Skip to Content

College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Theatre and Dance

THE TEMPEST at Drayton Hall Theatre | April 15-23

William Shakespeare's late-period tale of revenge and redemption gets an epic staging, perfectly timed to the First Folio exhibit and two Shakespeare anniversaries!

Theatre South Carolina

The Tempest

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Robert Richmond

April 15-23, 2016

Drayton Hall Theatre
1214 College St.

Show Times:

Friday, April 15: 8pm
Saturday, April 16: 8pm
Sunday, April 17: 3pm
Wednesday, April 20: 8pm
Thursday, April 21: 8pm
Friday, April 22: 8pm
Saturday, April 23: 3pm & 8pm

$12  |  Students
$16  |  USC Faculty/Staff, Military and Seniors 60+
$18  |  General Admission

Box Office: 777-2551
Or purchase in person at Longstreet Theatre.  Box office opens April 8.
Box Office Hours: 12:30pm - 5:30pm, Monday - Friday

Guest Actor Richard Willis as Caliban

The dates of the production coincide with the University’s exhibition of an original Shakespeare First Folio, published in 1623.  The first comprehensive collection of Shakespeare’s plays, the Folio marked the first printed appearances of classic plays such as Julius Caesar, Macbeth, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest — works that might have been lost to history had they not been published.  The University of SC was chosen as the only location in SC to exhibit the First Folio, which is on a nationwide tour sponsored by Washington DC’s Folger Shakespeare Library (owner of the largest collection of surviving Folios in the world).  The First Folio will be on display at Thomas Cooper Library from April 14-30.

The production’s final performance is also perfectly timed for two major Shakespeare anniversaries.  April 23 is widely believed to be Shakespeare’s birthday, and is definitively the date of his death 400 years ago in 1616. 

One of Shakespeare’s last plays (written between 1610-1611), The Tempest still has a transcendent power to captivate audiences with its enthralling tale of romance, revenge and redemption.  Prospero, the unlawfully exiled Duke of Milan, has lived on a remote island with his daughter, Miranda, for twelve years — enough time to study and perfect his skills in the realms of magic.  When Antonio, the brother who usurped Prospero’s title, sails near the island, the powerful sorcerer conjures a storm which forces his betrayer’s ship ashore, and carries out a supernatural scheme to enact vengeance, restore his rightful nobility and, finally, find peace.

Director Robert Richmond has envisioned a unique concept for the production, starting with the idea that the story is taking place entirely inside Prospero’s head.

“The idea is that Prospero is dying of a terminal illness and he knows it,” says Richmond.  “And, because of his immersion in the study of the dark arts, he has begun to personify the demonic character Caliban, and is battling that darkness in a sort of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde manner.  On this island, right now, Prospero is trying to put things right in his head, and the audience is never quite sure what is and is not reality.”

Richmond’s approach to the story was first developed alongside guest actor Richard Willis, who collaborated with the director for a 2013 production of The Tempest at The Warehouse Theatre in Greenville, SC.  The actor is reprising his role as Prospero for this production.

Willis, born serendipitously at Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare’s birthplace), has a long professional history playing Shakespeare’s greatest roles. Willis’ career began as a child actor on London’s West End stages in the early 1970s and led to numerous stage and television roles in the UK. Willis moved to the US in the early 2000s, when he took on roles in Shakespearean productions for the Aquila Theatre Company, a touring company that at the time had Richmond as its Associate Artistic Director.  Richmond and Willis have since collaborated at the Folger Theatre on critically acclaimed productions of Henry V and Twelfth Night, for which Willis received a Helen Hayes Award nomination. 

2nd-year MFA Actor Carin Bendas as Ariel

Richmond and his design team are imagining a world of fantastical imagery, filled with otherworldly creatures and an expansive set that echoes Prospero’s tumultuous journey.  The director says the team researched sources as diverse as the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, Dante’s Inferno and contemporary films such as Pan’s Labyrinth and Star Wars to bring Prospero’s supernatural world of sorcery to life. 

“I feel like it’s in a world we all understand as being ‘fairy tale,’” Richmond explains.  “It has a slightly dark, perhaps Brothers Grimm feel to it.”

Adding to the show’s enchanting mood is an original, Celtic-influenced violin and harp score by guest artist Jessi Witchger, which will be performed live on stage by the artist.  Also an accomplished singer, Witchger has performed solo and with groups in over eleven countries.  She has previously composed scores for the Folger Theatre production of Henry V and audiobooks of Shakespeare’s plays Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth (both published by Simon and Schuster).  Theatre alum Sam Traquina (BA, ’11) will accompany on percussion. 

In addition to Willis’ dual role as Prospero/Caliban, the cast includes second-year graduate acting students Candace Thomas (Miranda), Carin Bendas (Ariel), Dimitri Woods (Ferdinand), Josh Jeffers (Stephano), Rachel Kuhnle (Trinculo), Ben Roberts (Antonio), Matt Cavender (Gonzalo) and Nicole Dietze (Harpy).  Undergraduate cast includes Tristan Hester, John Romanski, Kelsie Hensley, Sofia Pavone, Jamie Boller, Jordan Youmans, Allie Horecny, Conor Gallagher, Jon Whit McClinton and Freddie Powers

The show’s mystical scenic design is by second-year graduate design student Neda Spalajkovic.  Costume and creature design is by MFA costume alum April Traquina (MFA, '11).  Sound design for the production is being helmed by guest artist Danielle Wilson.

It all adds up to a spectacular whole that Richmond says honors Shakespeare’s intentions for the play.

“I think The Tempest was in many ways Shakespeare’s legacy to the theatre, to acting and the magic that we create that disappears into the ether,” he says.  “It feels as though he was saying goodbye to the very thing that made him who he was.” 

For more information on The Tempest or the theatre program at the University of SC, contact Kevin Bush by phone at 803-777-9353 or via email at