Prospero through the Years
By Liz Armstrong
This season marks the ninth time the Utah Shakespeare Festival has produced The Tempest. That is probably true because of the love Festival audiences have for the magical and spell-binding elements of the play—the wild storms, unknown islands, and ethereal spirits. But it is also probably true because of the fascinating character of Prospero.
Over the years, the Festival has attracted a talented group of actors to play this sometimes perplexing character. Let’s take a closer look at those actors:
The Tempest was first produced at the Festival in 1967, over 55 years ago! Sims had previously played (in 1966) roles in Julius Caesar, Baptista Minola in The Taming of the Shrew, and Launce in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. During the 1967 season (which was his last at the Festival), he also had roles in The Comedy of Errors and Hamlet.
In 1969, Cravath played Marcade in Love’s Labour’s Lost, Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Iago in Othello. In 1970, he returned to the Festival, taking on the title role in Richard III, as well as Shallow in The Merry Wives of Windsor. While playing Prospero, he also balanced his last season at the Festival as Earl of Westmoreland in Henry I: Part One and Gremio in The Taming of the Shrew.
Alexander only acted in one season at the Festival, playing Prospero, as well as Decius Brutus and Luculius in Julius Caesar and an attendant in Love’s Labour’s Lost.
Knight also appeared at the Festival for only one season, playing Prospero as well as Priam in Troilus and Cressida. He also, however, directed The Tempest. Knight studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1952. He also developed the Illinois Repertory Theater and professional acting program there, where he also worked as the artistic director.
In his only season at the Festival, Kraft played Prospero in The Tempest, as well as Leontes in The Winter’s Tale. He has been a dramaturg of nearly 50 Shakespeare productions and has acted in 86 productions of Shakespeare’s 38 plays. His publications include After-Dinner Shakespeare and Shakespeare Insult Generator.
When Gould first appeared at the Festival in 1992 to play King Lear, many audience members recognized him for his work in film and television—as the con man Kid Twist in the movie The Sting, Valerie Harper’s father on television’s Rhoda, and Betty White’s boyfriend on The Golden Girls. In 1995, he returned to the Festival to play Prospero, marking his second a last appearance here.
Pribyl played the role of Prospero in 2007, but worked at the Festival nearly three decades before, appearing in 1980 as Elbow in Measure for Measure, Duncan in Macbeth, and Pinch in The Comedy of Errors. He returned in 2006, cast as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and Montgomery Hawkes in Peg o’ My Heart. While filling the role of Prospero, he was also Marc in ‘Art.’ Eight seasons later, he returned to the Festival to play in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Amadeus, and Charley’s Aunt.
Woronicz started out at the Festival in 1983, as Antonio in The Merchant of Venice and King Henry V in Henry V. Years later (in 2002), he returned to direct As You Like It. Since then, he has worked at the Festival several seasons. As an actor he has played such roles as Richard in Richard III (2003), Macbeth in Macbeth (2004), Prospero in The Tempest (2013), and Sir John Falstaff in Henry IV Part One (2018). He also directed As You Like It (2002), The Taming of the Shrew (2004), Coriolanus (2007), Titus Andronicus (2012), Richard II (2013), Henry VI Part One (2018), and The Conclusion of Henry VI: Parts Two and Three (2019).
This season the Festival has cast a woman as Prospero: Jasmine Bracey is bringing new depth and humanity to this timeless role. She first came to the Festival in 2021 to play Belarius in Cymbeline and Mrs. Dickson in Intimate Apparel.
“I love Jasmine’s interpretation,” said Sophia K. Metcalf who is playing Ariel. “Prospero talks for almost 30 percent of the show, more than any other Shakespearean lead. It takes a lot to keep the audience engaged, and Jasmine is always finding little new ways to keep the story fresh and alive.”
For more information about Prospero, you may want to check out the Festival’s study guide “Prospero’s Many Roles,” at https://www.bard.org/study-guides/prosperos-many-roles/.