Shakespeare Festival 2014

Crescendo issue: June 2014
"The Tempest will be our first staging of one of Shakespeare's romances, and we think it will be a great choice for the outdoor Upton-Morley Pavilion."

So says Interlochen's director of theatre arts William Church.

"Every year, we look for something that has broad audience appeal while offering strong roles for both our core company members and invited alumni," he continued.

"The Tempest" is a magical theatrical journey. Interlochen's theatre arts instructor Laura Mittelstaedt will be directing this year, her first stint as director, but certainly not her first bit of Shakespeare.

"I have performed more than a dozen Shakespeare roles professionally and have always had a propensity toward acting Shakespeare, a love of the language, and as a young, moody, daydreaming actor, an appetite for the sweeping drama of the stories, which I suppose I have never outgrown," Mittelstaedt said.

"Even if someone has never experienced outdoor Shakespeare before, they should come and see this production," says Church. "We bring in actors who speak the text in clear and understandable ways, which makes the plays we produce accessible to all types of audience members. Shakespeare under the stars is a special experience, and this new facility offers us the opportunity to create unique sound, lighting, costume and set designs."

Of the many things that are certain to impress attendees of this year's Shakespeare Festival will come courtesy of Interlochen Arts Camp alumnus ('97, '98) Edward Morris, who will be designing the set for "The Tempest."

"The wonderful thing about designing for Shakespeare is that his plays don't need a lot of scenic support," says Morris. "The Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare's plays were first produced, was a bare stage that used minimal scenery. The words are so powerful by themselves that sometimes the job of the scenographer is to get out of the way."

While Morris will adhere to a few time-honored Shakespeare design tactics, such as a minimalistic set, he will be adding a few of his own touches as well.

"You always wish for carte blanche to create the world of the play," says Morris. "We're tackling this problem by incorporating found materials like fallen trees into the design. There's a great technical team that started weeks in advance to find cost-effective solutions. We're incorporating Northern Michigan driftwood and live timber into the set to help us feel at home in our outdoor venue. Also, we're extending the stage far into the audience to bring the performers closer."

"The outdoor setting is a special part of experiencing this Festival, but when we compete with Nature, complications arise," said Mittelstaedt. "The strongest lighting instruments cannot out-shine sun, we have not yet been rained out, but the possibility looms, mosquitos and bugs are attracted to sweaty actors, and there is an element of unpredictability when you move beyond the protective walls of an indoor theater space. So, instead of competing with her, I prefer to think of Nature as one of our most virtuoso collaborators when creating theatre at the Upton Morley Pavillion."

Mittelstaedt is very much looking forward to her first bit of Shakespearean directing.

"I am an artistic associate and founding member of the festival, and in previous years have been a member of the acting company in roles such as Viola in 'Twelfth Night,' Portia in 'Merchant of Venice,' and Titania in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,'" says Mittelstaedt. "While in the past, I have been most concentrated on my role during preparation for the festival, this year I have had the privilege of seeing all the elements of the production evolve and unite as our design team works their magic. And Tom Childs, a member of the Arts Academy faculty, is even composing some original music for the Festival. I am looking forward to the arrival of the company, and our first rehearsal."

There are so many pieces that must come together to create the performance. But, when those bits and pieces all fit together, the result is simply superb.

"'The Tempest' contains comedy, romance, peril, revenge, magic, and a spiritual journey. A play that is hard to categorize, it has something for everyone," says Mittelstaedt. "Join us this summer to see and hear a passionate and talented company of actors, including Interlochen alumnus and Arts Academy director of theatre arts William Church as Prospero. Come celebrate Shakespeare's 450th birthday with Interlochen this summer!"

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