The players at Valley Center Stage are putting a new twist on an old classic with their Nordic, Viking-filled rendition of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” now running at the historic Sallal Grange.
The 1600s-era play tells the story of Prospero and his daughter Miranda, who are abandoned on a magic island with half-human servant Caliban and bound spirit, Ariel. After spending 12 years on the island, Prospero uses magic to conjure a storm to torment survivors of a shipwreck, including his own brother. Meanwhile, Caliban is trying to convince members of the shipwreck to kill Prospero, his master.
First-time director Melissa Carter leads a quartet of directors for the play. She said she has always wanted to direct Shakespeare due to its variability, noting that the decision to give the play a Nordic theme was inspired by a recent increase in Viking-themed media and the creative opportunities it provided for costumes and stage design.
“Shakespeare wrote a lot of his plays in Italy, in Renaissance times because that’s what he knew. But they really work well in other eras and there’s so much Viking stuff in movies on TV that it’s different and interesting,” she said. “With the actors, they do something different each night as they get introduced to their character. It’s fascinating.”
The theater group held its first set of shows last weekend, and despite Carter having to pull double actor-director duties to replace a sick performer, the shows went off without a hitch.
Longtime Center Stage performer Tim Platt, who plays servant Caliban, said “The Tempest” has some of Shakespeare’s most comedic bits, noting that each night the actors go out there, they find new notes and ways to convey humor.
“By the time we hit the end of the play, it’s just going to sparkling. It’s going to move faster with a lot more subtleties,” he said. “That’s one of things about Shakespeare — you want those subtleties. That’s how you bring those characters to life. Shakespeare is hard to understand, but if you have an actor who delivers the lines with passion and intent, then it starts to make more sense.”
Platt also emphasizes that there is renewed energy at the theater since they moved into — and completely renovated — the Sallal Grange just over a year ago to make it their own space. He called it a “new era,” as the theater group attracts several new members.
One of those new additions is Karen Chang, who will serve as stage manager for “The Tempest.” Chang started volunteering with Center Stage during its Grange renovation, after moving to Snoqualmie during the pandemic. She started by painting doors, but since then has worked as a stage manager and theater technician and has helped with set design.
“I feel like once you do one thing for the theater, they’re such a welcoming family, that you end up doing more and more,” she said. “I didn’t even know Shakespeare before and was like ‘what’s the big deal with Shakespeare,’ but it’s really fun watching the actors bring it to life.”
Another new member is Stacy Newton, a five-year North Bend resident, who grew up singing and dancing and is making a return to theater after a 13-year break. Newton will play Ariel in “The Tempest.”
“This theater is run by an incredible group of organized volunteers who give so much of their time and resources,” she said. “I’m honestly blown away from the lighting, to the sound, to the ticket sales, to the marketing. There is a department for everything and it only works because everyone is really devoted to this place. I would ask people to come support the theater because that really means a lot.”
Check it out
“The Tempest” runs Thursday through Sunday until June 19 at the Sallal Grange. For tickets, visit: valleycenterstage.org