In Part 1 of a series of interviews with the cast of Shakespeare Theatre Company’s The Tempest, meet Sofia Jean Gomez.
Michael: Introduce yourself to our readers, and tell them where they may have seen you on local stages in the past year.
Sofia: Hola! My name is Sofia Jean Gomez and the last show I did in DC was Argonautika at The Shakespeare Theatre Company—which I got a Helen Hayes nomination for being covered in glitter, carrying a sharp spear, and acting it up as Athena-War Goddess directed by Mary Zimmerman.
Your new production of The Tempest opened at Sidney Harman Hall this week. Can you tell us a little about the show and what it was about it that made you want to be part of this production?
With the bustlin’ of Holidays, it’s easy to get caught up with everything but the spirit of the season. The Tempest is just that. It’s a play of family, forgiveness, love, laughter, and Magic. Yes, even us humans can cast spells. Especially in a time with such justifiable unrest, we need to remember our sense of humanity and our capacity to grow. The Tempest will challenge and heal you. This is what intrigued me, as an Artist to The Tempest. I wanted to investigate a play about how one forgives, survives, learns to laugh, learns to love. Ethan McSweeny, our fab director, had a sharp gorgeous vision for entering the play. And when I found out that I would be at least 35 feet in the air!!! …challenge accepted.
Who do you play and how can you relate to your character? Which character is most like you and why?
I play the high flying trickster—Ariel. My connection to Ariel has many different webs of contact. It is my job to engulf myself with a character. So, it is fairly easy to relate to Ariel’s open-eyed view to new strangers on the island, the excitement of being something of a Trickster, creative muse, the craving and hunger for freedom—artistically and personally. With that said, I do favor Prospero’s (played by Geraint Wyn Davies) exquisite journey throughout the play. Watching Prospero evolve over the course of the show and the tough soul-searching crevices he grapples with…it’s just breathtaking.
The Tempest is known for its supernatural elements. What is your favorite moment of “magic” in this production?
My favorite Magic of the show is the Flying. Brought to you by ZFX Flying, and Flight Director Stu Cox. It takes a team of at least 5 people backstage to perform what you guys get to see each night. The flying is all done by a team of men and women lifting one person. And there is such artistry and uber- dedication, strength, agility, and focus. You can see a flying video below:
I love them. I like to call them the Avengers. They sometimes call me Stinkerbell when I’m being mischievous ;)
In the context of your personal career, does The Tempest fit into a pattern? Or does it represent a break in the kind of work you normally do?
Wow. The Tempest marks another huge growth in my career. I am not an actress to shy away from a challenge—even if it terrifies me. So, my pattern in my work would be going with the unexpected and fearless—in whatever simple or difficult way that means. Two years ago, I started a journey to really begin my relationship with Shakespeare. I just felt it time to work with him. Ariel marks the third Shakespeare character I have played. And let’s get real—the flying. 10 feet? I’m okay. 35 feet?? I was terrified. I overcame some height demons and really surprised myself and others of what I am truly capable of. It took wonderous support from the Shakespeare Theatre Company and training with Le Cirque Center Ashland – Glory Pillsbury and ZFX flying! So, I’m on a very lovely creative evolution. Every little step, working in detail, and breath leading to the next :) I am very grateful for that.
Tell us a bit about your relationship with Shakespeare; do you approach it differently than contemporary drama? What are the unique qualities that Shakespeare can bring to the stage?
Like I said above, my relationship to Shakes is in its honeymoon phase. I approach Shakespeare by the collective ways and mentors I have been taught by. You got to look at Shakespeare just like a simple story. I love looking at plays simply and taking them apart slowly…like an orange or 1,000 piece puzzle. Get to the heart of it. Then, what differentiates Will from Contemporary drama is his delightful playfulness with language. The actual heartbeat he has placed within the syllables of words. His poetry. My job is to live in that in an active action-driven form. Shakespeare brings the full human capacity to the stage. In a society, where it seems the trend with acting is to be passive and “cool,” Shakespeare beckons us to recognize that we are made of bigger “stuff.”
Tell us a bit about the rehearsal process; was there more of an emphasis on the text than with a non-Classical show?
What was interesting with this process of The Tempest was it felt—truly—like a new play process. We were constantly searching for the meat of each scene and the economy of language.
What is your favorite scene that you are not on stage for?
My favorite scene I am not on stage for is between two scenes. (Don’t make me choose!!) The Sebastian and Antonio Conspiring Sc. played by David Bishins and Gregory Linington. Wow. Watch Shakespeare set out a murder before your eyes. Watch a man be swayed to murder a King: “I’ll teach you how to flow.” Makes me wish Antonio had his own villain play. The other scene: Prospero’s “Ye Elves” speech: simple. Dark. Soul-searching. Must see.
In your opinion, what makes this staging of The Tempest different than past productions?
Hands down: The Design, Direction, and Cast. Something haunting and lively. I will not give away our tricks that make this Tempest that special kind of “great Shakespeare production you sit back and you get it. You get the story!”
How can today’s audiences relate to The Tempest?
I wrote this on the Opening of our show: “Every night, this tempest line hits me—specifically now: “the rarer action is in virtue not in vengeance.” Justice. Lady. Lady. You will have your day. Your time. What does it take to turn a paradise into a “brave new world” in a universe corrupt with ignorance and injustice? Magicians = Brave Imaginations.
Shakespeare wrote for us. He wrote for the Everyman. Come see yourself in the mirror of Caliban, the laughter of Stephano, the giddiness of Trinculo, the passion of spirits and magic, the vengeance of Lords, the love of Miranda, the heartache of Ferdinand, the discovery of humanity with Ariel, and the Soul of Prospero. After all, tis the SPIRIT of the season. AND our deserted island…will give you such huge feels for summer—you will forget it’s winter. :)
The Tempest plays through January 11, 2015, at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall – 610 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 547-1122, or purchase them online.
Review of ‘The Tempest’ at Shakespeare Theatre Company by Sophia Howes.
Meet the Cast of Shakespeare Theatre Company’s The Tempest: Part 1: Sofia Jean Gomez.
Meet the Cast of Shakespeare Theatre Company’s The Tempest: Part 2: Clifton Duncan.
Meet the Cast of Shakespeare Theatre Company’s The Tempest: Part 3: Rachel Mewbron.