The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0922.  Friday, 12 September 1997.

From:           Jung Jimmy <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 11 Sep 1997 14:10 -0500
Subject:        TEMPEST in Washington DC

I went to see The Tempest last night, as performed by The Shakespeare
Theatre in Washington DC, and oddly enough, during a post show
discussion, Ted van Griethuysen, who plays Prospero commented on how
much more he liked this production than their 1990 version, in which he
played the same role.  Odd for me, in as much as that was possibly the
first Shakespearean play I ever attended, definitely the first I'd seen
with this company and a lot of the reason I now subscribe.  This
production is wonderful, worth seeing and if your memory goes back to
the 1990 version, I would be curious to hear how you think they
compare.  I remember liking the old production, but the details have

In Washington's Shakespeare Theatre, Ted van Griethuysen holds the
monopoly on pompous old men, and as Prospero, it serves him well.
Prospero's moments of cruelty and his anger at himself come through much
clearer in this faded old man who once had much power.  You learn to
appreciate his circumstance if not to like him so much.  Wallace Acton
gives us a very solid almost earthy Ariel, who flits only occasionally,
injects some puckish style humor, gives us a real sense of his desire
for freedom and truly illuminates Prospero's own struggle with his
humanity.  I assume that the slapstick of Stephano and Trinculo is
similar to the schtick they used 400 years ago, but David Sabin and
Floyd King make it funny all over again.  And Caliban is played as the
noble black savage by Chad Colemen.

Coleman's Caliban was the character who touched me the most, but I
should like to one day see how Caliban is played as a white monster,
rather than a black slave.  The three goddesses from the masque (Iris,
Ceres, and Juno) were also cast with black actresses, and it was
mentioned during the discussion that Ariel was also originally to have
been black, but there was some sort of casting snafu.  I admit, after
the masque, I was wondering how this pale fairy ended up among all these
darker native spirits.  The masque is staged to highlight the hollowness
of Prospero's art, dissolving from obvious theatrics, prompting laughter
from the crowd,  into an elaborate production, which Prospero then pulls

The set avoids entirely an "island" feel, with a surprising amount of
the action occurring within a library; not a cell full of books, but
something like an ivy league library.  This later becomes a path that
seems to stretch into infinity and in one of the most visually exciting
moments, Prospero stands on this path delivering the "break my staff"
speech, he looks completely like a wizard at the edge of the universe.

Get there early, as there is some curious pre-show business that merits
some consideration.


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