Tempest (The)

By William Shakespeare
June 1 2006
directed by Patrick Kelly

Prospero, the exiled duke of Milan, has lived for twelve years on a deserted island with his daughter, Miranda, and two servants: the spritely Ariel, and the fiendish Caliban. When Prospero learns that Antonio, his usurping brother will be sailing with the Neapolitan King Alonso's party, the co-conspirators in the Milanese overthrow, he uses his magic to conjure a sea-storm, leaving his brother and former acquaintances wrecked on the island. The shipwrecked passengers are dispersed throughout the island in three groups: the nobles are left to search for the heir to the throne; the servants are stranded with nothing but their wine; and the King's son, Ferdinand is left in solitude, presuming his father drowned. Prospero arranges a courtship between Ferdinand and Miranda, after explaining to his daughter the story of her double-crossing uncle's usurpation, and his own former dukedom. The two servants of the King, Stephano and Trinculo, team up with Caliban to drunkenly hatch a plan to kill Prospero. Meanwhile, the King and his party wander the island in search of Ferdinand, while Prospero sends spirits to haunt them. Ultimately, Prospero brings the shipwrecked passengers together, reveals the marriage of Miranda and Ferdinand, acknowledges the mischief of Caliban and his drunken friends, and forgives the actions of Antonio and his fellow conspirators. In his final act of resolution, Prospero bids farewell to his magic and to Ariel, and sets off homeward to Milan.

Date Time
Thursday June 1 12:00 am
Closed

Dramaturg: Amanda Holden Suffering a Sea-Change When distilled to a few salient words, Shakespeare's last independently written play, The Tempest, is about a storm. This storm is concocted at the perfect moment, under the rule of "a most auspicious star", with the right people aboard a nearby ship. A storm, as our country learned in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, can literally transform a civilization, and turn daily life on its head, causing chaos, devastation, homelessness, unemployment and economic disaster. Although Shakespeare spares us from the dismal, more lifelike side of the tempest he raises in his 1611 romance, the transformative effects on each of the play's central characters are palpable. The horrific sight of the storm causes Miranda to "suffer with those that [she] saw suffer", much like the vicarious experience of theatergoer on first viewing a Shakespearean tragedy. Ferdinand's first encounter with the dazzling Miranda (and more probably, Prospero's magic) leaves him unable to control his own body: "My spirits, as in a dream, are all bound up". Gonzalo's summation of the events indicate a spiritual and psychological change: "In one journey
Did Claribel her husband find at Tunis, 
And Ferdinand her brother found a wife
Where he himself was lost; Prospero his dukedom
In a poor isle, and all of us ourselves
When no man was his own." (V.i.206-210) In addition to the political marriages and expected reconciliations, the characters have all "found" what they were looking for: Ferdinand found his supposedly drowned father, Prospero found his window for revenge, and Miranda found a wondrous world of humanity. Shakespeare has written for us, a play in which the characters are tossed into an unfamiliar world-not only in the storm, but also on the desert island-and in the process of finding their way out, they reconsider, evaluate, and discover themselves. In a world of nobility and courtly behavior, Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, and Gonzalo find themselves confronted with strange sleepiness, imaginary banquets, eerily clean garments and ghostly apparitions. This is an island in which Gonzalo's attempts to preserve social decorum and courtly manners are laughably quixotic. The audience is reminded of the plea in Love's Labour's Lost: "Let us once lose our oaths to find ourselves/Or else we lose ourselves to keep our oaths". The characters are confronted with the chance to throw away their former beliefs in favor of a newer, albeit more illusory, life. Caliban, a figure often interpreted in modern criticism as the oppressed population, is the first to discard his former master for a new one, shouting, "Ban, Ban, Cacaliban/Has a new master-get a new man!" (II.2.180-1). Like the forest of Arden, the woods of Athens, or the 16 year gap in The Winter's Tale, Shakespeare has once again offered up a space of transformation. Monsters are mistaken for fish, a drunken butler becomes a god, true goddesses are dismissed as "actors" in an "insubstantial pageant", and a prince is reduced to manual labor. Prospero's island flips the world as we know it on its head, leaving us all a little dizzy, a little seasick, and ultimately, a little more "ourselves".

Prospero, the exiled duke of Milan, has lived for twelve years on a deserted island with his daughter, Miranda, and two servants: the spritely Ariel, and the fiendish Caliban. When Prospero learns that Antonio, his usurping brother will be sailing with the Neapolitan King Alonso's party, the co-conspirators in the Milanese overthrow, he uses his magic to conjure a sea-storm, leaving his brother and former acquaintances wrecked on the island. The shipwrecked passengers are dispersed throughout the island in three groups: the nobles are left to search for the heir to the throne; the servants are stranded with nothing but their wine; and the King's son, Ferdinand is left in solitude, presuming his father drowned. Prospero arranges a courtship between Ferdinand and Miranda, after explaining to his daughter the story of her double-crossing uncle's usurpation, and his own former dukedom. The two servants of the King, Stephano and Trinculo, team up with Caliban to drunkenly hatch a plan to kill Prospero. Meanwhile, the King and his party wander the island in search of Ferdinand, while Prospero sends spirits to haunt them. Ultimately, Prospero brings the shipwrecked passengers together, reveals the marriage of Miranda and Ferdinand, acknowledges the mischief of Caliban and his drunken friends, and forgives the actions of Antonio and his fellow conspirators. In his final act of resolution, Prospero bids farewell to his magic and to Ariel, and sets off homeward to Milan.

World of the Play Patrick Kelly's 2006 production of The Tempest hinges on the meaning of the title: not simply the storm of the opening scene, or the wind-racked journey that brought Prospero to his desert island, The Tempest is the violent trajectory of the magician's own soul. Far from a gentle farewell to theatrical magic by a benevolent old sage, this rendition of Shakespeare's late romance offers audiences instead a taut and suspenseful story of revenge that turns at the latest possible point to something as surprising as it is emotionally moving. Central to this action is the island where it happens, itself almost a character in it: the terrain looks wildly different to each character who describes it, so of course the set's appearance must accommodate these contradictions. For this reason, this production approaches the island as a place of the imagination rather than of geography, or indeed of the physical world, so Robert Schmidt's set uses the sparest image to evoke this island feeling: a distant horizon line glowing where sky meets sea with an elevated platform for Prospero's "control room" of a cell. While the latest theatrical technology is brought to bear on the play's illusions, the period of the action is Shakespeare's own, expressed handsomely in Mary McClung's early 17th century costumes.