Sit right back at McPhetres Hall, and you’ll see a tale —a tale of a fateful trip —that started from a Naples port aboard a royal ship.
“It’s awesome,” said actor, director and Theatre in the Rough co-founder Aaron Elmore in a pre-rehearsal interview. “It’s extremely funny and hits all the right drama notes.”
Elmore said “The Tempest” is a fantasy that makes the most of its fantastical setting and characters to deal with more grounded emotions and themes — revenge, love, trauma and coping — that are both realistic and intense.
Theatre in the Rough last performed the “longtime favorite” in 2007, Elmore said, and the July 9-Aug. 1 run of the Bard’s late-career romantic dramedy will be Theatre in the Rough’s first indoors performance since the pre-pandemic times of the winter of 2019.
Last summer, Theatre in the Rough brought “As You Like It” to an outside stage. During rehearsal, this week, cast members observed the return to an inside stage means no longer having to pause the show for airplanes passing overhead.
Elmore said they’re glad to be back.
“It’s like home,” Elmore said. “It’s like coming home.”
The homecoming comes with some mitigation measures. Audience members will be required to wear masks. Elmore said that means people will be able to see the play without having to remember to provide vaccination proof, and the risk of COVID-19 transmission will be curbed for younger audience members or people otherwise unable to be vaccinated. The Food and Drug Administration has OK’d children 12 and older to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but clinical trials are ongoing for younger children.
Masks will be provided to people without masks, and all actors were fully vaccinated before rehearsals for the show began, according to a flier promoting “The Tempest.”
The play is an oddity in Shakespeare’s oeuvre, Elmore noted. It’s among the last plays Shakespeare wrote alone, and it features both comic relief and a powerful revenge-driven character.
“The Tempest” focuses on a betrayed duke-turned-sorcerer, Prospero, and their daughter. The pair live on an island alongside fantastical beings — some more treacherous than others — who serve the powerful sorcerer. When a storm at sea, the titular tempest, causes people who wronged Prospero to wash up on shore, a scheme and high jinks ensue.
It also includes elements of meta-commentary via a play within a play and is commonly read as both an allegory for creation and colonization.
Theatre in the Rough’s production adds quirks, texture and meaning via costuming, music, puppetry and casting.
“It’ll be ‘The Tempest’ like you’ve never seen it before,” said Theatre in the Rough co-founder Katie Jensen, who portrays Prospero in the production.
Jensen said it’s her fourth time acting in a production of “The Tempest,” and her first time playing the vengeful, sorcery-proficient protagonist typically portrayed as male.
By casting a woman in the role of the rightful duke of Milan, Jensen said, “The Tempest” gains subtext regarding women being quieted and denied agency.
Jensen said the complex character allowed her to channel fiery feelings from real life into her work on stage.
“There’s something about betrayal that inspires such anger,” Jensen said, adding that between pandemic and politics the real world feels especially rage-filled lately.
She said it can be exhausting to channel that emotion, but it can be used while still maintaining separation between real-life frustrations and onstage performance.
“It’s hard,” Jensen said. “You have to step away and couch it. That fire lives.”
Know & Go
What: “The Tempest”
When: 7:30 p.m. for evening shows, 2 p.m. for matinees; July 9-Aug. 1 July 9, 10, 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, 29, 30 and 31 are evening shows. July 25 and Aug. 1 are matinee shows.
Where: McPhetres Hall, Fourth and Gold streets.
Tickets: Can be purchased through the Theatre in the Rough website at https://theatreintherough.org/showtimes.html. The July 15 performance will be a pay-as-you-will show.