The Tempest - Video!
Cast of THE TEMPEST
Matt Bernhard* - Sebastian
Richard Brundage* - Antonio
Sybille Bruun* - Gonzala
Ka-Ling Cheung* - Miranda
Greg Foro* - Ferdinand
David Fuller* - Prospero
Anne Gill - Trinculo
Catherine Handy* - Alonsa
Scott Michael Morales* - Caliban
Kendall Rileigh* - Ariel
David Weinheimer - Stephano
* Member of Actors EquityStaff of THE TEMPEST
Judith Jarosz - Director
Brittney Jensen - Assist. Dir./Movement Consultant
Emily Gasser - Prod. Stage Manager
Viviane Galloway - Costume Design
Giles Hogya & David Fuller - Set Design
Sherrice Kelly - Lighting Design
Aaron Diehl - Sound & Video Design
Anna Hemphill - Assist. Stage Manager
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Theater 1010's The Tempest:
"... maximum of enchantment!"
Photo: David Fuller as Prospero and Kendall Rileigh as Ariel.
Theater Ten Ten has worked some magic upon the most magical of Shakespeare's comedies, The Tempest, in a production directed by Judith Jarosz, artistic director of the company. Despite the physical limitations of their tiny budget and make-shift theater in a church on Park Avenue at 84th Street, this production delivers up a rendition of The Tempest that feels light and effortless and airy.
No gimmicks of stagecraft, no cumbersome machinery, just a fine theatrical interpretation of a beloved play. Foremost in the cast of eleven is David Fuller, a principal in the Ten Ten company, in the role of Prospero. Fuller's voice and his every nuance and gesture persuade me that Prospero is vengeful and artful enough to cause the great storm that drives his adversaries to shipwreck on his island and also ultimately gentle and forgiving to those who wronged him. I would also mention the fine work by Scott Michael Morales as Caliban, one of the most loathsome Calibans I have ever seen, truly a "mooncalf", and by Kendall Rileigh as an Ariel who is exceptionally light and airy.
Jarosz has kept this production free from distracting conceits, save for the decision to switch several roles from masculine to feminine. The shipwrecked ruler of Naples switched from a King to a Queen; the faithful courtier Gonzalo to Gonzala, and the comical Trinculo is a woman; of these three changes, I found only the transformation of Trinculo a bit distracting. Jarosz explained: "Part of Theater Ten Ten's mission, as stated on our website, is to provide more opportunities for women in the arts. Thus I always search for roles that I can have played by women, without hurting the text. "
I had the opportunity to compare the Ten Ten production with that by The Classic Stage Company, which I reviewed a couple of months ago. I found the Ten Ten version far more satisfying. The CSC production was burdened by a weighty and laborious enactment of Prospero by Mandy Patinkin, a cumbersome staging overshadowed by a heavy device raised and flapped on chains by four stagehands to represent the storm, and the distracting suggestion that Prospero's subjugation of Caliban was racially motivated colonialism. Ten Ten has avoided these pitfalls and allowed The Tempest to shine forth with a maximum of enchantment.
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"a distinct version of Shakespeare's brilliant swan song."
Mitchell Conway - October 18, 2008
Theater Ten Ten presents a new production of Shakespeare's The Tempest. This description is from the company: "One of the great romantic comedy plays by William Shakespeare. "When at sea, Queen Alonsa of Naples and her entourage encounter a violent storm, or Tempest, they are all washed ashore on a strange island inhabited by the powerful magician Prospero who has deliberately conjured up the storm. Prospero and his daughter Miranda live on the island which is also inhabited by the sprite Ariel, and the ugly, half-human Caliban. Lessons of forgiveness are learned, and lives are changed forever, with the help of some of Shakespeare's most poetic text." Many of the characters traditionally portrayed as males are portrayed as females in this production.
Pictured: David Fuller and Kendall Rileigh The Tempest (photo � Aaron Diehl)
Although Theater Ten Ten is giving us overall a traditional production of The Tempest, director Judith Jarosz has made a number of non-traditional choices that make it a distinct version of Shakespeare's brilliant swan song.
The theatre is filled with an eclectic array of music and the stage is stacked with black platforms with only a large green plant at the back to signify the play's location. The actors' voices echoing through the space make all of the text exceptionally easy to hear and allow the story to reverberate throughout the entire audience.
As opposed to the recognizable opening line "Boatswain!" and the scene of the shipwreck, the second part of Act 1 Scene 2, with Prospero and Ariel, is put first in this production. The relationship between Ariel and Prospero is made primary, as it is presented first, instead of the normal arrangement where Prospero and Miranda are first presented together. This is reinforced by the program cover, which features a cartoon of Prospero and Ariel. The gleeful, dutiful, spirit Ariel, played by Kendall Rileigh, spins and twirls, dancing across the stage to signify her sprightliness.
Prospero is most often treated as a wizard who is more god than man, creating the illusions of the play and controlling its action. But, in this production, David Fuller presents a Prospero who has powers, but is distinctly human. Instead of introducing him as a knowing father figure, he is introduced standing alone with a look of longing out to the sea. Most people play Prospero like a wise wizard, an all-knowing old man, and a controlling, over-protective father. Here, he is played as a worried wizard, an old man haunted by his past, and a father quickly happy that his daughter has found love.
There are other minor variations that reflect an alternate take on components of The Tempest. Prospero and Miranda are dressed in the clothes they had from when Prospero was still the Duke of Milan, instead of the typical homespun islander robes, drawing awareness to their exile. Caliban, played by Scott Michael Morales, as is typical resembles Gollum from Lord of the Rings in many respects, but here is made more comical and not so much a pitiable slave. Ferdinand, played by Greg Foro, is more boyish than princely, making him a great match for the especially girlish Miranda, played by Ka-Ling Cheung, possibly justifying Prospero's faith in the relationship. Ferdinand would be a partner to Miranda, forcing her to transition into independence, rather than functioning as a caretaker for her such as Prospero has been.
The final speech is merged with Prospero's other famous speech from Act 4 Scene 1, featuring the beautiful line, "we are such stuff as dreams are made on." After Prospero's famous request for applause ("release me from my bands, with the help of your good hands...let your indulgence set me free") Fuller does not wait for the audience to clap, but instead begins to exit the stage, and the applause does not come until the stage has blacked out. This is consistent with the production's general attitude towards Prospero, which is that although he may be the most powerful character, he is flawed, and not wise enough to be able to step outside of his world. He is necessarily a part of the world even though he may wield more power over it.
This production dethrones the man in charge by bringing out his humanity over and against his omniscient control. Instead of breaking his staff, usually a dramatic moment near the close of the play, Prospero hands the staff off to Ariel, who uses it to set herself free. A deep echo rings through, that power is not all-powerful, things do not necessarily happen in the order they have in the past, and the inhabitants of the island, although unavoidably influenced by whoever holds the staff, must remember that the person in charge can only accomplish so much magic. Behind the illusion, "what strength I have's my own."
No Frills Bard
by Stephen Morgan-MacKay
The Tempest reviewed October 27, 2008
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Less is more. This mantra, the coup-de-grace cliche amongst most university acting programs, was all-too-familiar to Shakespeare. Being no stranger to the fact that the power to influence an audience is derived directly from the relationship between language and imagination, Shakespeare found his Art in words. And in a visually-dominated, high-definition, 3G, broadband connected society, this is a refreshing sentiment - if not altogether a foreign concept.
It seems fitting that a Theatre like Ten Ten, whose historic imprint on NYC theatre is undeniable, would choose to kick off its 53rd Season with a production of The Tempest which befriends the ear and scorns the eye. Hamlet himself would approve of such an approach... up to a point.
For those outside of the know, The Tempest was written circa 1610 and is considered not only one of the greatest works of Shakespeare, but also his last non-collaborative work. The main plot concerns the Sorcerer (and rightful Duke of Milan) Prospero who, along with his daughter Miranda, has been stranded on an island for 12 years due to the jealous nature of his brother Antonio. At the play's opening, Prospero - having divined that Antonio is on a ship passing close by the island - conjures a storm which causes the ship to run aground... thus foreshadowing the imminent brotherly reunion.
The Tempest is, perhaps, one of the most poetic and mature works of Shakespeare but was often overlooked for productions until well after Shakespeare's death and the release of the First Folio in 1623. Textually, it is not only seaworthy but seemingly bereft of any leaks and could easily be considered a structural recipe for good dramatic writing. With such an unsinkable script, it is hard to imagine how anything short of magnificence could be achieved... but, all too oft, such is the case.
Under the navigation of Judith Jarosz, this production generally steers true but has an infrequent tendency to be tossed about like Gilligan's Minnow. The small, intimate space (a sectioned-off portion of the basement theatre at the Park Avenue Christian Church) is charmingly effective and promotes a personal investment between both audience and actor. Acoustically, it proves troubling at times with line deliveries that are garbled or drowned in reverb but, thankfully, this is an exception rather than the norm.
Giles Hogya & David Fuller's exposed set may lack visual excitement (a multitude of black platforms with only a single tree/plant to suggest location), but it provides a nice canvas for Jarosz and her cast to work the language free from optical distractions. Interestingly enough, Elizabethan staging conventions functioned similarly. Aaron Diehl's sound design has some nice musical interludes, but some sound effects ill-timed with actor movements draw chuckles.
As with all of Shakespeare's plays, acting is the key to success. In many productions, actors recite lines that they themselves are unsure about and tend to compensate with stylized over-acting. And while the former is not necessarily an issue for this production, it does suffer a bit from the latter. This would not necessarily be a bad thing, but it does tend to have a distancing effect on a production which appears to strive for a more human, if not touching, approach.
David Fuller's (Prospero) performance is not only genuine, but endearing and goes a long way in bridging the gap between a Prospero who is omniscient and yet wonderfully human and frail. Similarly, Kendall Rileigh (Ariel) is a pure delight who embodies the magical/mystical nature of Ariel physically, vocally and musically. Scott Michael Morales (Caliban) is to be commended on his vocal and physical endurance, but his performance is much too reminiscent of Gollum from The Lord of the Rings movies.
Overall, The Tempest feels like a piece that could achieve a bit more. Rhythmically, it stutters early on (which might explain why the audience was notably lighter after intermission) but redeems itself admirably in a swift second act. Less, we are told, is equivalent to sounding greater depths, but, as in all things, it cannot simply be relied upon as an altruism. A bit more, perhaps, with minimal effort would serve this production better and have Hamlet cheering in the wings.