Shakespeare’s The Tempest conjures ideas of witches, treachery, shipwrecks, and magic, but William & Mary Theater is more interested in what’s left unsaid in this classic play. Aime Cesaire’s A Tempest is a reworking of Shakespeare’s The Tempest with a post-colonial perspective. The plot largely follows that of The Tempest with some key changes that confront the story’s issues of imperialism and exploitation.
Janel Miley, director of William & Mary’s performance of A Tempest, puts her own spin on this story while highlighting the issues of race and imperialism that Cesaire incorporated into his adaptation. Miley, a classical theater enthusiast, is excited to see William & Mary Theatre perform a timeless piece modified to engage with current and relevant questions.
“What happens when colonizers strive to dominate and force their culture onto the people they are attempting to colonize?” said Miley. “This is not a question to historicize and consign to the past. It is an ongoing conversation as we consider where we are as a nation and what our roles are in the story.”
William & Mary Theatre’s designers and crew for this production have created an environment that transcends time through their innovative costume and set designs. This adaptation will not be set in any particular time period, a choice that provokes reflection on the continual effects of colonialism.
A Tempest heavily follows the plot of Shakespeare’s story with a few surprises. Prospero, a sorcerer, is exiled on an island in the Caribbean after he has lost political power. The story focuses on the relationships of Caliban and Ariel, enslaved by Prospero, both with each other and their master. Through their quest for freedom from Prospero, Cesaire alludes to the dynamic between prominent civil rights activists Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Aime Cesaire’s political and anti-imperialist commentary throughout the story separates it from Shakespeare’s classic.
The cast and crew of this production have worked hard to execute their vision of this story and look forward to the audience experiencing the performance.
“The designers and crew on this production are creating a magical environment that spans time, allowing us to encounter the generational impact of colonization,” said Miley.
A Tempest is being performed at the Kimball Theatre in Colonial Williamsburg, March 3-6. Thursday through Saturday, performances begin at 7:30 pm, with a Sunday matinee at 2 pm. Members of the audience are required to wear masks throughout the entirety of the performance, and socially distanced seating options are available.
Tickets are on sale now at wm.edu/boxoffice. In-person sales are open at the Kimball Theatre Box Office Monday-Friday from 2pm-6pm, as well as 2 hours before each performance. For more information, visit wm.edu/theatre.