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Lamar’s Bard on the Bayou Series Opens with ‘The Tempest’

Magic. Romance. Lamar University Theatre will brim with the excitement of William Shakespeare’s farewell to the stage as the Department of Theatre & Dance opens its new Bard on the Bayou series with “The Tempest.” This fantastical hour-long adaptation features the work of Tony-Award winning guest artist Scott Pask and will run Thursday, Feb. 17, through Sunday, Feb. 20, in the University Theatre.

“The Tempest” depicts the adventures of the powerful magician Prospero, banished by his brothers from Italy to live on an island with his daughter, Miranda; his servant, Caliban; and his helpful spirit, Ariel. Complications ensue when a ship carrying Italian royalty, including his brothers, crashes on the island.

“This version adapted by Don Fleming is very condensed, but remains true to the original play,” said guest director Nathanael Johnson, a Yale graduate and professional Los Angeles-based actor. “It’s under an hour, but I think it will feel more like 15 minutes to the audience because everything moves so quickly, and the characters are so vivid.”

Fleming’s adaptation is designed for young audiences (middle school and older) and adults, which Johnson embraced. “Like a good Pixar film, this production works on multiple levels for both adults and kids. There are comic moments, touching tragedy, a love interest—literally something for everyone.”

Multiple-Tony Award-winning guest artist Scott Pask designed the set for “The Tempest.” Pask’s Broadway design credits include such shows as “The Wedding Singer,” “Urinetown” and the revivals of “La Cage aux Folles,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Hair.”

“Scott has created a very visual and spectacular world for the play,” said Johnson. “His phenomenal design starts with a ship at sea. Then a storm comes, the ‘tempest’ of the title, and the ship is blown apart to become pieces of the island where the rest of the events take place. In a way, the set becomes its own character.”

This multidisciplinary production features actors and dancers from the Department of Theatre & Dance as well as original music from graduate student Robert Underhill of Port Arthur, from the Mary Morgan Moore Department of Music.

“Robert’s music is completely catered to the events that happen on the stage,” said Johnson. “Having a play with an original composition is something that rarely, if ever, happens in a college-level production.”

Theatre major Jacquelyn Gower of Nederland takes on the lead role of Prospero, which is a male character in the original play.

“My casting was gender blind,” said Johnson. “It was important to me to find someone who had the essence of the character, so it didn’t feel like someone was just playing a part. Jackie fits that role the best, and she has a great facility for the language.”

Lamar alumnus Christopher Murray returns to the stage to tackle the role of Caliban, Prospero’s wild island servant. The cast also includes Evan Worthington, Beaumont, as Miranda; Dylan Ball, Orange, Ferdinand; Amber Belton, Humble, Alonso; Carley Stewart, Sulphur Springs, Sebastian; Steven Hoffman, Silsbee, Antonio; Bethany Eldred, Beaumont, Gonzalo; DeeDee Howell, Nederland, Trinculo; Hilary Hayes, Silsbee, Stefano; Maci McFarlin, Nederland, Master/Native; Sarah Green, Fort Worth, Bosun/Native; Keeley Guidry, Freer, Native; Hannah Jones, Orange, Native; and Taylor Rainbolt, Vidor, Native.

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17 through Feb. 19, with matinees at 2 p.m. Feb. 19 and Feb. 20 and a special school performance at 10 a.m. Feb. 18 in the University Theatre, 4400 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway on the Lamar campus in Beaumont.

Tickets are priced at $10 for general admission; $7 for senior citizens, students and LU faculty/staff; and $5 for LU students. The Box Office is open 1:30 – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 6:30 – 7:15 p.m. the night of the shows, and 1 – 1:45 p.m. for matinees.

Call (409) 880-2250 for reservations and additional information.