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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: July ::
Re: Performing 'The Tempest
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1437  Friday, 28 July 2000.

[1]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 10:42:19 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'

[2]     From:   Mari Bonomi <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 06:10:46 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'

[3]     From:   L. Swilley <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 07:33:57 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'

[4]     From:   Richard Sherrington <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 11:02:05 -0300
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'

[5]     From:   Richard Nathan <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 15:35:00 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'

[6]     From:   Evelyn Gajowski <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 11:23:32 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest

[7]     From:   Jean R. Brink <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 15:49:17 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 10:42:19 +0100
Subject: 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'

Stuart Manger asks

> [a] What are current views on how to interpret Caliban and Ariel on
> stage? Colonised Caliban? Ethnic Caliban? Superhuman ? Sub-human
> Caliban? Young Ariel? Old Ariel? Young Caliban? Old Caliban?

I imagine there's an enormous range of current views on "how to
interpret" for a modern production, but fishy Caliban and fishy
Ariel-as-sea-nymph was the original costuming. (See Michael Baird
Saenger "The costumes of Caliban and Ariel _qua_ sea-nymph" Notes and
Queries 240 (1995) pp334-6 and Gabriel Egan "Ariel's costume in the
original staging of _The Tempest_" Theatre Notebook 51 (1997) pp62-72.)

>[b] Is there any evidence that Ariel was ever played by a boy in
>Jacobean times - viz a lot of fizzing, energetic songs, and presumably
>expected to leap about gymnastically - I know that doesn't necessarily
>mean anything, but........? What striking performances of Ariel can
>correspondents recall that illuminated aspects of the character??

The costume used for Ariel was made for John Rice, Heminges's
apprentice, so probably he (or someone else the same size) played Ariel.
Rice was born around 1593, so I suppose that his being 18ish at the time
of the first performance puts this matter into the contested territory
of "how much more slowly did Jacobean children develop than children do
now?"

Simon Russell Beale's Ariel in the 1993 Sam Mendes production for the
Royal Shakespeare Company memorably responded to enfranchisement by
spitting in Prospero's face and exiting through a door (not previously
visible) in the blue-sky cyclorama. (He did not do this every night,
however, but only when he felt like it.)

> [e] when a major show was brought in form outside for Whitehall, did the
> visiting company bring all their own technicians, or were there resident
> expert teams who advised on production techniques? 'Hamlet' suggests
> that companies travelled with all their own chippies and kit, BUT for a
> really grand show before royalty etc..... ?

In his book _English Court Theatre_ 1558-1642 (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1999) John Astington argues that the royal offices
took a sharply decreasing role in production after the 1580s. The
evidence does not seem to offer a more precise answer.

Gabriel Egan

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mari Bonomi <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 06:10:46 -0400
Subject: 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'

Still living in my memory after decades is the Yale Rep production from
the time of Brustein...

Carmen DeLavalade (I am *sure* I misspelled that graceful lady's name)
led a small group of dancers as Ariel.

Yes, group.  There were at least 3 folks total (memory suggests 4 or 5)
within a gauzy yet taut envelop.  Their movements were choreographed so
that the envelop changed shape in what was probably some rhythm based on
the text but which I cannot be sure was anything more than random.  Much
use of outstretched arms/legs at various angles.  Sounds dreadful but
was quite eerie and effective to my then even more unsophisticated
perception.  Effect was to keep Ariel from being gendered or even
"bodied" if you will.

Carmen DeL. spoke the lines (not unison/choral recitation) but I cannot
remember at this great distance whether the others in the envelop ever
contributed.

I remember almost nothing else from that production, certainly not which
kind of Caliban it presented. But Ariel remains vivid.

And now yet another question to throw into the mix, if I may be so bold:
Gender indeed... of Ariel.  In the class in which I last studied
Shakespeare as a student (under the tutelage of Michael Shea, and with
the golden gift of one 2 1/2 hour discussion on Othello during which
Harry Berger sat as one of us and debated) we could not reach consensus
on this question.  Many of the group saw Ariel as male; others saw the
spirit as female. Several of us (including me) held out for inhuman and
ungendered.

Consider Ariel's thralldom in this crucible, if you will... I'd be
fascinated to hear others' thoughts, if Stuart does not mind my adding
another query to his fascinating list.

Mari Bonomi

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           L. Swilley <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 07:33:57 -0500
Subject: 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'

Stuart Manger wrote, "A bundle of questions about The Tempest: I am just
about to teach the play for the Nth time, and possibly produce it for
the third time. But every time I start to, I am assailed by terrible
doubts about what on earth is going on in this play. Advice VERY welcome
on any topic...etc."

If I had taught the play so many times, I would depend on the essential
insights derived from such study, forget other and former presentations
of its characters, as well as current and historical  solutions for its
staging problems, then make all decisions on the basis of emphasis on -
and compatibility with - my interpretation of the central character,
Prospero, and his story.  As director,  you have the  opportunity  to
give us *your* reading of the play, not a pastiche of others' solutions
to particular problems in it.

           L. Swilley

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Sherrington <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 11:02:05 -0300
Subject: 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'

Although this may not help with some of your specific questions, if you
haven't already, I suggest you watch Peter Greenaway's film, Prospero's
Books for a fascinating production of The Tempest.   Will probably give
you some ideas.

Regards,
Richard

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Nathan <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 15:35:00 +0000
Subject: 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'

Stuart Manger asked:

(snip)

>[i] Vanessa Redgrave is currently playing Prospero at
>The Globe. Is
>there mileage in that 'cross-dressing' concept?

I'm told that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival plans to do "THE TEMPEST"
with a female Prospero next year.  They do not intend to cast an actress
playing a male Prospero; they plan to re-write the play to make Prospero
a woman.  -  At least that's what I've been told.

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Evelyn Gajowski <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 11:23:32 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'

To Stuart Manger:

I am sure that the theatre professionals on the list are more capable
than I of answering most of your production-oriented questions.
Regarding the questions which you group under "a," though, I recommend
Gerald Graff's and James Phelan's recent Bedford/St. Martin's edition of
the *The Tempest* for a balanced discussion and representation of
diverse critical opinion on the text, including traditional liberal
humanist readings which privilege Prospero and his renunciation of power
and postcolonial readings which privilege Caliban and/or Ariel and their
enslavement by Prospero.

Best wishes,
Lynn

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jean R. Brink <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Jul 2000 15:49:17 -0700
Subject: 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'
Comment:        RE: SHK 11.1432 Performing 'The Tempest'

Knightsbridge Theater in Pasadena recently produced the Tempest.  Ariel
was cast as an attractive black woman who seemed almost physically
controlled by Prospero; Caliban was played by a very large white man.
The wedding masque was played for laughs with lots of tumbling and comic
falls; the cast was small and so the actors looked out into the audience
and "saw" the vision of the nymphs and reapers dancing. Prospero was an
excellent actor, and he was made up to look like Shakespeare.
 

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