By Christian Carvajal
William Shakespeare will be celebrated this summer in a unique trifecta of his work on stage. Three theater companies have joined to create a mini-Shakespeare festival in the South Sound from June through August 2019. Beginning on June 28, Animal Fire Theatre has staged one of Shakespeare’s most outrageous comedies, The Merry Wives of Windsor at Priest Point Park. The romance As You Like It was the next Shakespearean production on June 30 with Goldfinch Productions, a new team with a long theatrical history.
The three-part summer Shakespeare season concludes in August with the magical romance The Tempest at the Port Plaza, produced by OLY ARTS founder Ned Hayes, in conjunction with Olympia Harbor Days.
“I’ve wanted to create a production of The Tempest at the Port Plaza for 15 years,” says Ned Hayes, local theatre impresario and founder of OLY ARTS. Hayes says the tall tower beside Budd Bay was his inspiration to bring Shakespeare’s island play to this scene. “I found the perfect director,” he says. “And the Puget Sound called to me.”
That director was Kate Ayers, whose efforts for Olympia Family Theater include The Monster Under the Bed and world premiere of Cinder Edna. Her take on the Bard’s maritime classic will, in its closing weekend, coincide with Olympia Harbor Days, allowing it to be performed against vintage tugboats and the brig Lady Washington.
Ayers sees indentured spirit Ariel (Silva Goetz) as the show’s central character. “During the time [Shakespeare] was writing,” Ayers says, “spirits, fairies — They were both considered somewhat real.”
That attitude suggested an inscrutable, supernatural setting for the play. “When twilight happens,” Ayers explains, “if you’re walking somewhere and you sense a presence … it’s that moment.”
Thus, the play’s unnamed, Mediterranean island becomes a surreal locale: less Illyria, more Lost. It’s about shipwrecked sailors, but the titular tumult doesn’t end where the coastline begins.
That’s because the island’s exotic denizens labor under the mystical command of exiled Milanese duke Prospero, played by Brian Tyrrell (Equivocation), professor emeritus of Centralia College. Suffering most, perhaps, is Caliban (Drew Doyle), reassessed in the 20th century as a victim of colonial oppression.
“[This summer offers] three very different aspects of Shakespeare,” says Ned Hayes. “You get to have a full spectrum on stage, from a very silly story, The Merry Wives of Windsor, to the pastoral As You Like It, and then you have this kind of proto-romance, magical story that, to me, has some echoes of tragedy in it, because it is about the death of one way of living.”
8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14;
8 p.m. Thursdays – Saturdays, Aug. 15-31 (except Aug. 24)
701 Columbia St. NW, Olympia