Recent DPAC performance features acrobatic spectacles, unique character portrayals

Fans blow, flute music drifts down eerily from Ariel’s trapeze, and the ship’s passengers holler in terror as their voyage comes to a crashing end.

This was the dark and chaotic opening scene of the Notre Dame Shakespeare Company’s performance of The Tempest. The opening effectively gave warning that this performance would differ from other versions of the play, while also letting the audience know that the traditional language and lines would remain to hold the show together.

From the boisterous Trinculo to the smitten Ferdinand, a cast filled with such strong and engaging actors provides the opportunity for controversy. With so many versions of this play providing countless visions for the characters, many theatergoers are bound to have preconceived notions about each portrayal. In this particular performance, a persistent beauty arose through the interpretations.

Perhaps the most unique of the characters was Ariel, who was actually a troupe of graceful acrobats. As the main spirit, Sarah Scanlon remained on the trapeze throughout the show until her symbolic removal by the main character, the magician Prospero, at the conclusion. The actors forming Ariel’s Quality danced, sang, posed, and spoke to convey the sprite’s attitude and actions. This made for a dynamic display, filling the stage with frequent intrigue. While the spectacle had the potential to distract from the main dialogue, it instead evoked and deepened the emotion.

The relationship between Scanlon’s Ariel and Nick Sandys’ proud and powerful Prospero was one verging on romance. This provided an different dynamic, yet it did not detract from the strong theme of humanity throughout this rendition. The interactions between spirit Ariel and human Prospero provoked questions about what it means to be human.

Less profound than the relationship between Prospero and Ariel were the portrayals of Caliban and Miranda. Alex Podulke presented a convincing, conniving Caliban, but his portrayal lacked the depth that seems possible for this character. Similarly, Rebecca Leiner’s Miranda was simple: a loud, determined girl. While she matured throughout the story, a more dynamic portrayal that exposed her variety of emotions would have been more satisfying.

Perhaps the most brilliant part of this performance was neither Ariel’s acrobatics nor Prospero’s proclamations, but the creative use of fans as prop pieces. From setting the stormy scene at the beginning to serving as log piles to creating an enthralling effect of magic with two wispy pieces of fabric whirling in the center of their breezy circle, the simple fans became a memorable motif in this performance.

Character quibbles aside, the traditional components of this performance perfectly melded with its unique elements, creating a show that was very much Shakespeare’s Tempest, while leaving the audience with a few more conversation topics than other renditions may have hoped for.

Natalie Ambrosia is a senior studying Environmental Science. She lives off campus, and her housemates are eternally grateful to her for her amazing and generous tidying skills. Contact her at