The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.2281 Friday, 8 December 2000
Date: Thursday, 07 Dec 2000 14:15:33 -0500
Subject: DC Tempest
In response to Jimmy Jung's review of the Tempest at the Folger, I
thought I would provide my take on what was indeed a very interesting,
if somewhat laboured, way of reinvigorating the play.
>If anyone can explain, or speculate on the wedding ending, I'd be
>grateful. Was it a dream? or is this actually the wedding of Miranda
>and Ferdinand reconstructed from assorted text?
It seemed clear to me that the structure of the performance was that the
bookending wedding scenes were "reality" and the island/magic was a
dream. This worked in a Wizard of Oz kind of way with Caliban being the
cocktail waitress, etc.
Two thing about the performance struck me as very interesting.
First was the exploration of gender politics. Many (most?) modern
productions take Prospero's dominance over the spirits as a reflection
of Europe's colonization of other societies. Banno, instead, presents
Prospero's power balance in the light of male-female roles -- Caliban as
the faded housewife who was once so adored; Miranda as the daughter he
never wants to see grow up; Antonia as the ex-wife who has become more
successful without him; Ariel as his "dream girl", I suppose. The
wedding scenes make this work by showing Prospero as frustrated,
alienated and powerless in his ex-wife's/daughter's world, so he creates
one in which he is the master. This kind of gender politics is,
perhaps, Banno's greatest strength (if you see his modern works at the
The other great accomplishment was the forgiveness. A failing in many
productions is that Prospero is so benevolent and likeable that one
never gets the feeling that Antonio and crew are in any danger. Banno
staged a scene having Prospero with a gun, preparing to kill the
conspirators as they lay face down on the ground. Given the many changes
in the production, I was actually left to wonder if they would die. I
think more "straight" productions could learn a lot from that scene,
since that excitement and question is surely meant to be there. It
makes his forgiveness (as prompted by Ariel) so much more real.
-- Harry Teplitz