Kelsey McGuire takes on iconic role in ‘The Tempest’

by | Feb 19, 2015

The UMSL senior will finish her acting career at UMSL in one of drama’s most iconic roles, but there’s a twist.
Senior Kelsey McGuire will be taking on the role of Prospera in "The Tempest." (Photo by August Jennewein.)

Senior Kelsey McGuire will be taking on the role of Prospera in “The Tempest.” (Photo by August Jennewein)

Kelsey McGuire will finish her acting career at the University of Missouri–St. Louis in one of drama’s most iconic roles, but there’s a twist.

The UMSL senior is starring in the College of Fine Arts and Communication’s production of “The Tempest,” but instead of playing a traditional female role the production has switched the male lead, Prospero, to a female one. McGuire’s Prospera is a witch, marooned on an island with her daughter Miranda and a host of other beings.

“The Tempest” is believed to be the final work that William Shakespeare wrote on his own. The character of Prospero is often regarded to be a foil for the Bard himself, giving a final monologue to the play that sums up his career. That aspect makes it a fitting role for a graduating senior in her final UMSL production.

“This role starts the show and ends the show and sets the tone for everything,” McGuire said. “As an actress, to say the last lines of a play and to have those lines be so powerful is amazing.”

McGuire has been a familiar face in UMSL theater productions, with roles such as Magenta in “Rocky Horror Show” and Amanda Gronich in “The Laramie Project.” She got her first role as a fourth-grader in her school’s production of “Around the World in 80 Days,” has wanted to be an actress ever since.

In the original work, Prospero, the usurped Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda’s title. He creates a storm to lure his treacherous brother, Antonio, and the king of Naples to the island.

McGuire originally considered auditioning for the traditional female lead of Miranda, but her research led her to a 2010 film adaptation starring Helen Mirren and Felicity Jones. She was intrigued by the idea of morphing Prospero into Prospera and brought it to the attention of director Greg Carr.

“There’s a stronger relationship between mother and daughter compared to father and daughter, so I felt like we could really work with that,” said McGuire, who is from Old Monroe, Mo.

Eventually, she won the part. In addition to swapping the gender of its main character, the UMSL theater production has shifted the setting to Haiti in the 1700s, rather than the 1600s. The change allows the production to also explore themes such as racism, the slave trade and voodoo as well.

The UMSL Department of Theatre’s production of “The Tempest” runs Feb. 19-22 at the Lee Theater in the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center.

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Rachel Webb

Rachel Webb