Thursday, February 23, 2012

An Intimate Tempest

The Feast: 
an intimate Tempest
co-created and co-directed by Jessica Thebus 
and Frank Maugeri
an adaptation by Jessica Thebus based on the play 
by William Shakespeare

A dream-like setting was the space for The Feast, a play produced by Chicago Shakespeare Theater in association with Redmoon.   Reduced to three actors, plus puppets and one invisible puppeteer, this adaption of Shakespeare's The Tempest captured the spirit and some of the wit and wordplay of the original while providing an engaging and entertaining afternoon of theater.  The outlines of the original were present with the characters of Prospero, Ariel, and Caliban augmented by masks of Miranda and Ferdinand while puppets were used to represent other characters.  The Feast, as described by the co-creators, was "one of ideas and images and possibilities" that resulted from a presentation of Prospero's manipulation of Ariel and Caliban that limned the original and tempted the audience with some familiar moments while telling a much condensed version of the original play.  While the philosopher Colin McGinn (Shakespeare's Philosophy) argues that The Tempest "is concerned above all with the power of language" - much of which was missing in this adaptation - the power of imagination was not ignored by Shakespeare in the original and it could be considered nearly as important - and made more so in The Feast.
The result could be called "Prospero's Children" or "Prospero's Dream" in the way it displayed the actions and interactions of the characters as dreamt of by Prospero.  It was an intimate theater experience with the company providing great performances and the production challenging our imaginations while honoring the original material.  

Here is another, very different, inspiration:

An Insubstantial Pageant

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:

And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. “ - Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1, 148-158

The smell of burning books permeates the air.
It hovers over us engaged in our daily activity,
Yielding a strange sense of bittersweet victory.

Folding in upon our self, attempting to escape the smoke
We see the result of harnessing nature -
The written word is our yoke to the world.

The word belongs in heaven with the angels.
Beauty lies below, corroded by our touch -
We have tarnished the tomes that remain
Just as we turn to the spiritual for relief
We plead for support from the muses -
In vain, we seek what we have lost.

Simple supplication summons our spirits
Forth to the battle. Will there be future victories -
Rewarding our efforts to mold our minds?

Seeing the possibility of such victories
In the vapors enveloping our souls,
We remain on this earth -
Players in the insubstantial pageant.

(James Henderson, Preludes of the Mind, 1996)

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