Members of the cast and crew stand in a circle. Forest Roberts Theatre director Jim Panowski addresses them on what needs to be done and what everyone should be focusing on. They end their meeting with the mantra to give “110 percent 100 percent of the time.” With the performance only days away, there’s an air of excitement as the cast and crew prepare to perform William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” for a live audience.
“The Tempest” tells the story of Prospero the magician, who lives with his daughter on an enchanted island populated by monsters and sprites, and is an intricate comedy of magic and revenge.
This will be Panowski’s final play, and students are embracing the opportunity to not only work with him for the last time, but to join other students and members of the community.
Junior theater performance major Timmy Grams said he enjoys working on “The Tempest” a great deal.
“I’m working with a good group of people and it feels great to be part of it because it’s Dr. Panowski’s last show,” Grams said. “It’s kind of an honor to be one of the many people involved in it.”
Performing Shakespeare on stage may seem like a daunting and intimidating task, but Grams said it came very naturally once he started memorizing the dialogue and getting into the rhythm of it.
“I find it’s much easier than modern dialogue to put in an inflection and bring it to life. You have a pattern you can follow,” Grams said.
Behind the scenes, international studies major Ellisa Clumpner performs her job as the assistant director. This includes being Panowski’s right-hand woman.
Clumper said working on “The Tempest” is different from anything she’s ever done and has helped her to see the director’s point of view.
“Getting the notes that he’s given to the actors directly has helped me a lot, not only with knowing what needs fixing, but how to communicate it to the actors,” Clumpner said.
Also working under Panowski is English graduate student Kelly Passinault. Passinault is the production stage manager, which entails calling the cues for the show in addition to much more.
“The lighting, sound, all the pyrotechnics, basically every movement that happens on stage that is not acting related,” Passinault said. “All the calls come through me.”
Working on a play with a large amount of people can sometimes lead to arguments and people feeling like they’re not being listened to, but Passinault said it’s just the opposite on the set of “The Tempest.”
“Everybody in this cast and crew is so close. It’s a great feeling to be around everybody,” Passinault said. “It’s very much a collaborative effort.”
For Panowski, the attraction in directing “The Tempest” came from the fact that he’s never directed a play by Shakespeare and that he considers it to be Shakespeare’s farewell to the theater since it was his last solo effort.
“I thought it would be a nice way to go,” Panowski said. “It’s my farewell to the Forest Roberts Theatre.”
In order to present Shakespeare effectively, Panowski decided to keep it simple and approach it like any other play, deciding to focus more on clarity, communication and emotional meaning.
“The imagery, tone, sounds and words are what are important,” Panowski said. “If you don’t treat Shakespeare as being sacred, then it will work.”
Most of all, Panowski would like people to come and enjoy a night of theater.
“It’s going to be quite a spectacle. It’s really like directing a major musical with as big a cast and all the various elements,” he said.
Tickets for “The Tempest” are $7 for NMU students and $11 for the general public. Tickets are on sale now at EZ ticket outlet or online at www.nmu.edu/tickets. Performances will be held at the Forest Roberts Theatre from April 22-25 at 7:30 p.m. with a 1 p.m. matinee performance on April 25.