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Brooklyn Academy Of Music's Production Of "The Tempest"

1369 words - 5 pages

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 his daughter? Just how long has Prospero been on this island? However, one is not given much time to wonder as the chaos of Prospero’s tempest soon develops on stage.
Prospero is superior to the other characters in the play, both his magic and Ariel place Prospero in a controlling position. The plot is determined by Prospero’s decisions. Mendes has Prospero walk around the pit of sand while the other characters stand on the sand. This stage movement emphasizes his power and importance in the play. Prospero physically circles the other characters in a space that they are unable to cross. These movements illustrate a deeper theme, Prospero has free will and is in control of his destiny. The other characters are trapped by Prospero’s manipulations and magic. After the tempest causes the ship to sink, Prospero purposely places Alonso, Antonio, Gonzalo, and Sebastian together. One can see the scenes with these minor characters as a play within a play. Prospero acts as the playwright and director for these mini-scenes. In one of the scenes that Prospero has constructed, Sebastian and Antonio act out the evil nature of ambition. With the swords that Ariel provided in hand, Sebastian instructs, “Draw thy sword, one...

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