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The City Journals

Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ comes to West Valley

Apr 04, 2018 03:28PM ● By Keyra Kristoffersen

Trent Dahlin (left) as Prospero and Erica Alexandra Carvalho as Miranda in the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 2018 Shakespeare-in-the-Schools production of “The Tempest.” (Photo /Karl Hugh)

Continuing a 24-year tradition, the Utah Cultural Celebration Center will host two performances of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” put on by the Utah Shakespeare Festival on tour from Cedar City.

“Because it’s Utah Shakespeare Festival, we always have a sense of confidence in the quality,” said Susan Klinker of the UCCC. “They slightly stylize the performance and update it appealing and making it understandable to the young people even at the elementary school level.”

This is the first year that “The Tempest” has been taken on tour and is part of the Shakespeare-in-the-Schools program and brought in by UCCC’s Artrageous program which brings together students and various visual and creative arts.

“We are thrilled that they are hosting us and they have hosted us for many years and we’re grateful for that,” said Michael Bahr, education director for the Utah Shakespeare Festival. “It’s really great to have this amazing production with professional actors on their turf.”

The touring productions of the Utah Shakespeare Festival began in 2005 and have served over 20,000 students with 70 performances at more than 150 schools and venues in Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado and Idaho in that time. Some venues include at-risk and correctional facilities and Navajo Nations communities. Each show takes about two hours to set up and then runs for 75 minutes with a 15-minute discussion between cast and audience before everything is packed up and moves to the next location. When the show is put on at a school, there will often be workshops in stage combat, improvisation and Shakespeare’s text that accompanies the performance.

“For many people, this is the first professional production they’ve seen, it might be the first Shakespeare production that they’ve seen and we want them to understand it,” said Bahr.

The set is interesting, said Bahr, because while it’s simple with a stripped away feel, there are two scaffolding pieces so that Prospero can stand on a different level looking down on the other actors.

“They try to keep simple and consistent to the philosophic approach to Shakespeare plays when they were performed,” said Klinker.

The costumes are Shakespearean but meant to clearly convey who is of the island and who is not, and the script, while keeping the language, is condensed for time and ease of understanding.

“I think the concept also allows you to imagine and fill in the blank as you watch,” said Bahr. “The reduction allows us to distill and extrapolate those stronger themes. They still are true to the text but they’re told in such a way that the whole family can understand.”

A total of seven actors play multiple roles in this version and after the matinee performance will speak to the audience about how and why they became involved, what drew them to Shakespeare and what their characters are like.

“We always get a lot of lively feedback,” said Klinker. “The kids usually really love it.”

Multiple directors, like Chris Duvall from the University of Utah, are also used for many of the touring shows because, Bahr said, they accomplish several goals: innovative productions, relevant and accessible text and stories relevant to most people in any time period.

“I love ‘The Tempest,’” said Bahr. “I think it’s a story of redemption and magic and forgiveness and justice. The school crowds have been commenting on those very themes.”

The performances are Monday, April 2 at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. and are free to the public on a first come, first served basis. Reservations are recommended for the matinee performance because of the high number of school groups.

“These stories are still relevant today and we want to make sure that we’re telling these stories tomorrow,” Bahr said.