Before the stage was set for opening week, there was an idea. Ashley Sarver, an MFA Directing student at UNCG, had a concept for her thesis that reshaped a play first performed over 400 years ago. Not knowing much about William Shakespeare, Sarver was taking a risk.
After being informed by professors on Shakespeare’s work and relevance, she was ready to begin. She would focus on reimagining Shakespeare’s The Tempest but strip the play it of its renaissance setting and use the post-World War 2 era as its backdrop. Like its predecessor, Sarver’s Tempest still revolves around the relationship between a parent and a child, a love at first sight romance and a ship full of colonist wrecking and ending up stranded on a magical island only to be plagued by illusions conjured by the plays main character, Prospero.
Still, that wasn’t enough for Sarver. She needed to do something that stayed true to the original text of The Tempest but changed it just enough to make the show new and memorable.
With the aid of her contemporaries, Sarver made the decision to change the gender of Prospero, turning the character into a Prospera. The story was now about the relationship between a mother and daughter and the transformative nature of their relationship.
“I was interested in this relationship between [Prospera] and [her daughter],” Sarver said. “And I was also really interested in the…redemption aspect at the end of the show.”
The changes did not cease there. What makes Sarver’s adaption something unique is its incorporation of Jazz music during the musical numbers.
Considering Jazz music became increasingly popular during World War 2, Sarver’s decision made sense. Music acted as a muse to traumatized soldiers and civilians in a war-torn world.
“I started going back to this idea of how we can best tell this story in a way that could be a little more relevant to the audience,” Sarver explains. “I strongly believe that jazz is something that can help tell stories quite well…we really leaned into that music magic, and that was really fun to do and really exciting to see how magic can manifest itself through music.”
After having her show performed at the Taylor Theatre at UNCG, Sarver could not be more thankful for the experience, as the experience of collaborating with a team left a lasting impact on her career moving forward.
“Hopefully we inspire and entertain people with this process,” Sarver said.
For more information on upcoming shows, visit https://vpa.uncg.edu/theatre/.