By Zander Kuebler of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Complete with wagons, guns, and lassos, Stone Bridge High School put a Wild West twist on their production of “The Tempest,” highlighting a unique perspective on the classic Shakespearean bundle of comedy and tragedy.
Widely assumed to be William Shakespeare’s last original play, “The Tempest” was first performed in 1611. The story follows a wizard named Prospero as he uses magic and manipulation to seek revenge on his brother Antonio for usurping his dukedom. Propsero’s extreme attempts to hurt Antonio and his accomplices lead to a variety of bizarre situations involving a plethora of different quirky and magical characters, ultimately resulting in Propero reclaiming his duke status.
Because much of the story revolves around the actions of Prospero, it is imperative that a production of “The Tempest” has a capable actor fulfilling that role. Andrew Burton did not disappoint, taking on the essential part with ease. Burton used a powerful posture and a booming voice to display Propsero’s dominance, and wielded Prospero’s staff with such comfort that it seemed natural. Most impressive, however, was Burton’s ability to maintain this powerful aura while still displaying a variety of emotions, as he adjusted his pitch and inflection to convey his character’s feelings.
Complementing Burton’s commanding portrayal of Prospero was Prospero’s daughter, Miranda, played by Ava Bueno. Bueno’s Miranda aligned perfectly with Burton’s Prospero. She spoke softer than him, but not too much softer. She was less exaggerative than him, but not too much so. By balancing her acting choices with Burton’s, they created an on-stage relationship that seemed very father-daughter. Unlike Bueno’s softer portrayal of Miranda, Diana Altenhof depicted the spirit Ariel as full of energy and enthusiasm. She contrasted Burton’s brash delivery with one that was neither overly flighty nor incomprehensible, yet was right on the brink. This gave her character an on-the-edge feel that made the production much more gripping.
As mentioned previously, this production of “The Tempest” had a Wild West spin. The Stone Bridge technicians demonstrated this atypical choice well, using costuming, lighting, and props to highlight the western setting. One particularly stand-out moment was at the start of the show, where the lighting technicians (Riley Seppings, Alexander Mccoy, Fletcher Loyer, Ki Smith, Josh Douglass, and Emily Lough) created the illusion that a wagon was going through a storm. The lighting team used different types of shading to make the backdrop look like a choppy horizon, which, when coupled with the sounds of thunder and rainfall, made for a believable downpour. Also worth noting were the props (Emma Paskey). While further adding to the western feel with both guns and lassos, the props department also shined with the typical props used in “The Tempest,” including a very intricate staff for Prospero.
Ultimately, Stone Bridge High School’s unique take on a classic production made for an enjoyable night of magic, madness, and mayhem.
[This review of the May 20 performance Stone Bridge High School is part of a series published in a partnership between Loudoun Now and The Cappies, a writing and awards program that trains high school theater and journalism students to be expert writers, critical thinkers, and leaders.]