Grace Overbeke ’08

Most productions of The Tempest do not feature a death scene in which the clown Trinculo delivers a dying soliloquy composed entirely of duck-quacks, as he is devoured by a Balinese dragon puppet. And I humbly believe that they are the poorer for it.

In Wesleyan University’s 2005 production Caliban Remembers: A Balinese Tempest, Ron Jenkins and Nyoman Catra transformed the massive Center for the Arts Theater into a small, intimate venue, blocking off the regular seating section and bringing the audience onstage so that they could get a closer view of the masked actors and intricate shadow puppets used in this unique adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I was lucky enough to play Trinculo in this ensemble, whose rehearsal process  involved everything from master classes with Bill Irwin (who played Trinculo in the New York Theatre Festival production) to traditional Balinese dance training from Nyoman Catra, one of Bali’s most renowned performers. We worked intensely with masks, with musical instruments, with shadow puppets and with one another to create a piece that drew from myriad cultural traditions and theatrical movements.

Not only did that production introduce me to a diverse array of theatrical techniques, it also showed me how an author like Shakespeare—who epitomizes the Western canon—can find new expression and vitality when combined with Eastern influences.

[This story is part of a series celebrating the 40th anniversary season at Wesleyan's Center for the Arts. Learn more.]