Monday, October 7, 2013

GSC completes its run of The Tempest

Twice a year -- once in spring, the other in fall -- the all-volunteer Garfield Shakespeare Company theater troupe presents two free plays in Garfield Park in Indianapolis. This past weekend, the curtain came down on the 2013 fall production, The Tempest, which the bard wrote five or so years before his death in 1616. It is believed to be the last play Shakespeare wrote entirely on his own. Early critics viewed the play's lead character, Prospero, as a representation of the bard himself, and that the feelings Prospero expresses in the profound closing soliloquy reflected those of Shakespeare himself ... and perhaps even served as his "retirement" speech.

Three of the four dates scheduled for GSO's production this fall were blessed with beautiful weather, a key factor every year in that the autumn shows are presented in the park's amphitheater (the spring shows are performed indoors at the nearby arts center). The Saturday show of the second weekend of The Tempest, unfortunately, was rained out, and the troupe learned that it would not be able to use the scheduled rain dates -- which had been set for this weekend -- because of unforeseen conflicts involving some of the cast members.

I've photographed each of the troupe's productions since fall 2010, and early this year I increased my involvement with the organization when I accepted an invitation to join its board of directors (I would have been perfectly content continuing in a photography-only role, but the organization needed people interested in the group to serve on the board, so I hopped aboard).

I attribute my interest in photographing GSC productions to the fact that the troupe's artistic director, Joe Cook, allows me to do anything and go anywhere I please to get my pictures. This flexibility maximizes my shot selection and, I feel, boosts the pictures' quality. Regular cast members have become accustomed to this; many have told me how much they appreciate the results.

For this year's dress rehearsal on Sept. 25, two days before opening night, I used a familiar gear system to start with -- two cameras, my Canon 7D equipped with the 24-70mm f/2.8L lens, and the backup Canon 30D equipped with the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens. Unfortunately, the cast wasn't able to get the production under way until it was past 7 p.m., so I had a limited amount of natural light to work with. This was key -- at least for the 30D, whose low-light sensitivity is inferior to that of the newer, technologically superior 7D. After a certain point, when I was pushing the ISO on the 7D to 2000 (and, later, beyond), I put the 30D down for good and shot exclusively with the 7D, positioning myself closer and closer to the performers than I would have if I'd had the opportunity to occasionally turn to the 70-200mm lens quickly.

I'd considered putting a flash equipped with a diffuser on the 7D, but doing that would have dragged my burst, not to mention introduce frustrating, multiple flash recycling lulls (and even more so with the twice-as-slow-burst 30D), so I decided to stick exclusively with the 7D and available light, and to run the high-ISO images through a noise-reduction software in post-processing.

What you see in this post is a result of that night's shoot at the amphitheater, the MacAllister Center for the Performing Arts. The photo leading off the post features two of most prominent characters in the play Prospero (right), played by Eduardo Torres, and the island spirit Ariel, played by GSC veteran J.D. Bonitz. Torres joined the cast just three weeks before opening night when the original Prospero left the cast. A full gallery of images from the shoot can be found at my site at SmugMug.

Above and next three below: The opening scene of The Tempest finds Queen Alonsa and her entourage at sea and caught in a tempest conjured by Prospero, the rightful duke of Milan, exiled along with his daughter Miranda to an island by his conspiratorial brother Antonio. While on the island, Prospero learns sorcerer skills and derives much of his powers from Ariel. He draws from those skills to conjure the storm to bring Antonio and the complicit queen and her entourage to the island. Quite a few theater companies skip the opening scene because of the difficulty in depicting a ship being battered about by tempestuous winds. The Garfield Shakespeare Company accepted the challenge, using rocking and swaying island spirit Ariel (foreground, in white), standing in front of the stage swaying a model ship to mimic the storm-battered vessel. Also used in the depiction were some blue fabric cloths (resembling sea waves) tugged up and down on either ends by two other island spirits to help the audience visualize the storm. 

Above: GSC artistic director Joe Cook handed over directing chores to assistant director Chris Burton two weeks before opening night so Cook could join the cast as Gonzalo, a kind courtier in the queen's court. The move was necessitated by yet another cast withdrawal.

Above: The ship's boatswain, Nicolas Roberts, barking out orders while trying to keep the ship afloat during the opening scene. 

Above: Two members of the queen's court, Trincula (left, played by Heather Bartram) and butler Stefano, played by Jay Brubaker, battle the sails as the ship tips heavily after being slammed by a wave.

Above and below: Photos of Torres (as Prospero) and Stefanie Maier, as Prospero's daughter, Miranda, as taken with the 30D and 70-200mm lens with some of the last good natural light of the evening.

Above: Maier (as Miranda) during a monologue early in the play.

Above and below: Also key in the plot is Caliban, an island beast -- referred to by the characters as "monster" -- who like Ariel also is under the control of Prospero and also seeks his freedom. Mike Merrick did a splendid job cast as Caliban.

Above and next two below: As a spirit, Ariel (Bonitz) cannot be seen by anyone in the queen's entourage, so he is able to toy unscathed with the queen's son Ferdinand (played by Peter Catlin), who is baffled about why he cannot move his sword (first below).  

Above: Gonzalo (Cook) with the queen (Mary Dando) and Adrianna (Jean Long), the queen's lady. 

Above: Sam Brandys (left) and Monica Verdouw, both playing island spirits, gave the production's music a stamp of credibility with their live flute playing. 

Above: Antonio, the usurping brother of Prospero played by Sam Fogleman, and Sebastian, the queen's brother played by Carey Shea.

Above: Trincula, no longer hiding under Caliban's gaberdine, investigates as Stefano (Brubaker) forces Caliban to swallow some wine. 

Above and below: Stefano listening to Caliban's passionate petition to conspire against Prospero (above) and getting physical with Trincula (below) to silence her offensive tongue, even though the offending remarks aren't coming from her, but from the unseen spirit Ariel.

Above and below: Ariel dons the appearance of a harpy, becoming visible to address and dress down the queen's entourage, claiming three men at the dining table are of sin. 

Above and below: The marriage of Miranda and Ferdinand, presided over by Juno (Monica Verdouw). 

Above: The post nuptials celebration, when the newly wedded couple and Juno are joined by island spirits played by (from left) Zoe Pierce, Sam Brandys, Nicolas Roberts and Elizabeth Fasbender.

Above: Trincula and Stefano use the garments to have a little fun playing keep-away from Caliban.

Above: Ariel puts an end to the garments frivolity by chasing away Stefano and Caliban.

Above: Gonzalo (Cook) with some words of wisdom near the end of the play.

Above and below: The full cast huddle to discuss tweaks and the like, led by director Chris Burton (below).


  1. A great tribute!

  2. So glad you mentioned the waves! I don't understand "why" anyone would want to leave that part out. That sets the stage for the rest of the play! I think they did a great job depicting that feeling of being ship wrecked and away from mainstream! And...What a good shot of Caliban!!! All of these are great...