Student-directed ‘The Tempest’ impresses

Brick by Brick Players, a theatre company directed by Hadley Evans Nash ’21, performed an outdoor production of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” on April 30 and May 1.

A senior theatre major, Evans Nash decided to adapt and direct “The Tempest” as her independent research project for her major. The process began with 24 students auditioning for the five parts for which Evans Nash was casting. As the play is considered a coming-of-age story, Evans Nash focused on displaying three younger characters — Miranda, Ariel and Caliban — as they relate to Prospero, the play’s protagonist. The characters came of age in a setting reminiscent of a childhood playroom, surrounded by toys.

Evans Nash focused a lot on play and wanted to create a cast “that could play with me,” Evans Nash said. The talent of Grace Bloomquist ’21, Adam Hecker ’22, Kate Helin-Burnette ’22, Jack Moody ’23 and Sydney Hall ’21 brought Evans Nash’s vision to life. These five were “actors who take risks and were willing to be strong and wrong,” Evans Nash said.

Posters for the play went up on Monday, April 26 with a QR code to register for tickets. Both performances took place in the outside seating area behind Rolvaag Memorial Library. The 30 person audience sat both on the ground and in adirondack chairs. For those who could not attend in person, the performance was also recorded.

Bloomquist played Caliban, Miranda and Ariel. According to her, the biggest challenge of producing the play was the transitions. Since Bloomquist played three different characters, differentiated by where asky blue scarf of her costume was tied on her body, she had relatively no breaks and at one point had to make a transition to one character after just saying a line as another.

Along with the visual of the scarf, Bloomquist brought a different energy, and sometimes even voice, to each character she played, whether she was acting drunk or in love. Although it was a challenge, it was also “fun to navigate,” Bloomquist said. To assist with the transitions for both Bloomquist and the audience, the crew rang a bell prior to Bloomquist speaking as a new character.

While the lines of the script came directly from Shakespeare’s original work, Brick by Brick Players adapted the story, creating an island of their own outside of the library. The island featured toys scattered around the stage, and in fits of rage, the actors used a plastic baseball bat to emphasize their emotions. The environment around the actors also played a role in bringing the plot to life. Bloomquist leaped and skipped around a tree and, at one point, even climbed it to hurl plastic balls down to the stage to symbolize aggressive emotions pouring out. These creative elements made the play humorous at times but also demonstrated the strong power dynamics between the characters.

COVID-19 restrictions generated a new level of creativity to the performance, from the number of actors to the physical distancing on stage. These restrictions did not limit the cast in any way and instead highlighted the production members’ innovation and talent.

“This feels like the perfect note to end on. Being able to do this, tackle three roles in one, with people I love working with and being able to do Shakespeare in a global pandemic is really cool. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity,” Bloomquist said.