Wednesday, July 19, 2006


I went and picked up the play script for our production of The Tempest today, and also had a chance to talk to the director. It was a bit odd in a way, because she started out by sort of apologizing that since only four males tried out, many roles would be filled by females, as if I would think that's a problem. Then there were other things she started apologizing for, like cutting the script and stuff.

I'm not sure why she thought she should apologize, especially for casting the actors who showed up.

There's been a little discussion lately on Shaksper, prompted by someone complaining about a single sex production of Shakespeare.

I have no problem with any production casting any capable actor in whatever role. I saw a woman play an absolutely stunning Richard III a couple years ago, for example. Her being female was an interesting aspect of her performance, but mostly her acting and ability to control her voice and dominate the stage had my full attention.

One of the things I love about theater is that you can try things, casting actors in unexpected ways, costuming, lighting, set design, all sorts of things. Non-professional productions, because they aren't really trying to make a profit, and usually aren't going to try to fill a theater for more than a few productions, probably allow even more freedom for experimentation and thinking out loud. And whether the production is fantastic or not, it's over when it's over, and totally ephemeral.

And all the time, new people are trying out new experiments at staging plays, trying to bring plays to their audience in meaningful ways, trying to please and entertain and make people think. So even if a particular production of The Tempest fails in major ways, well, another production is another chance, and the people involved may learn something new about the play, staging, themselves, audiences, all sorts of things.

I'm really looking forward to working with this cast, and seeing how the director works conceptually with the cross-gender castings (whether by cross-dressing female actors, or by making "male" characters into "female" characters). Gender on stage, and performative gender overall (thinking Butler, here) is always fascinating, and thinking about how ProsperA would work as a matriarchal kind of figure sparks my thinking in fun ways.

I met with my research student this morning, and we talked about what we're thinking about doing with the students. One of my very favorite bits to talk about is the Ceres scene, when she comes on and talks about how she doesn't want to see Venus or her son.

[The background here is that Cupid shot Pluto (aka Dusky Dis, aka Hades) with an arrow, and he "fell" for Proserpina (aka Persephone, and also Ceres' daughter), and kidnapped her, taking her to Hades. Ceres got upset, and that made the Earth unfruitful, so the other gods got involved and said that Hades had to let Proserpina go. Unfortunately, she'd eaten in Hades, so she has to spend half the year down there, and can spend half the year above with her mom, Ceres. While Prosperpina is up, Ceres is happy, and the Earth is fruitful; it's summer. But when Proserpina is down, Ceres is unhappy, and the earth isn't fruitful, and it's winter. So Ceres hates Venus and her son for starting the whole problematic thing: the moral, if there is one, is that lustiness and horniness without rational control pretty much sucks.]

Here's one of the things about Ceres in The Tempest: she's a spirit PLAYING Ceres in a play within a play, put on by Prospero as a sort of entertainment/lesson for his daughter Miranda and her beloved, Ferdinand, and also the only mother who "appears" in the play, albeit in that embedded way. So that's very cool. That is, Ceres is Prospero's choice here (as well as Shakespeare's, of course).

We hear about Prospero's wife/Miranda's mom, and we hear about Caliban's mom. But we never see them, and they never speak. But we see Ceres, and since we're all presumed to know the story (as everyone in our culture is presumed to have some vague idea about Lincoln's assassination, for example), we know that she's really important because she's a mom, and a pissed off mom at that.

So how does that all change when ProsperA gets played as a matriarchal figure? LOTS to think about, eh? This is exciting stuff!


Mystery bird stuff: I think Bev's right! Thanks! (I thought to google "house wren" and looked at several pictures AND listened to some song sounds, and I think I've got house wrens! Exciting stuff!)

Googling house wren also convinced me that my two nest boxes are probably too close together, and that I should move one, maybe to the other side of the house (the front is a very suburban micro-environment, while the back is sort of a woodsy grassy area). It turns out that house wrens are agressive about nest boxes, and the one pair probably prevents any other bird from using the second this close.

I'm also now convinced that a bird I've been seeing a lot foraging in the garden near the house lately is a Pine Siskin. How cool is THAT? (It took me a week to figure it out because for some reason the size seemed off, but then I saw her(? I think) nearish a robin, and the robin was HUGE in comparison, so that helped. I'm really bad at judging sizes of birds even a few meters away.)

1 comment:

  1. Bardiac, I'd be interested in how you decide to do this. Will the male parts actually be reworked as female parts, or will you just have women play them? Both have interesting possibilities, but it seems to me that the results would be very different.

    I too saw an interesting Richard III with an all-woman cast a few years ago. My teenage son was insistent that we go to The Globe when we were in London. It was extremely hot and he wanted the full experience -- standing in the sun as a 'groundling'. I thought the all-female cast would be difficult for him. He was so intrigued we stayed for the entire performance in 90+ heat which had not been our original plan. But, he didn't realize that actor playing Richard was a woman, although he knew most of the other actors were, and he understood that they were playing men. Furthermore, he couldn't believe that the actor playing Richard wasn't handicapped. One of the wonders of theatre -- once your imagination is captured by the play, that suspension of disbelief happens so effortlessly, and for a short time, the only reality is the play itself.