Homer Alaska - Arts

Story last updated at 4:59 PM on Wednesday, August 17, 2011

'The Tempest' takes a new twist

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer


Photo by Clara Noomah

Zoe Story, left, and Jonas Noomah, right, portray a scene in "The Tempest," with Emmet Meyer and Adella Sundmark in the background.

William Shakespeare conceived of his 1610 play, "The Tempest," as a group of Italian nobles stranded on an island off North Africa. Over the centuries directors have added their own creative touches — even setting the play in space, as with director Fred Wilcox's 1956 science fiction film, "Forbidden Planet."

This weekend, Pier One Youth Theatre director Clara Noomah adds her own touch to Shakespeare's tale of power, mystery and revenge.

The central plot involves Prospero, banished with his daughter Miranda, encountering the nobles who betrayed him when they're shipwrecked on his island.

"I have this image of 'What if this cast of characters had been stranded on this island in Kachemak Bay?'" Noomah said. "Our whole set has been hijacked off the beach."

Set designer Clinton Edminster has created a driftwood shelter. Beach rocks are scattered on the stage. The set backdrops depict a mid-summer Homer sunset. Even the enslaved island being Caliban appears as a fish man, with make up by assistant director Casey Parrett giving him scales and spots.

A Pier One Youth Theatre alumna herself, Noomah directs a cast of 14 ranging in age from 8 to 16. She chose "The Tempest" when she couldn't find a modern play better than the play she directed last summer, Mark Twain's "Is He Dead?," written in 1898, but only discovered in 2003.

"I really like the magical and supernatural elements of 'The Tempest,'" Noomah said. "It's a fabulously fun play to direct."

Working with former Pier One Youth Theatre director Paul Jones in Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream," where she played Tatiana, Noomah recalled Jones telling her how directing Shakespeare can be a huge power rush.

"It has so many layers of meaning," she said. "As a director you have so much discretion of which direction to take the play."

Her cast has begun to blossom in dress rehearsals at Pier One. In particular, Adella Sundmark as Ariel, one of the island's natives, has taken to her wild costume of hand-painted strips of cloth like Technicolor dreadlocks, Noomah said.

"For the first time they're seeing the space they're going to be in. They're starting to see the costumes," she said.

To prepare for the play, the cast focused on learning Elizabethan English and pored over the script.

"Lots of the kids are surprisingly — you wouldn't expect it — very, very serious, not just knowing their lines but understanding their lines, becoming fluent in the Shakespearean language of the play," Noomah said.

As they understand "The Tempest," the actors have found humor in unexpected places, she said.

"They pitch it to me and, I'm like, 'Well, OK, if you can pull it off, go for it,'" Noomah said. "It's probably one of the sillier versions of 'The Tempest.'"

This will be Noomah's last year as Pier One Youth Theatre director. A junior at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., Noomah is majoring in environmental geoscience and plans to work in her intended field next year.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.