Now You See Me: Behind the Magic of ‘The Tempest’

by   |   today@bju.edu   |  

BJU’s 2020 production of The Tempest made frequent use of illusion and magic tricks. This student-created video takes a peek behind the curtain. If you missed the live webcast performance, the archived video is available at livestream.com/bju/tempest.

Thank you to the following cinema production students who created and produced this documentary:

  • Liam Shadwick, freshman
  • Ethan Hall, freshman
  • Ben Speaks, sophomore
  • Susannah Coleman, senior

This transcript has been edited for ease of reading.

Meetra Moyer (graduate theatre student): Hi. I’m Meetra Moyer. I’m the stage manager at Rodeheaver Auditorium. Today we’re going to show you a little bit about The Tempest and what we do to make it interesting backstage.

The thing about our show is we have a lot of magic tricks. Most notably on stage we have five trap doors that we use. This one right here is an elevator trap. So, what we do is an actor stands on it. Comes down, comes up. Very, very spectacular. This trap down here is also an elevator used at a different point, more of a discovery. It’s kind of fun. And then this trap on this side of the stage is your typical trap door just falls open and you jump through. Behind each door stage right and stage left are also traps that we use and those just fall open and our actor jumps down one climbs out the other, very fluid, looks like magic.

So here we are below stage on the orchestra pit. So what we’re actually standing on here is normally up at stage level, but it’s a separate lift that we control so we drop it down all the way, and then we use the rest of our space to set up the traps. And so, this is actually where most of the action is happening. For the elevator ones we have the weights placed, they have boards locked and pins to make sure that nothing moves when it shouldn’t. So, for both of these, when they’re used, they’re very well controlled, and we’ve got three guys on each of them ready to go.

For the other two traps that they drop through, we have pits of foam for the actor to safely land in and we have one crew holding the pins. We have one crew member ready to pull the trap. So, from down here it’s all controlled, it’s very precise, it’s very ready, and the actor knows that when they jump, they will be safe.

Seth Skaggs (senior theatre student): Hi, my name is Seth Skaggs. I play the part of Caliban in The Tempest. When I learned I got the part of Caliban, that I was going to have to be going up and down through the trap doors, it’s been strange to say the least because you’re very, it feels very rickety when I’m on it, but I know the guys down underneath got me, and so I have a lot of faith in them.

Eric Lane (sophomore theatre student): I’m Eric Lane. I’m playing Ariel, and honestly, I love all of the tricks in this show. There’s a point where the doors like this open up, and I go down through the floor which is an experience. It’s difficult. It’s a little nerve-wracking because I don’t want to hit the edge of the hole. It’s fun going down. It’s honestly been a blast. I love it. I love everything about it.

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