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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: January ::
Re: Performing the Tempest
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0158  Wednesday, 24 January 2001

[1]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Jan 2001 17:10:10 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0145 Performing 'The Tempest'

[2]     From:   Kit Gordon <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Jan 2001 14:15:38 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0145 Performing 'The Tempest'

[3]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Jan 2001 18:18:35 +0000
        Subj:   SHK 12.0145 Performing 'The Tempest'

[4]     From:   Kathleen Campbell <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Jan 2001 12:59:13 -0600
        Subj:   Re: Performing the Tempest


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Jan 2001 17:10:10 -0000
Subject: 12.0145 Performing 'The Tempest'
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0145 Performing 'The Tempest'

Though the play is one of the shortest, it rarely escapes without any
cuts at all.  In particular:

The dialogue of the opening storm scene is often abbreviated (in 18th
and 19th centuries it was usually cut entirely).  This seems to me a
mistake.

Some truncation of Prospero's narrative to Miranda is often made, though
given the complexity of the syntax in the text as it stands it
frequently makes things, if anything, less clear.

Many, many productions cut substantially into the dialogue in the first
part of 2.1.  This is understandable, since it features some of the
feeblest puns in Shakespeare, and, for all the significance attributed
to the mention of Dido by literary critics, an exchange guaranteed to
baffle modern audiences, no matter how much pelvic thrusting is indulged
in to give 'Widow Dido' and 'Widower Any-arse' a bawdy sense.  The
problem, however, is that if the exchanges are too savagely cut, then
the actors playing Antonio and Sebastian are left without much to lead
into the second half of the scene.  The scene, largely uncut, was played
with success in the NT production in 1988 - but the first part really is
difficult to bring off - RSC in 1993 and 1998 fell flat on their faces
in this scene.

2.2 is rarely cut (and was surprisingly kept intact in many later
19th-century performances).

3.1 and 3.2 are rarely cut (and to do so would be to ruin the rhetorical
architecture of the first of these scenes).

3.3  Some cutting on occasion, surprisingly, of Ariel's 'Three men of
sin' speech.

4.1  The masque has endured everything from massive amplification to
total obliteration.  It's probably the most problematic scene for which
to find a modern equivalent for its self-conscious theatrical difference
from what surrounds it, which yet carries the emotional and thematic
weight it should.  (The self-contained, through-composed 'opera' by
Stephen Oliver for RSC 1982 still seems to me one of the most successful
realisations of the masque.)  There's often a bit of rearrangement at
the end of the scene, to avoid the exit and re-entry of Prospero and
Ariel.

5.1 is largely left intact, unless a reduced cast and doubling pose
problems.

But for massive detail on the history of cuts and revisions, see
Christine Dymkowski's Shakespeare in Performance edition of the play.

David Lindley
Professor of Renaissance Literature
University of Leeds

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kit Gordon <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Jan 2001 14:15:38 -0500
Subject: 12.0145 Performing 'The Tempest'
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0145 Performing 'The Tempest'

Victor Bennison asked about performance length of _The Tempest_: I am
currently working on my second production of the play. The first was for
a summer Shakespeare in the Park company, and we cut the play to fit a
90 minute time slot; the current production (for a community theater in
Minneapolis) is essentially full-length with a few lines cut here and
there. We haven't started rehearsals yet, but I can't imagine that it
will run longer than three hours, and will probably be closer to 2-1/2.
Much, however, can depend on how elaborate your "special effects," how
well-spoken your actors, etc. Best of luck with the show.

Chris Gordon

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Jan 2001 18:18:35 +0000
Subject: Performing 'The Tempest'
Comment:        SHK 12.0145 Performing 'The Tempest'

The longest two sequences in the play are Act 1 sc 2 - Prospero's
narration / apologia sua. It is almost impossible to cut in any
substantial way without seriously damage to the play. The other long
sequence is Act 5, in which all the play's major issues are brought into
the public forum, and we see the results of Prospero's self-education,
and renunciation, his judgements on others, resolutions for the future,
the official announcement of the Fred / Mir marriage, etc etc etc.

I have produced it three times, and I went with the text in the end, and
trusted to the audience and the grip my actors had on their hearts and
minds. I made tiny cuts in some of the Steph / Ant exchanges when they
were at their most contemporary and obscure for a modern audience, but
elsewhere I left the play intact. You need to pick up the rhythm into
the Act 4 masque, maintain it - and that is a tough call, but you can't
leave it out under any circumstances - and then really step up the pace
in to Act 5, and there again, you have a problem with the static nature
of the events, BUT choose your Prospero well, and the language is so
vivid that it should carry it. Ask off-line if I can be of any further
help. There is a LOT more to discuss about The Tempest on stage.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kathleen Campbell <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Jan 2001 12:59:13 -0600
Subject:        Re: Performing the Tempest

A good way to estimate the running time of a play is to allow five
minutes for every 100 lines.  Using that formula, Tempest would run a
bit under 2 hours.  Of course, plays may be cut for reasons other than
length.

Kathleen Campbell, Chair
Dept. of Communication Arts
Austin College
 

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