Students and puppets collaborate to put on Shakespeare


A puppeteering adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” opens today at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 9 in Stieren Theater. Photo by Megan McLoughlin.

A puppeteering adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” opens today at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 9 in Stieren Theater. Photo by Megan McLoughlin.

On Nov. 9, Trinity University’s theater will begin showing “La Tempesta,” an adaptation of the well-known Shakespearean play, “The Tempest.”  While the play is directed by Roberto Prestigiacomo, assistant professor of theater, he is assisted by the Italian theater troupe Teatro del Drago.  This showing has a unique inclusion of puppets, which the student actors hold during almost every scene.

Teatro del Drago, consisting of Mauro Monticelli, Andrea Monticelli and Roberta Colombo,  is a family-based company of actors that builds puppets, which they incorporate into their performances.  They have been making puppets since the 1840s, making the tradition five generations strong.

“What they could bring to “˜The Tempest,’ in terms of the magic of the show itself, was their craft and tools,” Prestigiacomo said. “In doing so, they could share their craft with the students. I don’t believe it is a play that can just be done with the actors. There must be an extra element ““ the magic ““ which they brought.”

The puppets vary in size and in their interaction with the characters.  They contribute to the play both visually and thematically.

“There are certain elements of La Tempesta that are so magical that I believe that puppetry is a very appropriate way of telling the story,” said senior Rodman Bolek, who plays Caliban. “In the play, most of the characters are trying to puppeteer other characters.  It was this great realization that puppets were the only way to do this because they were the only way to manifest this greater idea going on in the play.”

Each student had to work individually to master the puppeteering.

“We’re so used to realism, and it was a realization that it’s not you that is the focus, it’s the puppet,” Bolek said. “We had to transfer all our energy into the puppet and to make sure that the puppet is the one articulating the sound and movement.  It’s a completely different skill to develop.”

The puppets are not the only form of visual stimulation in the play.  The students utilize shadow work, which is projected onto large cloths, actors actually hold spotlights onstage and the director includes many colorful lighting techniques.  Sophomore Alyx Irene Gonzales, who plays the androgynous spirit Ariel, flamboyantly and breathtakingly dances across stage while saying her lines.  Bolek has a dancing scene in which he holds a colorful lantern, which is projected onto large cloths and into the audience.  Every scene change requires nearly the entire cast, who dramatically reposition the props and scenery.

The process by which the students rehearsed the play was another aspect Teatro del Drago brought over.

“The process has been completely different than anything I’ve ever done,” Bolek said.  “We’re used to rehearsal and working the scenes and working the character and putting tech on at the end, but we’ve incorporated lights, sounds, shadows and the puppet-work as we’ve moved through the play.  It was a completely unique experience.”

Overall, the students were affected greatly by the teachings of the visiting theater troupe.

“Although some of the students may not become actors, the experience the students have had in these past five weeks will help them for the rest of their lives because the challenges that the students have had to overcome, as a group and individually, have been strong, and all of them have been able to match them,” Monticelli said.

The hope is that the audience will be able to experience the magic behind the play and understand new interpretations of an old story.  The puppetry truly adds an element that allows the audience to understand the purpose of the story and to experience a catharsis, which Colombo feels is so often needed in contemporary theater.

“We come to plays to feel sentiment and emotion.  In art, there is always something that belongs to you, and, perhaps you will find it again,” Colombo said.

“La Tempesta” will be showing at 8 p.m. from Nov.  9-11 and November 14- 17 in Stieren Theater. Students can reserve tickets at the box office in Stieren Theater.