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Go below decks of The Tempest with our creative team.

An interview with the creative team by dramaturg Aislin Dyer

The 2024 BYU Young Company has had a blast premiering a new adaptation of The Tempest by director Teresa Love. Below they share their thoughts and feelings about this production.

Blake Haskett, Gracie Cutler, Paige Fowler, and Michael Combs in BYU Young Company’s The Tempest

Teresa, what have you found interesting or challenging about creating this adaptation of The Tempest for young audiences? 

Teresa Love (director): “Dealing with the “stories within stories” format and all the characters that populate the show, with many personalities, age, characteristics, and histories, is huge. In our show there are the Actors in pre-show, the Actors as Beach People, the Beach People as multiple Characters within The Tempest, as well as audience members pulled to play parts, and audience members who play roles from their seats. All these elements need visual clues in their costumes, props, set and sound designs that the young audience members can attach to quickly to help them make meaning of who is talking, and when and where they are.

It’s not that children can’t keep track of complicated stories—think about any RPG kids play and note how they can explain it in detail to an adult who has NO idea what they are talking about. It’s that as a theatre piece we have forty-five minutes to become a collective, actors and audience, to experience the performance together and feel all the feels and understand all the things. There’s no time for distraction! We need to be on point to take everyone on this crazy magical ride and bring them home safely, but changed. The designs are signals to children about what they need to know so the story (even when spoken in Elizabethan English!) makes sense to them.”

Paige, Gracie, Blake, and Michael

Kim, as the one and only designer for this production, what is it like for you to create the world of The Tempest?

Kim Wright (designer): As the scenic designer, I want to help build a functional and aesthetically pleasing world for the actors to live in, which also effectively communicates the storytelling. But my choices are greatly limited because it all has to fold up, be lightweight and portable, and be able to be set up in about 30 minutes.

This challenge is also one of the most interesting things about designing for Young Company. I get to really stretch myself creatively to come up with a design that fulfills all of the practical and aesthetic needs of a set, while also being completely portable.

Actors, what do you enjoy about the costumes Kim designed? 

Paige Fowler (Rande/Miranda/Stephano): I love my seashell tiara—it really lends itself to the idea that Miranda is a lost princess, or even humble royalty.

Michael Combs (C. Glass/Prospero): Prospero’s robe is such a fun costume, I love the mystery and age it gives him, while also looking like it came from the sea.

Paige Fowler and Michael Combs as Miranda and Prospero

Blake Haskett (Din/Caliban/Ferdinand): I’m primarily a massive fan of the Caliban costume. It’s got so many little bits and pieces that come together to create the perfect mossy sea monster. The Caliban mask in itself is awesome.

Thomas Greenwood (Asst. Stage Manager, Swing): I enjoy the simplicity of the costumes. Prospero's cloak is fun to have billowing behind you, but Caliban's costume makes you work a little harder to make his expressions clear with the mask and that helps you bring the fun up to another level.

Blake Haskett as Caliban

What do you think is the funniest thing you do in the show? 

Michael: I can’t help but chuckle to myself every time I tell Miranda to “be collected” about the people having gone through a terrible storm and potentially drowning.

Blake: The funniest thing I do in the show comes from my Ferdinand scene, specifically the bucket of sand and the goofy noises I get to make while using it. Ferdinand is such a lovesick puppy, and it’s so much fun to portray that through a “royal” manner.

Paige: Playing the part of Stephano never fails to get some giggles from the audience. It’s fun to wear a mustache and forsake propriety.

Michael Combs and Paige Fowler as Prospero and Miranda

Gracie Cutler (Ariel/Gonzalo): The funniest thing I do in the show is lead the school teachers in a dance! Or when I jump scare Prospero at the end of the show!

Judy Schnebly (stage manager): I love watching the kids react to the sea nymph teacher dance that Ariel leads!

What is challenging about touring and playing in different spaces? 

Gracie: It is difficult to tour because you have to be in a new space everyday! But that is also what makes it so exciting! It's never the same show and the audience is SO different in each school.

Thomas:  The challenging part is you don't have the comfort of knowing the space. You have to constantly adapt everything you do to a new stage and that is a challenge when most of what you do needs to be memorized, yet can't be tied to a particular place. It needs to live more inside of you.

Michael: Having to move the set and props back and forth all the time.

Paige: It is definitely challenging to adjust the set as well as blocking when playing in a different space. It is very important to me to be able to reach every member of the audience and varying spaces provide different challenges and adjustments. However, it is a fun challenge I am willing to accept!

Blake Haskett, Michael Combs, and Paige Fowler

Judy: It's always a new journey! It can be a challenge to figure out where to seat the audience, where to place the boundaries of the playing space, and how to balance the sound levels. Just like a typical set show, the audience is always different, but I feel like the variables are greater with this type of a show. Sometimes we have lots of kids in the audience, from littles to upper grades and sometimes we only have a couple of classes. The energy in the room can vary and the actors have to be really in tune with what the needs of the audience are! Waking up super early (sometimes 4:30 AM!) to get to the schools can also be a challenge physically but it's worth it when we greet our audience! I also like how touring makes the show feel fresh in each new location because the playing space is a little bit different.

What is your favorite part about performing for a young audience?  

Gracie: I love working with the kids and hearing their reactions! They are so full of light and laughter and it makes my heart so happy! Being able to bring a bit of joy into any of their lives is the best thing in the world.

Blake: I love performing for the kids, as it allows me to fashionably introduce kiddos to theater, creativity, and imagination through fun shows. The workshops we run on tour are even better, as the kids get to personally experience all the action by guiding the activities and games in whatever direction they wish.

Judy: I love watching their reactions throughout the show. This story takes them through all sorts of emotions, from laughter at seeing their teachers dance to being a little wary of the growling Caliban and everything in between. I love hearing their laughter and watching their faces light up! I also love how interactive the show is with the audience and that some of the audience gets to be in the show! I think the kids also get really excited to see their peers up on stage and it keeps them invested in the story.

Thomas:  They are so open and once they are comfortable with the idea that you will be doing a show, they are so enthusiastic about showing their approval. They turn their heads when the actors go behind them, they laugh and giggle in ways adults don't, they help shush the rowdy audience members, and overall they bring this fresh view of theater that is wonderful compared to the somewhat stale conventions of adults going to the theater. I can learn a thing or two about enjoying theater by participating with them.

Blake: This show has been one of the greatest things I’ve ever been a part of. The opportunity to positively impact hundreds of kids in their own schools in a meaningful and memorable way has been such an amazing experience. Big plays and musicals are cool and all, but nothing comes close to the feeling of a kid coming up to you after a show, congratulating you on your performance, and then asking if I play basketball.

Gracie: I love working with kids so much! Children are the light of the world and spending any time with anyone of them will make your day better!!

Gracie Cutler as Ariel

Judy: I also just want to say how delightful it is to bring Shakespeare to young audiences and to see what we've done in rehearsals pay off. Throughout the rehearsal process, some things felt really silly for the actors without an audience and we wondered sometimes how things would work in front of the children! But we're happy to report that Teresa's being well attuned to the needs and cognitive connections of our audiences has paid off! All of our audiences have responded in all the right ways and it is such a treat to watch! We see them really engaging with the characters and the story and hopefully this is a memory they'll keep with them for a long time!

Michael Combs

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