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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: October ::
The Tempest at the University of Cincinnati
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2513  Wednesday, 31 October 2001

From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Oct 2001 16:23:37 -0500
Subject:        The Tempest at the University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music presented its
production of Shakespeare's The Tempest from October 24 through October
28, 2001. I saw it on the evening of August 27. In many ways, it is a
very thought-provoking and puzzling production.

Michael Burnham was the director, Jonathan Kamholtz the dramaturg, and
K. Jenny Jones the action director.  Cameron Anderson's set design was
excellent: two very large (perhaps 30 feet tall) wooden structures,
resembling waves, that were suitable as acting space and for entrances
from the rear of the stage.  Prospero's cell and vantage point was a
platform about 20 feet off the stage and to the right.  There were
ladders up the wave-structures and to Prospero's cell.  The sound
design, very important in this play, was by Rachel Maki. The lavish
Renaissance costumes were designed by Tracey Dunne.

In this production, Prospero (Lindsey Marlin) is "the Right Duchess of
Milan," Miranda's mother. In the final scene, she is stripped onstage to
her chemise by her spirits, and is dressed to resemble Queen Elizabeth
I. The play becomes then, not Shakespeare's goodbye to the London stage,
but Elizabeth's farewell to the great stage of life.

Antonia (not Antonio) is the "Usurping Duchess of Milan" (Torie Lashae
Wiggins) and, of course, Prospero's sister. Antonia is black, Prospero
white, and I am not sure if the casting is blind, or if there is some
implied significance in the color contrast.

Perhaps most surprising is the appearance of Sycorax as a ghost (Maureen
Doherty --with a Ceres-like headdress) who hovers at the edges of the
action.  Her lines, for which Jon Kamholtz is responsible, seem to have
been taken from other characters in the script.  At times, Sycorax
echoes and mirrors Prospero.

At others, she is Caliban's advocate, and a creature linked to the
natural world, even as Prospero is linked to the world of human arts and
artifice.  Sycorax is another voice -- one not articulated by
Shakespeare in his version of the script. In this production, there are
more mothers than there are fathers.

Ariel -- "The Amazing Two-Bodied ARIEL" -- is played by Katie Stuckey
and Samuel Stricklen.  Both actors are on stage at the same time, and
they split the Ariel's lines and actions.  I suppose that Ariel in this
way comes across as completely androgynous, and since Stuckey is white
and Stricklen black, there may also be the suggestion that Ariel
transcends ethnic as well as sexual/gender boundaries.

This production takes the phrase "Ariel and all his quality" (1.2.193)
seriously, and adds nine "Noumenous Shades of Fae" to the script.  Some
of these spirits seem visible to the onstage characters, others do not.
In any case, they are a constant presence as stagehands and pieces of
furniture.

Scenes 1 and 2 of the script are conflated.  While Prospero gives
Miranda (and the audience) some necessary exposition, Rachel Maki's
storm all but drowns the young actors' words.  The conflation makes
dramatic sense; Prospero's expository speech is long -- one might say
tedious, but the storm should be kept at a sound level that allows the
audience to hear the actors. I wonder why the director, Michael Burham,
made the decision to keep the noise level high.

The fourth act masque is played not by spirits, but by the charmed
Alonso (Thomas Christian Korbee, Jr.), Sebastian (Eric Solomon), and
Antonia.  And it is played for laughs -- and orchestrated by the
ever-present spirits. These decisions, however, seem to change and
complicate the import of Prospero's assertion": "These our actors, / As
I foretold you, were all spirits, and / Are melted into air, thin air"
(4.1.148-50). In terms of this production, the actors are not spirits,
and when Prospero delivers this speech she seems torn by emotion.  I
thought the emotion was anger modulating into tears of sadness.  Other
auditors felt that Prospero was sad throughout the speech.

The play ends with Gonzalo (Brandon D. Jones) left on the island.  After
all, he did want to be king of it.  Perhaps Caliban (Michael Frieman)
will keep him company, and they can quarrel over who's the true king of
the island.  In any case, it is a puzzling conclusion, and one auditor
told me that she wondered why a true and faithful retainer is being
punished at play's end. Why isn't Gonzalo part of the general exodus
from the island?

Bill Godshalk

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