REVIEW: Shakespeare’s The Tempest (The Weekly Volcano)

Shakespeare’s The Tempest, performed in front of the viewing tower at Olympia’s Port Plaza, is a beautifully staged outdoor performance of one of the Bard’s last and most challenging plays. It opens with the crash of thunder and lightning in a chaotic scene of a storm at sea performed in front of the scenic background of the Port of Olympia. From there, a cadre of Olympia’s finest actors perform magic and find love — and get drunk and obnoxious for an hour and a half in a play significantly and expertly adapted by Director Kate Ayers from the much longer original script, cutting out characters and entire scenes to leave a core of exciting drama.


‘The Tempest’ to be staged at Port Plaza, where Lady Washington can serve as backdrop

Shakespeare in parks is nothing new, but Thursday, South Sound theater-goers can check out something new: Shakespeare at the port.

“The Tempest,” a romance set on an enchanted island, runs through the end of the month at the Port Plaza, where a tall ship will be visible near the stage during the annual Harbor Days tugboat festival.

“The port is a perfect location for this show,” said director Kate Ayers, best known for her work with Olympia Family Theater. “The water is right there, and it’s about a storm on the water.”

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OLY ARTS: Olympia’s Summer of Shakespeare

Olympia’s Summer of Shakespeare In Three Acts

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.

The Tempest

“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.”

Director Kate Ayers is well-known locally for her involvement with Olympia Family Theater

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.”


The Tempest


8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14;

8 p.m. Thursdays – Saturdays, Aug. 15-31 (except Aug. 24)


Port Plaza,

701 Columbia St. NW, Olympia





The Olympian: Could Olympia Become a Mini-Ashland?

Great article in the Olympian about the three Shakespearean productions outside this summer, by Molly Gilmore


  • What: The waterfront production of the fantastical Shakespearean comedy, produced by Oly Arts founder Ned Hayes and directed by Kate Ayers, will feature offshore tall ships during the last two performances, sponsored by Harbor Days.
  • When: 8 p.m. Aug. 15-23 and 29-31, with a preview at 8 p.m. Aug. 14
  • Where: Port Plaza, downtown Olympia
  • More information:

Casting Announcement – The Tempest, Summer 2019

April 15, 2019 —

William Shakespeare’s The Tempest will appear at the Port Plaza in August 2019 in a series of performances sponsored by OLY ARTS and OLYMPIA HARBOR DAYS. The production team has now announced a director for the production, as well as a lead actor in the role of Prospero, the magician.

“The Tempest team is happy to announce that Brian Tyrrell will star as Prospero in this production,” said Hayes. “Tyrrell is a former repertory member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and is one of the region’s most renowned stage actors.”

Tyrrell earned his MFA in Theatre from Purdue University. Brian recently retired from Centralia College where he taught/directed for 25 years. He’s the recipient of the Gold Medallion from the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival for years of service to the Northwest Drama Conference. He’s the co-founder of the Northwest Playwright’s Alliance at the Seattle Repertory Theatre and has acted as an assistant director at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle.  As an actor his work has been seen at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and on tour with the National Shakespeare Company in New York.

“The Tempest team is overjoyed that to direct a stellar cast, we’ve also chosen a stellar director,” said Hayes. “Kate Ayers is a nationally ranked playwright and director whom we are fortunate to have in Olympia.”

Playwright, director and actor, Ayers has appeared in multiple national and international tours. She was the co-founder of the Indianapolis Children’s Theatre and has created educational theater programs in prisons, museums and theaters in multiple locations nationwide. Her plays have appeared on over 300 stages across the nation, and  La Casa Azul, her musical based on the life of Frida Kahlo, is currently casting for its National Premiere this summer. Ms. Ayers ran the Theater Program at the Indiana Women’s Prison for 10 years, studied at the Goodman Theatre School, and graduated from Columbia (Directing).   The Tempest production is overjoyed to have Ayers as director.

Additional cast and crew will be announced after open auditions in May 2019. Director Ayers encourages actors of varying backgrounds and theatrical experience to audition for the production.

A technical team will be announced in a future press announcement.

More information about the production, including upcoming audition information and information about production dates can be found at

Announcement: The Tempest in Olympia, Summer 2019

April 8, 2019 — OLY ARTS and OLYMPIA HARBOR DAYS announce a new collaboration to bring to the South Sound a new production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Produced in partnership with Olympia’s Port Plaza, the production will be staged on and around the Port Plaza tower in late August 2019.

The play is produced by South Sound theatre impresario Ned Hayes.

“I’ve wanted to bring The Tempest to life at the Port tower for nearly ten years, and I’m excited that I’ve finally found an amazing professional team who can bring a magical Tempest to life here by the Puget Sound,” said Hayes.

Hayes previously produced “8” at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts and a variety of other theatrical productions for Capital Playhouse and other production houses in Minnesota and Seattle. His most well known Seattle production was an 8-hour staged version of John Milton’s Paradise Lost produced with the Washington Center for the Book and in partnership with Seattle Rep, the Intiman and Seattle Opera. Hayes has served as a board director for the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Clarion West, the South Sound Reading Foundation and the NOVA School.

The production is sponsored by OLY ARTS, the South Sound’s premiere arts and culture publication, now reaching 25,000 readers with 7 annual print editions, daily updates online at, mobile apps, podcasts and more. In 2015, Hayes was the original founder of OLY ARTS. Current executive editor and publisher Billy Thomas announced his support. “OLY ARTS wants to do everything we can to bring a spotlight to professional theater in our region,” said Thomas. “We support both Animal Fire Shakespeare in the summer, and this new production as well — we believe the South Sound can be a destination for professional theater that astounds and delights.”

The production is also sponsored by Olympia Harbor Days. The Olympia Kiwanis Club and the Squaxin Island Tribe have united to extend their Olympia Harbor Days sponsorship to this production of The Tempest. “We are excited to make this production part of the live festival and event experience,” said organizer Carol Riley. “The island setting and the mystery and magic of the story are a perfect fit for Olympia Harbor Days.”

Riley is coordinating with the production team to feature tall ships beside the stage during the closing weekend of the staging.

More information about the production, including upcoming audition information and information about production dates can be found at