Friday, June 22, 2007
Shakespeare in the Arb
The isle was full of noises. A flute, drums, and thunder-making devices supplemented the sounds in the Arboretum on a beautiful evening, mild and not particularly humid. The rumbling of the train and once its whistle, the songs of birds, a woodpecker drumming, a very loud creaking of a branch in the wind, a helicopter heading for one of the nearby hospitals, and the puffing of an occasional runner rounded out the noises.
"The Tempest" in the Arboretum used the entire Arb as Prospero's island. Before the performance, we ate a snack beside the Huron River, where the remains of the shipwreck that begins the play were visible on the other side of the river. (Admittedly, although we suspected they were the shipwreck we thought they also might be a homeless person's belongings.)
The play began in a rather open space beside the woods. As Prospero explained Miranda's mysterious past, an airy spirit was standing in the limbs of a pine tree. Several sprites shared Ariel's lines, as well as haunting the woods as the 150 members of the audience moved to the part of the island where the action took place, under the direction of the artistic director. Ushers in identifiable "Tempest" t-shirts guided the lines of "groundlings" who like us had brought a blanket to sit on, and the others, who had chairs or chose to stand up. Two golf carts transported those who couldn't walk.
The constant changes of scene, the movement of the sprites in the trees, and the changing light as the sun set on the longest day of the year made an extraordinary setting for an excellently acted production, which used no artificial lighting or amplified sound. As in Shakespeare's time, it began early in the evening and ended at sunset.
Prospero was excellent as particularly were the two drunken courtiers, Stephano and Trinculo. Caliban was fantastic. He walked on his hands and feet, and snarled most effectively as Stephano drank from his bark bottle:Here is how the audience filed through the woods. In the foreground is my friend Olga, who's visiting us this week:
The players bowed as the audience applauded and the sun was setting behind the trees. The only odd sensory experience was a miasma of insect repellent that people sprayed on themselves throughout the play.