Tonight, Laurel Mill Playhouse will be presenting one of Shakespeare’s later comedies, The Tempest. Unlike the Bard’s earlier comedies, The Tempest does not rely on some of his more traditional plot contrivances. The comedy does not depend on mistaken identity, the romance is just a secondary plot, and there is no battle of the sexes. One of the main characters is an older gentleman, Prospero; another is a sprite, Ariel; and still another, and perhaps the most famous, Caliban, is a manlike beast or a beastlike man.
What is unique about this production is all the actors are teens, or near teens. They come because they have found a love for Shakespeare, and some just want to leave their acting comfort zones.
I had a chance to talk to both Producer Maureen Rogers, and Director Michael Hartsfield. I was also able to interview several members of the youthful cast.
Rogers stated that Laurel Mill Playhouse has been producing Shakespeare Teen Theater since the summer of 2010 with a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They had previously been performing children and teen musicals but wanted to open a venue for those who were not able to sing or dance. The Tempest will be their sixth production.
They start publicizing about nine weeks before the start of the show, but many of the kids find out from friends and family. Michael Hartsfield has always been the director, and he has directed many shows for LMP and at Mount St. Joseph High School. Most recently, he has enjoyed directing In the Next Room and For Colored Girls in a more traditional production.
I asked Mr. Hartsfield what he enjoyed most about directing these young actors. “I enjoy witnessing and helping with the development of young actors. They are fearless and willing to try new things.” He felt that all actors should at least try Shakespeare and this has definitely been a “learning experience” for the cast.
The hardest part of working with young actors is how different they understand. “Some of the kids really ‘get it,’ but it is difficult for many to really grasp the Shakespearean language,” the director added.
Hartsfield was not sure they would continue with Shakespeare at LMP as they may have exhausted the comedies. However, he decided to do The Tempest because it is so different from many of the Bard’s other comedies. He thought the kids would enjoy some of the fantastical elements.
Anthony Alessandrini plays Ferdinand, the son of the King, Alonso. He was drawn to this production as he loves to read Shakespeare’s works. Anthony has been on stage many times, mainly in school productions, but this is his first time doing Shakespeare. From working on the production he has learned the playwright had a great mind. Anthony sees Ferdinand as another Romeo. He will definitely do Shakespeare again. This experience has put Anthony in touch with some old friends and has given him a chance to act. He attends St. Vincent Pallotti and lives in Laurel.
Caliban is played by Dave Martinek, a resident of Glen Burnie and a student at George Fox Middle School. He found out about this production while working at Bowie Community Theatre. He was in The Taming of the Shrew at LMP last year and had a great time. He feels that he has been able to expand his knowledge of the arts even further than his Advanced Language Arts program. He thinks the Bard is very humorous and his favorite line is, “I’ll lick thy shoe.” Dave learned to walk with a different funny gait for his character and, of course, wants to continue to act.
Mary Kilgallon plays the fair Miranda. Her sister Rachel plays Ariel. Mary has been active with LMP since the 7th grade and is now in 10th grade at Our Lady of Good Counsel, while. Rachel attends St Mary of the Mills. They live in Laurel. Rachel says she is happy she is finally old enough to be in a production. Mary has been in several Shakespeare productions at LMP while this is Rachel’s first. Both girls have been in other productions here. Mary thinks the language is beautiful, even if the grammar seems awkward, while Rachel had to get accustomed to the speech, but likes the depth of the characters. Both girls learned to stay in character no matter what, and Mary mentioned she learned how do stay in character while interacting with others.
Mary’s favorite character is Ariel who does “all sorts of cool stuff.” Rachel likes Caliban and Trinculo who are the comedic relief in the play. She thinks the characters bring pizzazz to the show. On the other hand, Caliban is Mary’s least favorite character, and would not like to be friends with him (the character, not the actor who plays him). Although Mary feels Miranda is not the most important role in the show, she feels the character brings some light and romance.
Rachel feels her character can be scary at times, but loves Prospero like a daughter. Mary will remember her new friends and that everyone was great and nice to work with. Rachel will remember, “Mr. Hartsfield reminding me of stage directions,” and “how the cast welcomed me as the youngest member.” Mary will definitely perform Shakespeare again, but Rachel felt that although she has a passion to act, she is not likely to do Shakespeare again, except maybe if they do A Midsummer Night’s Dream again.
Emily Bruun who plays the jester Trinculo is a veteran of LMP. Her parents have appeared here as well and her mother, Lori, is on the Tech Crew for this production along with McKenzie Kuhn. Emily lives in Columbia and attends Long Reach High School. It has become a tradition for her to do Shakespeare at LMP even though she feels her classmates hate Shakespeare. She has been involved with Shakespeare since the 6th grade production of Twelfth Night. Emily had to learn to act drunk for this production. Emily likes the character of Ariel for her mystical qualities. Sometimes her character is the smart aleck jester and sometimes, Trinculo becomes a drunken idiot. She plans on making acting a recreational vehicle but does not enjoy competing for roles. She will remember that sometimes acting can leave some real marks as she has had some minor injuries learning to get hit by a bottle.
The patriarch of the play Prospero is played by Faith Ore. Faith is from Silver Spring and attends Montgomery College. He loved acting in High School but lately, has not had a chance to do much. So, he was happy to get an email about this production.He has performed in other Shakespearean productions outside LMP (Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet). Faith stated at first the lines seem confusing but once you understand you can comprehend any Shakespeare you come across. He has learned from Mr. Hartsfield one only really has a short time to memorize lines, and you must take that time seriously. He likes the character of Fernando who at first is a lost soul and then finds love Faith sees his character Prospero as intelligent and “never does anything unless there is a reason.” He plays Prospero as a man who uses his experience to devise plans. He would love to play Othello some day and acting would be his profession in a perfect world, and he is very appreciative of Mr. Hartsfield who was very understanding when Faith had trouble memorizing due to a head injury.
Others in the cast are Anna Schuster (Alonso) from Columbia and she is home-schooled. Grace La Count plays Sebastian is from Catonsville and attends Sudbrook Magnet Middle School. Diana Reed from Ellicott City plays Antonio and Juno, and she attends Mount de Sales Academy.
Gonzalo is played by Amanda Snyder from Crofton and a student at South River High School. Hunter Frederick plays Adrian and Francisco and is from West Laurel and attends St. Mary of the Mills.
Stephano is portrayed by Hanaa Omran, and she resides in Columbia and is in Hammond High School. Master of the Ship and Isis are portrayed by Izzy Stephen and is from Catonsville and also goes to Sudbrook Magnet Middle School. Finally in the roles of Boatswain and Ceres is Allison Vallario from Edgewater and a student at South River High.
Michael Hartsfield summarized the experience this way: “I will remember the programs the actors have made since beginning the rehearsal process. They are a hard-working bunch of kids.”
Come to Laurel and you will be impressed with this mature cast and enjoy this mystical Shakespearean production.
The Tempest opens tonight Friday, May 29, 2015, and plays through Friday, June 12, 2015 at the Laurel Mill Playhouse-508 Main Street, in Laurel, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 617-9906, or purchase them online.