Seas, storms, and swordfights with FIU Theatre’s Production of Pericles, the Prince of Tyre

The storms in Pericles, performed by lightshow and curtain manipulation | Photo courtesy of FIU Theatre

Kaysea Suzana | Assistant Entertainment Director

Marking the end of the 2023 season, the Theatre department presents the Shakespearean drama Pericles with an avant-garde twist. 

The Jacobean play, believed to have been written in 1608, is considered not to have solely been Shakespeare’s work.

The Royal Shakespeare Company mentioned that Shakespeare probably wrote the last three acts with George Wilkins having written the first two; a dramatist of the time infamous for his crimes.

The plot focuses on Pericles, the Prince of Tyres, navigating the Mediterranean sea in hopes of avoiding death. As the story advances, Pericles becomes further disconnected from his wife and daughter. 

This was not FIU Theatre’s first time tackling the play, as associate teaching professor and the Theatre departments PR manager Ivan Lopez commented it was originally done back in 2009.

Michael Yawney, associate professor of theatre, and the director of the production, commented on the play’s interpretation.

“If a speech is unclear or a subplot is unresolved, most directors cut them. Our production includes a number of scenes that are traditionally cut, because I think this play needs that huge canvas of events,” Yawney wrote.

Yawney alludes to how the production cuts a lot of scenes and dialogue from the original text, a decision essential to the characters of Thaliard and Escanes.

The play was performed in the black box theatre. The stage itself was circular, with benches nearby allowing for the audience to have a personal viewing of the performance.

A model of the stage, also depicting the benches where audiences can sit | Photo courtesy of FIU Theatre

Interestingly, the play focused on the use of the room, utilizing curtains to show weather and forces of nature, while lighting was prepared to show mood and setting.

“This is a story of miracles, so we need to let the audience experience a miraculous transformation of the space…Our intention was to evoke wonder, by doing something that the audience could never expect.”

This meant that for fight scenes, swords, armor and other weaponry were simulated by the cast members, often through well-staged blocking and through their hand gestures.

Cristian Torres as Pericles, in the midst of a sword-fight with a Knight, played by Lauren Maqueira | Photo courtesy of FIU Theatre

Yawney also commented on the difficulty of the play, with the original text containing over fifty characters, and in simulating Shakespeare’s troupe of actors, the main cast was composed of twelve performers.

“Pericles is an impossible play. It is a supersized Big Mac of a play with so much story, so many characters, and so much emotion that you do not think you will be able to swallow it all,” Yawney wrote.

In terms of costumes, a blend of classical Greek styles and modern garments were used.

Yawney clarified that although some of the clothing seems modern to us, Shakespeare often employed contemporary outfits into his productions.

Alumni and costume designer Jedhi Weir, spoke on the approach taken for the outfits.

“The Mediterranean is very tropical, and that was my biggest inspiration for making these outfits.  I wanted to dress the characters like they were islanders on a tropical resort,” Weir said.

Weir also mentioned that all the performers would wear a white layer as a base, simulating the Greek toga/chiton, with the additional clothes being colorful and often representing their occupation. 

Character costume designs | Photo courtesy of FIU Theatre

This is most notable with the Lords, who are adorned in precious metals, or the fishermen wearing  gear.

“The white layer also works to be colorful in its own way. The lighting bounces off most of the white and helps illuminate the scene and the character,” Weir said.

Weir uses the term “distressed” to refer to some of the outfits, an industry term relating to outfits becoming disheveled, torn or dirtied often due to plot reasons like fights, natural disasters, etc.

Audience to the preview showing, and sophomore biology major Gustavo Garcia, spoke on his thoughts regarding the show.

“The emotion put forth by the actors was breathtaking,” Garcia said.

“My experience with Shakespeare has always been the tragedies or the comedies. So it was nice to experience something different, and see it be performed well.”

Though the rapid switching of costumes to account for different characters, as well as the coordination of lights, choreography and memorization proved challenging, those involved in the production are satisfied with the result.

“I feel we performed admirably. We did the best with what we had,” Weir said.

“Play production is collaborative. Without the contributions of each designer and each actor, Pericles would not be what it is,” Yawney wrote.

The Pericles performance runs from Nov. 10-19, followed by Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown in the Spring as part of the theatre’s next season.

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