Nome Arts Council brings The Tempest to Nome
Nomeites were treated to a rare theatre performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in a production by the Nome Arts Council, under direction of KNOM volunteer Gabe Colombo and with a cast of mostly Nome middle and high school students and four adults.
The play, Colombo said, lends itself to a wide variety of interpretations as it showcases universal human behavior and its range of emotions from hate and vengeance to love and forgiveness. “It is grounded in this idea that we have approached The Tempest in the context of Western Alaska,” director Colombo wrote in his introductory note. The ensemble gave it a distinct Western Alaskan twist with the inclusion of the King Island Dancers and Drummers who drummed at the beginning, the intermission and the end.
Prospera, played by Sarah Hanson, is the former duke of Milan and was exiled from her home and left to live out her life on a remote island, together with her daughter Miranda, played by eighth-grade student Sara Bioff.
Caliban, a native to the island, showed Prospera how to survive on the island, showing her the foods to eat and where to find them, until he tried to force himself on Miranda. Prospera then entraps Caliban and torments him with harmful magic if Caliban does not obey the orders.
Prospera’s magic allows her to rule the island including the elements and spirits such as Caliban and the spirit Ariel, played by Ellie Martinson. Ariel had been freed by Prospera from a spell and is indebted to Prospera, but wants to earn her freedom. Protrayed as half human half monster, Caliban, masterfully played by Jake Kenick, resents Prospera, takes Stephano, one of the shipwrecked servants, as a god and as his new master. Caliban learns that Stephano is neither a god nor Prospero's equal in the conclusion of the play, however, and Caliban agrees to obey Prospera again.
The tempest, a wicked storm brought on by Prospera, ends in the shipwreck of Prospera’s usurping brother, the King of Naples and his entourage on the island. After much confusion, a rebellion, an assassination attempt on the king of Naples and a shipwrecked prince of Naples falling in love with Miranda, Prospera is faced with the choice to forgive and move on or to seek revenge. She decides to forgive, leave the island and go back to her life in Milan.
Wordy and full of exquisite language, directing a Shakespeare play is a formidable undertaking.
Colombo said in an interview with The Nome Nugget that for five years, he has attended Shakespeare Camps in Texas, first as a student and then as a camp counselor. Last year, he came to Nome as a volunteer for KNOM straight from Camp Shakespeare, where students in intense workshops explore and study Shakespeare through performance. “I have done about 20 Shakespeare plays in various capacities,” he said. “The Tempest has a lot of themes that are relevant to here,” Colombo said. Post-colonial trauma, as shown in the conflicted relationship between Prospera and Caliban, comes to a moment of reconciliation.
The wedding dance, in the play portrayed by dancing of Roman Gods, has been transformed to the dance of Native spirits with the performance of King Island Dancers.
Colombo said the ensemble had six weeks to rehearse. For the 12 roles, 16 Nomeites rehearsed. In the end, the title role went to Sarah Hofstetter, Caliban was played by Jake Kenick, Ariel by high school student Ellie Martinson, Gonzalo was played by Richard Beneville, high school student Makayla Marble played Alonso. Aaron Blankenship got into a fourwheeler accident the day of the premiere, and director Colombo jumped in to play the role of Antonio. Eighth grader Bode Leeper played Sebastian, Andrew Hafner, also in eighth grade, played Ferdinand, prince of Naples whose marriage to Miranda is a harbinger of reconciliation. Raina McRae, played Stephano, a drunken butler, with her sidekick Trinculo, a jester, played by Sophia Marble. Highschool student Maya Coler played lord Adrian.