Brooklyn Academy of Music's Production of "The Tempest"
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I’m not going to lie, I was skeptical about seeing a production of The Tempest. After sitting through painstaking high school productions that killed the romance in Romeo and Juliet, misinterpreted the meanings in The Merchant of Venice, and failed to realize Much Ado About Nothing was actually a comedy; I promised myself to never see another production of Shakespeare. I concluded the best way to enjoy the great works of Will was to read them through the medium of a book. However, a free ticket to the Brooklyn Academy of Music too see The Tempest directed by Sam Mendes was too tempting to not attend. I was shocked at the productions ability to stay true to the words of Shakespeare, use innovative techniques to impact the audience, and highlighting that Prospero is meant to be a quasi-autobiographical Shakespeare.
The Tempest begins in the middle of a story; Prospero has already been exiled to an island with his daughter Miranda. As the Harvey Theater filled up a man wandered around the stage sipping on a water bottle. Then he sat on a stool and chatted with a woman at the keyboard on the left wing of the stage. The general consensus was that this man was the Stage Manager, checking to see if the stage and the musicians were prepared to begin. However, he began to walk around the circle of sand that covered a large portion of the stage. In that sudden moment, the man assumed to be a backstage worker, was shown to be Prospero, already trapped on his island. Having Prospero on stage before the show even starts emphasizes that the play begins in medias res. The audience has a few seconds to ponder what Prospero had been doing on the stage before they entered the theater. Does he sit on the stage alone? Does he talk to h...
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...nowledge on The Tempest, both that it is Shakespeare’s final play and believed to be his farewell to theater Mendes unifies Shakespeare and Prospero. Prospero’s actions can be unified to Shakespeare himself, specifically in the final scenes of the play when Prospero relinquishes his magical abilities.
The multilayered unities create a rich and meaningful viewing experience. One cannot say that Mendes made frivolous decisions in creating his production, since he was disciplined in the neoclassical ideals when taking creative liberties. His unique interpretations on the unities of time, place, and action resulted in a play that truly unified the audience and the production. While to many Shakespeare may appear cryptic, the meta-theatrical take on neoclassical traditions helped guide the audience through the symbolic and representational mire with relative ease.