March 27, 2014
By Delainey Kein, Staff Writer
Walking into the theater, the darkness was consuming and faint, eerie music could be heard. Suddenly, green, pink, and blue lights came into view as they showered the stage with color. The loud chattering of audience members, squirming with anticipation, rivaled the noise produced from the mysterious sounding music.
Jayne Decker, director of The Tempest by William Shakespeare and professor at The University of Maine at Farmington (UMF), was perusing the aisles, looking for any last seats to give to the people waiting patiently in the lobby. It was a full house.
Soon, the play began and audience members were sitting on the edges of their seats, eyes wide, consuming every bit of information the actors provided. “I have had the great pleasure of experiencing the silence of an audience, when you feel the audience is right there with you as an actor,” said Decker, her hand over her heart. “I love trying to find those experiences for the students.”
Decker has directed over 100 plays and she has acted in just as many. “I don’t ever remember a time in my life where I haven’t been involved,” she said. Decker’s dedication to the theater world is obvious. She held auditions for The Tempest in November and started intensive rehearsals by February. Decker explained that rehearsals varied, “Some weeks 5 rehearsals, some more,” she said. “I ask a lot from my actors, they know that going into it. This cast embraced their roles, embraced their characters.”
The excellence of the cast is one aspect of the play that was brought up time and time again. “This performance was much better than others,” said Michael Johnson, professor at UMF who attended the play. “It felt like a very real a very human tempest, and it was also very funny which helped.”
Dan Gunn, the interim provost and vice president of academic affairs, played the character Prospero. He also mentioned that the college students deserve a lot of credit for all they were able to accomplish. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked with as committed and ambitions group of students,” he said. “They wanted to do this well. They worked really well and they are talented to boot. I think it is the best group of students I have ever worked with in any play.” Gunn named Austin Hayes playing Ariel, and Richard Russell playing Caliban as two of the many exceptional actors in The Tempest.
As the play came to an end, the crowd showed they were more than enthusiastic with the performance by honoring the actors with a standing ovation. “I think the production represented what Umf does so well in the fact that it has faculty, staff, and students coming together in an important work,” said Steven Pane, a professor at UMF. “I think that it’s magic. You have to have a remarkable director and Jayne Decker is a remarkable director and she brings students to this level that lets everyone work together to create a wonderful piece. I think this is the spirit of UMF.”