Written by Linda Yan | May 28th, 2021
This piece is a part of an ongoing series spotlighting local penguins and their love for theater and Shakespeare. Register today for a summer theater experience with Penguin Productions!
Summer is upon us– and so is summer theater! I spoke with Miranda Gilbert, a cast member of the upcoming Penguin Productions show The Tempest, about the joys and discoveries of summer youth theater, and why Shakespeare is fun. Below is our conversation edited for length and clarity.
Miranda Gilbert is a junior at Puget Sound Community School. Her first play with Penguin Productions was The Hamlet Project in 2018. Since then, she has done many more shows with Penguin, including King Lear and She Kills Monsters. Miranda is also a member of the Penguin Advisory Council and is passionate about discussions surrounding theatre, social issues, and what we can do to make things better.
Linda: At Penguin Productions, we’re currently doing registration for our summer programs, The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But from summer camps to family vacations, there’s always so much for kids to do in the summer. Why should someone participate in a summer theater production with Penguin?
Miranda: I think it will just be such a good opportunity to get to see people and to get to do theater… It’s just so nice to be able to be active and hang out with friends. Also Penguin always seems to have a high quality theater experience, like the ensembles always become very close, and Penguin was the first place that I heard about intimacy work, which is super important.
Linda: Could you elaborate a bit about what intimacy work is?
Miranda: I learned about intimacy work during a workshop for She Kills Monsters. An intimacy coordinator is basically a voice for those who can’t speak up, and they make sure they can train all the actors in active consent, as well as the term “button,” which you can use at any point when you’re unsure or uncomfortable during a scene in rehearsal and I think that’s just super wonderful.
Linda: I’m glad to hear that Penguin is doing that. Our next question is: after over a year of virtual theater productions, this year’s summer programs will be in person and outdoors at Green Lake Park. How do you feel about these new developments?
Miranda: I’m excited. I think it might be a little weird to get back into “real theater” but that it will be super fun. I know both the director and the assistant director for The Tempest really well, and they’re both very talented people, so I’m very excited to see what they do with the plays. I think it’s great that it’ll be summer because summer really gives you the freedom to be outside, especially in Seattle, since spring and fall and winter are usually kind of wet. For me being able to be outside, in the warmth, and hanging out with friends is just really, really fun.
Linda: That’s awesome, I’m really looking forward to seeing how things play out this summer. Now, let’s move on to some questions about Shakespeare, starting with why do you enjoy it?
Miranda: I find Shakespeare to be super interesting. Much Ado About Nothing was actually one of the first real plays I’d been a part of, and it really sparked my love for Shakespeare. Throughout middle school and high school I’ve tried to take every Shakespeare reading class, or intensive, I could and I just find the language to be super interesting and beautiful. The characters are also very interesting to delve into. I think it can sometimes be hard to write three-dimensional characters that have flaws and are also likable to the right degree, but Shakespeare is able to do it in a way where you can really understand and speculate about them.
Linda: What do you think studying Shakespeare has taught you?
Miranda: It has definitely helped my reading comprehension, as well as enabling me to understand some historical references in pop culture since Shakespeare shows up in a lot of things. It’s cool to be able to go like “Ah! That was inspired by Hamlet!” or something. Through Shakespeare I also learned that I like reading plays with other people, and I’ve really enjoyed the camaraderie and shared experiences I was able to build through reading his plays.
Linda: Even though Shakespeare has definitely stood the test of time, there’s a lot of things that need to be re-examined, such as sexism and racism, in his plays especially in modern contexts. How do you think theater artists and theater directors should approach that?
Miranda: It’s definitely hard, and you have to do it carefully. I think that discussion around the topic, especially with people who are affected by it, is really important because you don’t want to talk over anyone. So I think having the discussions, and understanding it, as well being able to say “Ah, we don’t need to delve into this script anymore, it’s kind of outdated and there’s not much of the text that is meaty and valuable. It’s just sexist.” is really important.
Linda: For those who feel intimidated by Shakespeare, do you have any advice that you would like to give them?
Miranda: Probably just to take it slow and ask questions, because there’s no shame in asking questions. Even for people who read Shakespeare a lot there are still parts that are really like “What is going on?” Also, it’s supposed to be fun so just go with the flow, be curious. I don’t think anyone’s going to be like “Wow, you read bad!” if you have a hard time.
If you’re interested in theater at all it’s so good and useful to try Shakespeare. Even if you’re like “Oh, I don’t want to be an actor when I grow up” it can still be super fun and its own experience. And if you end up not liking it, I would say trying it once is always good.
Linda: If someone’s on the fence about registering for The Tempest or A Midsummer Night’s Dream what would you tell them?
Miranda: If you’re on the fence, you should give it a try. Because even if it’s out of your comfort zone, it will probably be fun, and I think there will be a lot of cool people in there. I don’t think Penguin is the type of place to attract any mean, theater snobs so if you’re worried about stuff like “Oh, I’m not too experienced” don’t worry about it! Everyone’s at different levels, and that’s why we can learn from each other.
Penguin Productions is currently accepting registrations for The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. To register, please visit our Productions and Performances page. There is no obligation to pay for our programs.