This blog by eighth grade performer Anika Ramlo ’17 describes her experiences acting in the middle school production of “The Tempest.”
William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” is a masterpiece, but this year it was purely ours. The show mixes a world of magic and fantasy with reality. I played the part of Prospera in the play and had an amazing experience.
In the play, the Duchess of Milan, Prospera, is overthrown by her power-seeking brother, Antonio, and cast off to sea with her daughter. The pair land on a magical island, where Prospera raises her daughter, Miranda. Years later, Prospera is still angry with her family for betraying her. When she learns that her brother, a king, and other royalty will be sailing near the island, she uses her powers of magic to conjure up a storm (hence the play’s name) to shipwreck them on the island, with the assistance of her loyal yet indentured spirit, Ariel.
Throughout the play, Prospera uses her magic to trifle with their slave, Caliban, who was born on the island, as well as the king, his son (Ferdinand), brother (Sebastian), advisor (Gonzalo), butler, and jester. After getting her revenge against all of them, Prospera realizes that although they wronged her, she must forgive them. She frees Caliban and Ariel, and she finally lets go of the resentment she felt toward the men who betrayed her.
We rehearsed three days a week for four months. The rehearsals felt long, and sometimes we had too much homework and we were too tired and we just wanted to go home and watch The Office. Well, at least that’s what I often wanted to do. But nonetheless we would drag ourselves down to the black box theatre and begin rehearsal. And, most times, we would really enjoy ourselves. We were making memories and we did not even notice.
Flash forward to tech week. Now these were truly long rehearsals. Going through light cue after light cue, sound cue after sound cue was tedious. But then we would have dinner with our friends and laugh about everything and anything because we were all there together.
Finally, it was time for the performances. Nerves were running high, but we were also so excited. We had worked so hard, and now we were going to display our hard work in front of everybody.
The play began, and after the first scene I remember thinking, “I love this so much. I never want this to end.” And then we would step out on the stage and get lost in it all over again.
Shakespeare is often performed in a variety of settings different than the original, and the director of our play, Mr. Reed Farley, chose to put an indie rock twist on this Renaissance drama. This staging featured music by Fleet Foxes, Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, The Shins, and more.
The addition of music was so original that it enhanced the story. Along with the live band, steampunk costumes and the rock garden in the center of the stage, our play was a wonderland and rock concert at once. The music made the magic. Whenever Prospera cast a spell, whenever Ariel created mischief, the music was there. But the real magic was backstage.
Carly Feldman ’17 did a superb job playing the part of the king, Alonso, in her first Archer production. I interviewed Carly to get another personal take on her time working on the play.
When asked what her favorite part of being in The Tempest was, Carly said she loved “getting to know the cast and becoming really close with everyone.” She admitted that at first, she “thought it was going to be really hard to memorize our lines, but [she] was excited to be able to understand and learn the meaning behind Shakespearean language.” The most difficult part for her was acting through sickness, which was a problem many faced.
During the weekend of the final performances, our lives basically became the plot of the movie “Contagion.” Everyone was sick. The flu season took over, but we all pushed through it together, with the help of countless cough drops. Carly probably had it the worst of all of us. During one performance at the end of a scene, Carly was swaying back and forth. She seemed to be unable to keep her footing and her eyes were nearly closed. She was saying her lines, but just barely. “It didn’t help that my jacket was so heavy,” added Carly.
My castmates and I noticed at once that Carly was not herself. We all took turns holding her up, trying to make it look like a part of our staging. At one point, she forgot her line and sat down on the platform on the stage. Without missing a beat, Lulu Cerone ’17—who skillfully played the part of Ferdinand—incorporated Carly’s line into her own effortlessly. Teamwork.
Meghan Marshall ’17, who was superlative in the role of Antonio, was there through it all. She said, “That was only one of many experiences we had where I think everyone felt like we were just one big unit. Offstage we connected so much. And when the performances were over, everyone was so sad! Not just that we wouldn’t get to play our characters anymore, but that we had to say goodbye to the cast. It was such a good cast!”
The trust between everyone really made this middle school Archer production unique. The strong relationship we had offstage completely translated into the play. Any mistake that I made, I knew would be covered. Not only that, but everyone was so in touch with one another. We immediately noticed that there was something wrong with Carly and the audience did not even notice. Because Carly’s character was mourning the son he thought he had lost, my dad thought that Carly’s apparent weakness was merely a character choice.
I asked Meghan to tell us more about her experience performing in “The Tempest.” She said, “Every year when I do stuff at Archer, I know I will feel challenged. I started out feeling so uncomfortable with my role. I really did not like it! But with the help of my cast mates and Mr. Farley, I really became Antonio by the end of it.”
Before our last performance, the eighth graders were able to say a few words about our last middle school play. Many of our little speeches were about how much we had bonded with everyone, especially those in other grades, and how attached we had become to our parts. Some of us, including me, have done the plays and musicals since we were in sixth grade. We couldn’t believe that we were the eighth graders now.
Uma Halsted ’18, a seventh grader who played Ariel and did an outstanding job singing and acting, looked up at all of us and asked our assistant director, Gabby, “Can I say something?” Gabby nodded yes, and Uma said, “The sixth and seventh graders always look up to the eighth graders. You were all my role models this year. I really can’t imagine being an eighth grader next year and doing this without you.” Her words broke our hearts.
And all of us could not imagine doing it without the stage manager, Syd Stone ’16, the assistant director, Gabby Lamm ’13, and of course, Mr. Farley. They challenged us, and they supported us. We could not have achieved so much without them. The Tempest really became an extraordinary production, and I know we are all so glad we were able to be a part of it.
Featured Image: Prospera threatens the hapless Caliban. Photographer: Daniel In