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Magic is the true star of Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company's 'The Tempest'

The Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company presents Shakespeare’s The Tempest at the Dog Story Theater (7 Jefferson SE in Grand Rapids) April 15-17 and 22-24.

Coming this Weekend to GR

The Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company presents Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Dog Story Theater (7 Jefferson SE in Grand Rapids) April 15-17 and 22-24.

Friday and Saturday evening performances are at 8:00 p.m.

Sunday performances at 3:00 p.m.

Tickets are $14 for adults and $7 for students and seniors for tickets and information

Audiences were asked to take out their phones and share. #PCSCTempest

Audiences were asked to take out their phones and share. #PCSCTempest /Joel L. Schindlbeck, total amateur and blurry photographer.

Magic pervaded as a mere twelve actors whipped the audience into a true-to-life tempest of wind and shipwrecks, laughter, absurd characters, and a general topsy-turvydom á la ‘Survivor’ meets ‘Gilligan’s Island.’ This reviewer got a chance to see a performance of the following show on one of their many usual tours stops, Spring Lake at the event hall, Seven Steps Up.


In the history of the play, Prospero, a powerful self-taught magician, was banished to an island with his then infant daughter twelve years before what the audience sees. Using magic he has learned dealing with spirits of the island, he shipwrecks his enemies on the island: the King of Naples, the Prince of Naples, drunken servants, and even the royal conspirators of his downfall.

Now scattered across the Isle, the nobility questions who is alive and is not, while Prospero focuses his attention to the noble pandering of his daughter, Miranda, to the ship-wrecked Prince. This proves rather an easy task between the magic of Prospero and the beautiful innocence of Miranda.

Also throughout the Isle, we have the spirits visiting the separate groups of nobility, whether they like it or not. Some drunken servants take up a tortured spirit, Caliban, as their ward, potentially following the earthy spirit to steal back the island from Prospero through murder.

Ariel, the noble, but enslaved elemental spirit, protects the King and his entourage from would be assassins and the other dangers of the Isle. He had been the spirit responsible for the burning and destruction of the ship. The tempest created by Prospero made the perfect medium for the airy spirit to whip back and forth through, and yet make sure that every voyager on the ship was safely deposited, with dry clothes, on the beach of the Isle.

From here, it's all an unfolding tale of revenge, discovering new experiences, and what one would do to survive but still maintain our humanity, and freedom.


Part of the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company and their philosophies (which you can read here on their website), is to pair seasoned actors with PCSCs newfound talents to help mentor the apprentice. It was only noticeable in a handful of scenes, where an apprentice might lose their focus or lines, but immediately the seasoned scene partners always played their role to get things back on track. That is, appropriately, how a proper master instructs his apprentice, and many such masters stood out this evening.

The island-raised daughter of Prospero, Miranda, beautifully portrayed by Repertory Company Member Sarah Stark, is naive, wild, and absorbing everything in at all times. She is a fascinated child, a departure from the despondent and wistful Miranda that some seasoned Shakespeare audiences are used to seeing. Her committed and often burlesque approach was both heart-warming and appropriately annoying at times.

Ariel, Prospero’s number one slave and true native spirit from the island, played by Scott Lange, also departs from common Ariels in the past. Unlike the blissful, energetic, and almost sycophantic spirit audiences are used to seeing, this spirit of the elements was eager, but reluctantly subservient and pained.  There was no true pleasure in serving Prospero and we understood–whether he was present or not–that Ariel’s motives remained on one thing: freedom.

The most successful of the evening was the master himself, Prospero, portrayed by the seasoned Scott Wright. His Prospero was driven in his mission but carried an anxiety and responsibility through all his actions that the audience felt his pain and tension throughout.  Stilll, his love for his daughter, his hope for a better future, and his physical presence throughout was deftly offered by Mr. Wright and every moment was a joy to see of him on stage


While the set was simple (a single Ship’s wheel, curtains, and platform) and the costuming drifted between those of modern Italian civilization and magical castaway Renaissance piecemeal, it was the man-made magic of the play that kept the audience’s attention and pushed the play.

Prospero was the puppeteer of all the events of the evening and his magic (being performed through him, or his servants, or the entire cast echoing forth from corners unknown), committed, with fine timing and complete synchronization to deliver what even the most cynical brain could accept for a moment as true magic.

The usage that stuck out the most was the understood invisibility. Unlike in ‘A Midsummers Nights Dream’, where the character of Oberon so seductively tells the audience that “he is invisible, and can overhear”, our characters of Prospero and Ariel never mention their invisibility, but it was constant and accepted.  Many times as Ariel performed some of the more sparkly and fiery tricks, we were aided by waves of ravaging actors in illusionary actions. But the spirit nature and invisibility of Ariel also was presented sometimes with the actors voice off-stage, or sometimes simply in Prosperos face add he received reports of events occurred.

This was only one of many prevalent uses of magic and telekinesis throughout the play. Though sometimes harshly and frighteningly, and sometimes simply hilarious, it's constant prevalence was so well executed that it was easy to lose ones self into.


‘The Tempest’ is not a play in which you, as an audience member, can just sit back and let the play wash over you. You must listen, you must engage yourself with following the eyes and movements of the actors.

Watching Shakespeare, even at its best conveyance, must take as much focus and passion as one would have reading a book. Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company’s staging is often with little pause in the dialogue, and scenes transitions quickly together. The overall delivery of the company was perfectly helpful for anyone to pick up the basic storyline. I, however, was thoroughly pleased to have found some jokes I've never heard before, having seen the play multiple times. But it was only through watching our performers 100% with eyes, ears, and undivided attention; only then will you be able to fully enjoy the poetry that this in-your-face company performs. I suggest you go and be as wide-eyed, as passionate, and as wildly taking it all in as the Princess of the Isle, Miranda.


Pigeon Creek’s production features live music and audience interaction in the company’s usual lively performance atmosphere.

This production of The Tempest is directed by Pigeon Creek executive director Katherine Mayberry. The cast includes Scott Wright as Prospero, Sarah Stark as his daughter Miranda, Scott Lange as the magical spirit Ariel, and Kat Hermes as the strange island creature Caliban.  Other actors appearing in the production are Chaz Albright, Bradley Hamilton, Sean Kelley, Bridget McCarthy, Eric Orive, Julia Steudle, Brad Sytsma, and Kaija Von Websky.

For further information about Pigeon Creek’s season of plays, visit the company’s website at

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