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From left: Trudy Roeber (Miranda), Sadie Corey (Prospera) and Adrian Maslov (Ferdinand) in Mudlark Theater’s production of The Tempest. Credit: Allen Rein

Aspiration, commitment, creativity and fellowship, a lot of fellowship – those are the makings of a good youth theater.

And the Mudlark Theater cast displayed all of those this past weekend when they debuted a version of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, adapted by Mudlark’s Director Andrew Biliter.

For instance, Trudy Roeber played Miranda with an ease and natural understatement that projected an aspiring actress. “We all want to create art together,” she said, also acknowledging she wants to be a theater professional.

“About a third of those at Mudlark aspire to be in theater,” Biliter said.

A scene from Mudlark Theater’s recent production of The Tempest. Foreground: Benjamin Foran (Captain); middle ground, from left: Izzy Thomson (Sailor), Tristan Bond (Antonio), Leo Hogan (Gonzalo), Gemma Callam (Alonso), Adrian Maslov (Ferdinand); and background, from left: Shay Perry (Sebastian), Charlie Draganski (Trinculo), Phoebe Rogers (Stephanie) and Dylan Ribiero (Francisco). Credit: Allen Rein

Isabelle Smith played the monster, Caliban, with an over-the-top physicality that projected an aspiring comedic talent. But even though she is a regular at Mudlark, Smith said her goals do not include acting. “I get a sense of person, of who I am when I act. That’s why I am committed to it now.”

The ensemble cast of 16 also included Sadie Corey playing Prospera, as the champion, and Adrian Maslov, playing Ferdinand, as a determined and charming prince. Their commitment to their acting and characters were obvious, but so too were their creative contributions.  

When Miranda and Ferdinand are united with forgiving families, the spirits serenade the two in a falsetto libretto that is a comedic hit in the show. Calvin Wooldrige, the water spirit, proposed the idea and developed it with the cast.

At left, Shay Perry (Sebastian) and Gemma Callam (Alonso). At right, Calvin Wooldridge and Izzy Thomson (airy spirits) – all cast members from Mudlark Theater’s production of The Tempest. Credit: Allen Rein / Mudlark Theater

Biliter said as a director, he often sticks to his vision of that play. But on this show, he was much looser. “The cast members were clearly creative and this time I had a lot of fun seeing their way of interpreting and creating characters.” 

The fellowship of this cast was so clear in talking with them after the show. “We were a group of strangers who became a family,” Sadie said.

“Whatever is happening at school or home, here we are a group that lets us forget everything else,” one of the young actors explained.

Ari Adams, the fire spirit, said, “I didn’t know anybody here when we started and now everybody is friends.  We hang out, we text, and we talk. For me, the acting made the friendships possible. And that friendship is the most important result.”

The actors’ parents also recognize the value of participation as well. Thomas Draganski, the father of Charlie, the court comedian, said, “The theater work gives my son a sense of responsibility, a view of being part of a larger purpose.” Also, it’s a way for dad and son to bond. “Charlie is confident about knowing his lines, but I go over them with him anyway, just to see what he has.”

Director Biliter’s view is that “Youth theater is more than an exercise in education, but art to be taken seriously and to be artistically challenging … [yet] the technical components, as well as the acting, are part of the program.  Youth also run the lights and the sound.”

Mudlark’s board is proud that every youth who wants to can participate in their programs. When youth sign up, they are guaranteed all financial support necessary. Application material is on the group’s website.

Cissy Lacks

Cissy Lacks is a writer, photographer and retired teacher who writes theater reviews for the Evanston RoundTable. Bio information is at cissylacks.com. She can be reached at cissy@evanstonroundtable.com.

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