Friday, April 17, 2009

A Formal Staged Reading

One of the main events for the festival this year is a formal staged reading of a new, specifically steampunk theatrical piece. One of the goals of this festival is to help promote and further neo-Victorian and steampunk writing, especially theatrical writing because I believe there is a way to put an airship in a tiny blackbox theater: imagination!

And there is not a better piece for that than 'H.M.S. Tempest: A Steampunk Romance'. It is a Neo-Victorian, Science Fantasy play loosely inspired by Shakespeare's 'The Tempest.' In the mid-Victorian era, the ingenious (and slightly eccentric) British inventor, William Prospero, is shipwrecked on the coast of an as yet undiscovered tropical island. With only his two (yes, two) daughters and a marooned mad-woman named Juno to help him, Prospero sets about building a flying steamship in order to leave the island. To aid him in this endeavor he constructs two automatons, Caliban and Ariel; one is a clockwork man and the other a steam-powered sprite. The adventure begins when another ship crashes on the island, carrying with it a shifty and suspicious crew, a courageous if somewhat impulsive Spanish prince on holiday, and none-other-than Antonio Prospero (William Prospero's younger brother) who, as it turns out, was responsible for the original shipwreck!

Playwright Stephanie Ferguson had this to say about her story, "I think my favorite aspect of this play, or at least what I was trying to get at, is the question: what makes us human? What does it mean to be part of humanity? And I think some of the answers to that are our ability to love, our ability to empathize with each other, and our imaginations." To me that is a valid question no matter what the time period.

The performance will be given in a manner consistent with a staged reading, not a full fledged production. For those not familiar with a staged reading the actors will have their scripts in front of them on music stands, and will embody all aspects of the characters through voice and minimal movement. For an added polish all characters will be costumed as if it were a full fledged production, and there may be a few additional surprises as well, you never can tell with automatons!