksen (as the savage slave Caliban), Malcolm Tulip (as Trinculo, the jester), John Neville-Andrews (as Stephano, the butler), and Joan Morris (as the spirit, Ceres). The other members of this illustrious cast include: Beverley Pooley (Gonzalo), George Shirley (Adrian), Martin Walsh (Master of the Ship), Shirley Verrett (as the spirit, Iris), Deanna Relyea (as the spirit, Juno), and dancers Peter Sparling, Lisa Catrett-Belrose and Tim Smola.

This large cast features performers from across the spectrum of the arts at the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor. Two of the faculty players (George Shirley and Shirley Verrett) have had brilliant careers in the field of opera, including numerous performances on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Two others (Joan Morris and Deanna Relyea) are well-known interpreters of art song and cabaret. Theatre actors John Neville-Andrews and Philip Kerr have both performed frequently in Broadway productions, and dancer/choreographer Peter Sparling has developed his art working with such luminaries as Martha Graham and Jose Limon before joining the Dance Department. Almost every member of the cast is familiar with the halls of academia: Erik Fredricksen is the Chairman of the U-M Theatre Department, Martin Walsh is the head of the drama concentration at the U-M Residential College, Beverley Pooley is an emeritus professor at the U-M Law School, and Joan Morris, Leigh Woods, Malcolm Tulip, Tim Smola, and Lisa Catrett-Belrose are all instructors at the university. Altogether, twenty-seven performers - both student and professional - will inhabit Prospero's enchanted island. Of the thirteen members of the student cast (all undergraduates), twelve are enrolled in the BFA Performance curriculum with the U-M Theatre Department, and one student is in the U-M Musical Theatre department. Six of the student performers are residents of Michigan, hailing from such communities as Lansing, Kalamazoo, Jackson and Pleasant Ridge.

The design and artistic staff for this production is equally distinguished. Sarah-Jane Gwillim, who has appeared on Broadway and with such "name" actors as Glenda Jackson, Judi Dench, and Tim Dalton, is the Assistant Director. As a special feature, the music for The Tempest - the most musical of all of the thirty-eight works in the Shakespearean canon - will be composed by Frank Pahl. Mr. Pahl's score (which he and two musicians will perform at every performance) will showcase an impressive array of custom-built instruments created specifically for this show. Professors Nephelie Andoyandis (costume design) and Rob Murphy (light and scenic design), will show their flare for the dramatic with an imaginative and singular vision of the landscape and denizens of the Bard's magic isle. The two designers have, over the years, created numerous works for both the regional and educational stage, and their most recent work in tandem was another Shakespearean production, "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

"The Tempest" is a play that has delighted audiences for almost 400 years and is regarded by almost all scholars to be Shakespeare's last complete work. The play defies easy categorization. Although it is clearly a comedy in the classical definition of the genre, such a description sits a little uneasily with modern audiences more accustomed to associating comedies with belly laughs, sight gags, and television sit-coms. While there is ample room for such an interpretation, the work, at least since the 19th century, has generally been played as a "romance." There is an element of the "tragic" to be found within the text as well. Shakespeare's late masterpiece is very concerned with issues such as the nature of authority, the clashing demands of revenge and forgiveness, of justice and mercy. The story also dwells on the affairs of the heart. In "The Tempest," Miranda, Prospero's beautiful daughter, has never set her eyes upon any human being other than her father since her infancy. When a bevy of frightened men, both corrupt and honorable, are shipwrecked upon the shores of Prospero's mystical island following a terrible "tempest" at sea, Miranda is immediately struck with the beauty of a noble youth, Ferdinand, the son of the King of Naples. The story follows this affair, but not without first taking the audience on a truly magical journey.

Ultimately, "The Tempest" is a play about magic. For Consulting Director Mark Lamos, "The Tempest" is a veritable litany of mysterious elements. "It is," he writes, "a series of illusions that dissolve into reality... it's about the limits of Art, the madness of History, and the possibility of human redemption through Art and Illusion. ...It does not explain; rather, it shows. And it presents shows, visions, tricks, masques, and illusions. It is peopled by monsters, angels, clowns, magicians, virgins, and politicians. In short, people like us."

Still to come!

Production Photographs

Maclain Looper as Ferdinand, Philip Kerr as Prospero
and Julia Siple as Miranda
Philip Kerr and Julia Siple

The professional cast of "The Tempest"

Beverly Pooley, Leigh Woods,
John Neville-Andrews, Joan Morris,
Malcolm Tulip, Deanna Relyea,
George Shirley, Shirley Verrett,
Philip Kerr, Erik Fredricksen,
and Peter Sparling

*regretably, Shirley Verrett is no longer in the cast as of Dec. 1.