Mikayla Napier/The Easterner
by Al Stover
Basked in red light, Mark Antony slays four soldiers with his sword. As the lights change, Cleopatra dances on stage with her attendants while Antony’s soldiers linger in the background.
Antony scoops up his lover and carries her off as the soldiers begin to kiss and fondle Cleopatra’s attendants.
This is the opening scene in “Antony and Cleopatra,” being put on by EWU’s theatre department.
“Antony and Cleopatra” is a play written by William Shakespeare. It is about the Roman general and politician Antony and Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, who are engaged in a lavish affair.
In the beginning, Antony leaves Cleopatra and returns to Rome to deal with the death of his wife Fulvia, the threat of Pompey and the developing tension between him and Octavius.
Although Antony weds Octavius’ sister Octavia as a gesture of good will, he makes decisions that lead him back to the arms of Cleopatra while battling Octavius.
“Antony and Cleopatra” is a tragic love story that features displays of hedonistic fantasy, carnal desire and the power of following the heart despite the consequences that will follow.
For Director Jeff Sanders, “Antony and Cleopatra” is one of Shakespeare’s plays that he has admired for a long time. Although it is rarely performed, Sanders believed the program could pull it off.
“Shakespeare gets the same 10 plays recycled over and over again,” Sanders said. “I think everyone is fascinated with the story of Antony and Cleopatra historically, but not a lot of people know what he did with it. This is him writing at the peak of his talents.”
Although it has elements of other Shakespeare tragedies, such as death, betrayal and love, Antony and Cleopatra leaves the audience with a sense of ambiguity.
“We’re only left with [Antony and Cleopatra’s] actions,” Sanders said. “Antony and Cleopatra very rarely talk to the audience and tell why they make the decisions they make. There’s a beautiful enigma wrapped in this play.”
Cleopatra was played by Rainee Palmer, who was seductive and sultry but also vicious, manipulative and commanding when she was upset. However, there were moments when she was also in anguish when Antony was away or when she angered him.
Antony, played by Howard Halcomb, was just as passionate and commanding as Palmer. However, he was also tormented as he was torn between his love for Cleopatra and his duty to Rome.
The supporting characters had roles that were both serious, such as Octavius and Maecenas, and comical, like Lepidus and the abused messenger. Teko Dumoulin played Enobarbus, who was Antony’s loyal, sly and comic friend.
Dumoulin, a senior, has had roles in other Shakespeare plays, such as Oberon in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and Mercutio in “Romeo and Juliet.”
For Dumoulin, the difference in performing in “Antony and Cleopatra” was doing the research for his character.
“There’s a plethora of information about these people because they actually existed,” Dumoulin said. “It was cool doing the research because you could go in and delve into the actual person you are trying to portray and find out what they did and the choices they made historically and try to work your character out.”
Cleopatra’s attendants were a graceful, vibrant and sexy complement to their queen.
Kendra Sherrill played Iras, one of Cleopatra’s attendants. Sherrill had done research over winter break to better learn the relationship between a queen and her attendants.
“[Attendants’] relationships with their maiden [are] very complicated,” Sherrill said. “They’re very close and she depends on them. That helped during the course of the production. I got really close with Rainee and Chailee [Friant, who played Charmian, another one of Cleopatra’s attendants].”
Sanders had used contemporary themes when he directed Shakespeare plays in the past. To give the play a theme of a hedonistic fantasy, Sanders knew that Cleopatra’s Egypt was the embodiment for hedonism and pleasure. Some ways Sanders did change the script from Shakespeare’s original work included merging characters together.
The performers were not the only people who made “Antony and Cleopatra” come alive.
The sets, lighting, costumes and hand-made props — courtesy of the stage crew-combined with original music, created by Cody Bray and Jeremy Larson, created an atmosphere like that of ancient Egypt and Rome.
Different elements that were added to this production included a choreographed sea battle and a live snake.
“It’s kind of an exhilarating experience to see it come together,” Sanders said.
Sherrill, Palmer and Friant handled the snake, whose name is Jack, on stage in the final scene. Although Palmer and Friant are terrified of snakes, Sherrill loved the experience.
“They were the ones who actually had to work with him more than I did,” Sherrill said. “I was like ‘Come on, I like it.’ They did a good job working up to it. He’s done shows before, so he’s a veteran.”
Sarah Malinak came to watch Sherrill perform. Overall, she enjoyed the play.
“Everyone’s acting was really good,” Malinak said.
Devyn Johnson, a junior majoring in visual communication design, enjoyed the performances of the actors.
“Everyone practiced really well,” Johnson said. “I could tell they really worked well together.”
Blaine Nicholls, who played Pompey, has been involved with theater since he was a kid. Nicholls credits Sanders as being one of the best Shakespearean teachers he has ever had.
“He knows Shakespeare better than anyone I have ever met,” Nicholls said. “The way he made me learn while I was acting was an unbelievable experience.”
According to Sanders, one of the things he enjoyed about working on the play was seeing the roles come through the actors as they progressed.
“I don’t know if I have ever worked with such strong student work on stage,” Sanders said. “I’m so proud of them.”
“Antony and Cleopatra” show times
at the EWU Theatre
March 15 5 p.m.
March 16 7:30 p.m.
March 17 7:30 p.m