Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, April 18, 2015

No Tempest over THE TEMPEST

The Tempest is one of my favorite--if not the favorite--of all of Shakespeare's three dozen (or so) plays. We saw it again last night (Friday) at the Hanna Theater in downtown Cleveland, the home of the Great Lakes Theater, a production company that has had a variety of names over the years, including the Great Lakes Shakespeare Company. (Link to information about the Cleveland production.) Joyce and I have had season tickets for years--and when I was teaching 8th graders at Harmon School in Aurora, I took students down there regularly for matinees (at the Ohio Theater in those days). We saw Romeo and Juliet there--and A Midsummer Night's Dream--and others.

In my old blue edition of The Yale Shakespeare (each play has its own little volume) I see that I first read the play in July 1988. I was forty-four years old. A bit late in the game, wouldn't you say?

But I had just recently begun teaching the Bard to middle-schoolers (The Taming of the Shrew) and was spending the summer reading all the plays for the first time. As I look through it now, I see that I had underlined some of its most famous lines--

  • my library was dukedom enough.
  • Good wombs have borne bad sons.
  • what's past is prologue
  • Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows!
  • we are such stuff as dreams are made on
  • But this rough magic I here abjure 
  • O brave new world
Last night I enjoyed hearing around me the reactions of audience members who either never knew (or had forgotten) that The Tempest was the source of these. Oh, that clever Bard!

The file I keep on the play is not entirely comprehensive, I fear. But in that file I discover now that I've seen the play at least a half-dozen times; the earliest program I have is from a production at Kent State University on February 28, 1992. I don't really remember anything about it (my daily journal-keeping did not commence until 1997). I think I remember an outdoor production at Stan Hywet some years ago, too. But I don't seem to have kept the program.

Well, what about last night? It was a good production--especially imaginative staging. Up center they had a large box with reflective surfaces (including doors that swung open), a device they used for a number of purposes--all of which worked well, I thought. 

They also stayed loyal to the script (with only a few 21st-century nudges that I noticed). It was an entirely male cast--except for young Miranda--a cast that included some of the best veterans in the company, a situation that made it difficult for Miranda to compete for attention at times. I'm glad they didn't play Prospero as an old, old man (as is often the case--though Helen Mirren played the part in a film a few years ago--here's a link to the trailer for that 2010 production directed by Julie Taymor). We have to believe that he's the father of a nubile daughter, right?

The Tempest is a play that features some of Shakespeare's "usual" (he thought love at first sight was hilarious--from first play to last)--and has, again, an instance of forgiveness that is stunning. Again--this occurs throughout his work--Much Ado about Nothing, As You Like It, The Winter's Tale. Oh, did Shakespeare know the astonishing dimensions of the human heart.

Prospero and Miranda
Great Lakes Theater

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