(c) Felicia King

The Tempest, The First Directing Thesis of the Year is Coming to Lenfest

October 19, 2017

It's that time of the year, when the graduating directing class showcases their Thesis Productions, and for the first time, this year they'll do so at the Lenfest Center for the Arts.  To inaugurate the Directing Thesis Productions season, NJ Agwuna '18 brings Shakespeare's The Tempest to stage. The show will perform from November 8th to November 11th.


Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore himself and his daughter Miranda to their rightful place, using magic and skillful manipulation. The eponymous tempest brings Prospero's usurping brother Antonio and the complicit Alonso, King of Naples, to the island. Fusing the history of New Orleans and the magic of Shakespeare’s island, this production examines how extraordinary events can shake a community to its core.


We talked with NJ about the upcoming production.


Why did you choose The Tempest? Why is it a play that we should see right now?

This is a tough question to articulate. I'll start by saying that The Tempest has a very special place in my heart. It was the first Shakespearean show I was in, I was 9 years old. But particularly this year it's been on my Psyche and I haven't been able to shake it. So I figured now I have to direct this piece. I believe that Shakespeare’s plays, like Greek mythology or the bible, have a sense of mythos. The narrative themes and relationships transcend time. We still watch Shakespeare because the people, the relationships, and their problems are very recognizable to us on a basic human level. The Tempest does this extremely well. All the characters are familiar and their relationships remind us of our relationships with our family, our memories of our first love, moments of familial betrayal and forgiveness, and uncanny friendships. This play also reaches beyond just relationships, it questions our society, ambitions, and even has man-made storms. To me, with everything that’s happening in our world politically, socially, and with the natural world I am full of questions and seeking a new understanding. Shakespeare’s The Tempest encompasses all of those questions, and this production will hopefully make sense of them. 


 Could you tell us about your approach to the play and the vision that you have for the production? 

Because I have chosen to set the play in a post-Katrina New Orleans, the cast, the creative team, and I have been traveling back to 2005 in terms of discovering what we remember about that time. We are looking at the questions this play asks and where do they rhyme with 2005 and 2017. Have the questions changed? In rehearsals, we have also been exploring elements of the stage as well as theatrical elements. Asking, what do we need to tell the story and what is that element's individual story? For example, what is the story of wood? Ariel is encased in wood, Caliban has to fetch wood for Prospero, Ferdinand must transfer a pile of wood to prove worthy for Miranda, and so on. 

 You're going to graduate soon, what is the most important thing that you've learned in the program? 


I'd be remiss to have to pare down my experience to just one lesson that I have learned at Columbia. What I can say is that the lessons and the people in this program have really challenged me and helped me grow as an artist and collaborator. 


Tickets are $15 General Admission / $5 Seniors.
FREE tickets for students are available with the promo code "student" (students need to show their student ID card before entering the performance). Get yours here