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Shakespeare’s The Tempest gets space age treatment at Empress Theatre

From left: Alonso (Richard Cole), Gonzalo (Jeff Graham), Antonia (Madeline Smith) and Sebastian (Austin Halarewich). Photo by Luc Toupin.

Gonzalo, played by Jeff Graham. Photo by Luc Toupin.

A popular Shakespeare plays gets a space age treatment Saturday, Aug. 4 at the Empress Theatre.
Set in the future in a far-away galaxy, The Tempest takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“Think of Shakespeare meets Star Trek,” producer Kate Connolly said. “It’s definitely got some Star Trek kind of elements.”
For the third year in a row, Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society is bringing its Shakespeare in the Park show — performed at Galt Gardens through July and August — to the Empress Theatre.
The society previously staged The Comedy of Errors and Romeo and Juliet at the Empress
Directed by DJ Gellatly, The Tempest instead of being set on an exotic island is set on a planet in the distant future and begins with a spaceship crash, instead of a shipwreck.
“He (Gellatly) was just wanting to update it and appeal to new audiences,” Connolly said. “He’s very interested in sci-fi and fantasy himself and he thought it was a good fit to replace the magical island with a planet.”
“The emphasis is not so much on magic in this . . . there’s this sort of tech and futuristic overlay.”
For example, Gellatly has cast Ariel 1.0 and Arial 2.0 –rather than just one as penned by Shakespeare — and both are androids.
The costumes are modelled on those used in the Star Trek series, giving The Tempest a futuristic look.
Gellatly stayed true to Shakespeare with the dialogue for The Tempest, so the space age actors will speak in the original Shakespearian English.
Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society likes to give its summer performances a different twist.
Romeo and Juliet, for example, was set in modern times with current styles of dress.
The Comedy of Errors was set in a western town.
Connolly is confident that Shakespeare himself would take no offence to the liberties taken with his work.
“I think Shakespeare would be absolutely delighted,” Connolly said. “Shakespeare himself was such an innovator. He enriched the language, he brought so much vocabularly into the English language.”
“He had a brilliant, inventive mind, and I think he would be absolutely delighted to see all the changes, and that his work is still so very much appreciated.. He was an open and adventurous playwright.”
Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society has performed Shakespeare in the Park for seven years, giving 14 to 16 performances each year at Galt Gardens.
The Tempest is staged every Thursday and Friday at Galt Gardens, ending on Friday, Aug. 10.
In addition to performing at the Empress, The Tempest was also staged at the Coutts Centre near Nanton and at the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens.
“We are delighted to be coming to the Empress for our third year,” Connolly said. “We are trying to build an audience.”
“Perhaps we’ll have some of the younger generation come out, and it will be great to perform in that wonderful space again.”