BAR HARBOR — Other than Shakespeare’s own Globe or Rose theaters, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect setting for his play “The Tempest” than the sylvan seaside lawn of a beautiful island cottage.
And it’s hard to imagine a cleverer and more accomplished crew of performers than the Barn Arts Collective (BAC) and members of the Acadia Community Theater (ACT) to pull off such a “plein air” production.
Co-artistic directors Andrew Simon and Brittany Parker have managed to gather together an ensemble of their professional BAC actors and a chorus of local talents to perform a musically enhanced version of “The Tempest” at the Saltair Inn at 121 West St. on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 29 and 30, at 4 p.m.
As they did with their hilarious production of “Twelfth Night,” 10 major roles of this play will be performed by only a handful of actors. And this year, one important role – the spirit Ariel – will be voiced by a chorus led by Parker, who also composed original songs for the show. Her partner Simon will play Ariel’s master Prospero, the deposed duke who was banished with his daughter, Miranda, from his homeland by a jealous brother (in this instance, sister) and was later shipwrecked on a deserted island (with mountains, maybe?). There he hones his sorcerer’s skills and plots revenge.
A topnotch trio of actors, Andrew Lynch, Katie Melby and Me’lissa Smith, will parcel out the remaining roles, including the monster Caliban, the lovers Miranda and Frederick and various other clowns and scoundrels. And, oh yes, they have set the play in the 1920s, which is probably close to the decade the Saltair was built.
This is the second year of the collaboration of BAC and ART to bring a live performance of one of Shakespeare’s works to Bar Harbor. “Acadia Community Theater’s mission is to enrich the lives of individuals, families and the community through live theater arts,” said Keri Hayes, president of the ACT board.
“Once we saw the beautiful lawn and view from the Saltair Inn, we felt immediately transported to a different time,” said Parker, “and we wanted our audience to feel transported, as well – to imagine themselves in Prospero and Miranda’s predicament. What they would do?
“We want them to feel they are in the story rather than simply onlookers.”
Her choice to portray Ariel as a chorus rather than an individual is an interesting and risky one.
At a rehearsal of the Ariel chorus, which is made up of about a dozen men and women of all ages, she encouraged them all not to try to match the timbre of their voices but to exaggerate varied vocal textures and pitches, while at the same time keeping the enunciation and cadence clear and steady.
A tall order, that. But even at that early stage, the effect was rather spine-tingling – a controlled cacophony, not unlike a strong wind through trees with attendant rumblings, creaking and sighing, with a hint of possessed Regan in “The Exorcist.”
Tickets cost $10 per adult and $5 per child or senior and can be purchased beginning at 3:30 p.m. at the door. Attendees are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket, as well as sunscreen and appropriate clothing for an outdoor performance.
Beverages will be available for sale on site.