December 29, 2008
Tempest #15 — Caliban & Prospero – Storyboard 1:2C

Act One, Scene Two, C. Essential elements:
* Strong focus throughout on Miranda’s reaction to Caliban; she’s forced into his presence though it’s intolerable to her.
* Prospero has no clear motive for the scene unless it’s directly connected to Miranda’s reaction. He seems to be goading reactions from Caliban that finally push Miranda to curse her former playmate.
* No evidence that “did seek to violate the honor of my daughter” meant an attempted rape; more likely it was clumsy sex play, interrupted, between an innocent 15-year-old and an equally inexperienced, desperate 25-year-old. Caliban’s outburst “O ho!” sounds like impotent bravado.
* Like Ariel, this too is an enslavement, but one with no prospect of freedom.


01 – Hands remove cloak from Prospero; he comes R to the sleeping Miranda.
>>>Prospero: Awake, dear heart, awake! thou hast slept well;
Passes hand over her face; she wakes. Prospero turns and reveals Prospero Puppet.
>>>Miranda: The strangeness of your story put
>>>Heaviness in me.
Prospero Puppet embraces Miranda.
>>>Prospero: Shake it off. Come on,
>>>We’ll visit Caliban my slave, who never
>>>Yields us kind answer.
>>>Miranda: ‘Tis a villain, Sir, I do not love to look on.
She pulls away. He restrains, then cajoles her. Video transition.
>>>Prospero: But, as ’tis,
>>>We cannot spare him: he does make our fire,
>>>Fetch in our wood; and serves in Offices
>>>That profit us.–
02-Cage door appears SL held by Spirit, Caliban behind it, turned away. Prospero holds Miranda, moves with her into RC area.
>>>What ho! slave! Caliban!
>>>Thou Earth, thou! speak.
>>>Caliban: [Within.] There’s wood enough within.
Prospero, demonstrating to Miranda, picks up twig, brandishes it as wand in jest.
>>>Prospero: Come forth, I say; there’s other business for thee:
>>>Come, thou Tortoise! when?
>>>Thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself
>>>Upon thy wicked Dam, come forth!
At “wicked Dam,” Caliban turns front sharply. Spirit removes cage door, Caliban charges toward Prospero. Prospero raises twig, Caliban cowers back. Prospero looks to Miranda, laughs, tosses twig away. Miranda looks away, never looking at Caliban.

03-Caliban cowers L as he addresses Prospero RC, trying to sound fierce but fighting tears of humiliation. He has a slight deformation, like Down’s syndrome.
>>>Caliban: As wicked dew as e’er my mother brush’d
>>>With Raven’s feather from unwholesome Fen
>>>Drop on you both! a South-west blow on ye,
>>>And blister you all o’er!
Prospero lowers puppet, reveals himself in full stature to Caliban. The real wand appears in his hand; he points it like a torture instrument. Continuing, Caliban whimpers & involuntarily twitches at each threat.
>>>Prospero: For this, be sure, tonight thou shalt have cramps,
>>>Side-stitches that shall pen thy breath up; Urchins
>>>Shall forth at vast of night, that they may work
>>>All exercise on thee: thou shalt be pinch’d
>>>As thick as honeycomb, each pinch more stinging
>>>Than Bees that made them.
>>>Caliban: I must eat my dinner.
Starts UL, then turns back at Prospero. Very quiet.
>>>This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother,
>>>Which thou tak’st from me. When thou cam’st first,
>>>Thou strok’dst me, and made much of me; wouldst give me
>>>Water with berries in’t; and teach me how
>>>To name the bigger light, and how the less,
>>>That burn by day and night: and then I lov’d thee
>>>And show’d thee all the qualities o’ th’ Isle,
>>>The fresh Springs, Brine-pits, barren place and fertile.
Sob from Miranda. Sudden outburst:
>>>Cursed be I that did so!–All the Charms
>>>Of Sycorax, Toads, Beetles, Bats, light on you!
>>>For I am all the Subjects that you have,
>>>Which first was mine own King; and here you sty me
>>>In this hard Rock, whiles you do keep from me
>>>The rest o’ th’ Island.
>>>Prospero: Thou most lying slave,
>>>Whom stripes may move, not kindness! I have us’d thee,
>>>Filth as thou art, with human care; and lodg’d thee
>>>In mine own Cell, till thou didst seek to violate
>>>The honor of my child.
Caliban and Miranda both strong physical reaction, then Caliban outburst, laughter like expulsion of breath.
>>>Caliban: Oh ho! Oh ho!–would it had been done!
>>>Thou didst prevent me;
He cringes back, clutching his groin: he has been castrated. Very weak:
>>> I had peopled else
>>>This Isle with Calibans.
04-Prospero touches Miranda, she explodes, never looking at Caliban. Prospero moves UC, giving her free rein; he holds his puppet effigy.
>>>Miranda: Abhorred Slave, I pitied thee,
>>>Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour
>>>One thing or other: when thou didst not, Savage,
>>>Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like
>>>A thing most brutish, I endow’d thy purposes
>>>With words that made them known: but thy vile race
>>>Had that within which good natures
>>>Could not abide; therefore wast thou
>>>Confined into this Rock,
>>>Who hadst deserv’d more than a prison.
>>>Caliban: You taught me Language; and my profit on’t
>>>Is, I know how to curse: the red plague rid you,
>>>For learning me your language!
Prospero forward, his puppet image clutches Miranda, wielding wand toward Caliban. Caliban into spasm of silent shrieks of terror.

05->>>Prospero: Hag-seed, hence!
>>>Fetch us in Fuel. Shrug’st thou, Malice?
>>>If thou neglect’st, or dost unwillingly
>>>What I command, I’ll rack thee with old Cramps,
>>>Fill all thy bones with Aches and make thee roar,
>>>That beasts shall tremble at thy din.
>>>Caliban: No, pray thee!–
Miranda clutches Prospero’s arm, pleading in spite of herself.
>>>I must obey: his Art is of such power,
>>>It would control my Dam’s god, Setebos,
>>>And make a vassal of him.
Caliban touches earth on mention of Setebos.
>>>Prospero: So, slave; hence!
Miranda looks around into Caliban’s eyes across the stage. A moment, then she looks away. Caliban backs slowly off. Miranda runs into far R area.

06-Prospero covers Miranda’s eyes. She falls asleep.

Next entry: Jan. 5th

A week of steady work on Rash Acts, intermixed with lots of Holiday partying and some serious observances that also included partying. Got a new cheap graphics tablet to help me with storyboarding and other sketches. And getting ready to start the first sculpting for Tempest — three lumps of clay on the sculpting stands and the start of a test mask for the Spirits.

My ultimate goal for this production will be to present something that gives people as much joy as Elizabeth’s new dessert concoction: bittersweet chocolate melted over pomegranate seeds. Intense, juicy, with a hard crackle inside.
Peace & joy–

December 23, 2008
Tempest #14 — Spirits and Congruences

The five manipulators will all be visible behind the puppets. But I don’t want to use the conventional bunraku hoods: black blobs would be as much a scenic intrusion as puppeteers’ white faces. So I’m thinking about masking each one, except the live Prospero, as an island spirit. The implication is that, in a sense, the characters are all on the grip — as is our story itself — of the primal island spirits. An implication only, I think.
Seeing them as full head masks, but with mouths free; actors would need to darken their lower jaws. Very dark complexion, eyesight through slits under small reflective eyes, textures of tree bark, bristles and fur. Possibly all the same design, possibly each suggesting a combination of human and specific animal, fowl or reptile. Will start a test model this week.
Pulling back a few minute to look at this whole project. At age 67 I don’t have another 50 years to fritter away, so I look a bit more closely at the stories I find myself about to tell. Why do this one?

Well, why does anyone select a particular play, or write one, for that matter? Many possible reasons, but few of them hold water for me any more: “It’s important to make this statement.” “This will make my career.” “It’s a great play.” “The world needs this.” “It’s deep.” “It’s fun.” Those don’t do it for me any more. Certainly they flit across the windshield, but they rarely take root.

Rather, I find myself attracted to stories that are like the unattended parcel in the airport. They’re unclaimed. They’re opaque. They’re charged with potential. The bomb squad would just stand back and blow the damn thing up, but the storyteller will start fumbling at its knots.

In other words, I’m attracted most by stories that cast me into the role of the explorer of lost cities. It’s like putting on an untried mask to see what it evokes. I just have a blind faith that something’s there that will strike a deep chord. In the audience, one hopes. But you hypothesize your audience from the frail evidence of your own senses. So I’m looking at The Tempest, a couple of days after a long, intense evening at a friend’s sweat lodge ceremony and another solstice celebration around a huge bonfire, asking what immediate impact this play has on my own soul & spirit.

I’ll return to this core question repeatedly. For now, I’ll speak only to the points where I tie my thread to the characters. For now, just Prospero — another time I’ll come back to each of the others, right down to the Boatswain, in terms of what resonances they have for me.

Multiple strands. Like Prospero, I’ve had one foot in the realm of the political (the process of career, of management, of promotion, making money, fulfilling commitments, all that) and one foot in the realm of magic: the making of stories, going deep into the labyrinth. His magic has gained him great power, mine hasn’t. He struggles with old wounds that still bleed, as do I; he resolves this struggle within himself, while I don’t have the advantage of a five-act structure, so I’m still struggling.

I’ve worked very hard to shape my life and creative work securely: I could publish a book of the brilliant, comprehensive three-year & five-year strategic plans I’ve devised, the weekly worklists, the New Year’s resolutions, all that. They’ve all had some consequence, and at the same time they’ve all vanished in the wind — mostly by the force of my own decision. Prospero’s struggle for control — of the unknown, for the spirits, of his daughter, of his enemies, and finally of himself — is painfully familiar to me.

Much more to explore here, but just to close with one memory. Prospero’s magic, most likely, is the variety of ceremonial magic exemplified by the Elizabethan occultist John Dee and continuing through the Golden Dawn and present-day traditions akin to that. I’ve known a number of these practitioners, some of whom make a distinction between “white” and “black” magic, some of whom don’t.

In one now-deceased friend, Adam, I saw first-hand the extraordinary power of– I won’t say “magic,” I’ll say the practice of magic. He was, in equal parts, a gifted musician, a con man, a genius, a multiple personality, a seeker, a druggie, and eventually a murder victim. A friend confided that she felt that as a magician he had willed his own death. Some claimed he was criminal in pursuit of his own will; others felt only his warmth and generosity. Some would believe that rituals and hallucinogens destroyed him; I would say that they kept him alive. And yet they didn’t. For Adam, keeping his inner self intact was like assembling a broken eggshell with one’s back against the hurricane.

This is in part what impels me to make Prospero’s magical practice very central in the action and to make its power and its danger very tangible. “Power corrupts” in the sense that it puts greater and greater stress on the fault lines of one’s self. Interpretation of The Tempest hangs on whether or not one believes Prospero’s deep wounds have been healed by his twelve years of exile — that he’s already, at the start, achieved a minor-league Buddhist satori — or that the San Andreas Fault is under ever greater stress. For me it’s the latter interpretation that explains his many incongruities and that coheres with my own experience.

This is the starting point, at any rate. We only ever arrive at starting points.
–Conrad Bishop
Next entry: Dec. 29th

December 16, 2008
Tempest #13 – Prospero Summons Ariel – 1:2 Storyboard

Tempest #13 – Prospero Summons Ariel – 1:2 Storyboard

Act One, Scene Two, B. Essential elements:
* Prospero has forced Miranda to sleep in order to summon Ariel. His knowledge and his power are in secret, withheld from her. A need for this power, and a shame in it..
* Power of Ariel, very difficult to hold in check. Again, the strain on Prospero, having already exhausted himself in the tempest.
* Extreme volatility of Prospero, ruthless in his power. When he threatens Ariel with torture, he means it. In this staging, to make that unmistakable, he actually starts to do it.
* The “otherness” of Ariel: his emotions don’t follow the rhythm we expect. He can shift from play to revolt to rage to terror to joy, all in an eyeblink. Totally in the moment.
* In a sense, he’s symbiotic with Prospero. Prospero achieves this power by accessing and manifesting a deep level of self. This makes his relinquishing it all the more difficult and all the more painful.
* Sycorax is always present in potential. Prospero could in fact wind up being possessed by this virulent dead creature.

01 – Miranda sleeps. Prospero moves to far R. Spirits bring up his cloak & he dons it. He takes staff, spins in place, calling out.
>>>Prospero: Come away, servant, come! I’m ready now.
>>>Approach, my Ariel; come!
Nothing happens. He gestures twice again, the last with another sign of his hand. Music. Lightning.
02 – Ariel appears one place and another all about the stage (3 near-identical puppets). Struggle by Prospero to see him and contain him.
>>>Ariel: All hail, great master! grave sir, hail! I come
>>>To answer thy best pleasure; be’t to fly,
>>>To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride
>>>On the curl’d clouds: to thy strong bidding task
>>>Ariel and all his quality.

03 – At last Ariel appears from directly behind Prospero, reaching to touch him. Prospero stops him by a magical grasp (not actually touching).
>>>Prospero: Hast thou, Spirit,
>>>Perform’d to point the Tempest that I bade thee?
Ariel struggles to escape, with powerful spasms, then suddenly surrenders.
>>>Ariel: To every Article.
He is motionless, then with spasms of sudden movement, disappearing and reappearing, Prospero containing him, then again losing grasp.
>>>I boarded the King’s ship; now on the Beak,
>>>Now in the Waist, the Deck, in every Cabin,
>>>I flam’d amazement:
Movement, then freeze. Echoes.
>>> sometime I’d divide
>>>And burn in many places; on the Topmast,
>>>The Yards, and Bowsprit, would I flame distinctly,
>>>Then meet, and join:
Movement, then freeze. Echoes.
>>> the fire and cracks
>>>Of sulphurous roaring the most mighty Neptune
>>>Seem to besiege and make his bold waves tremble,
>>>Yea, his dread Trident shake.

04 – Prospero grasps him magically, holds him.
>>>Prospero: My brave Spirit!
>>>Who was so firm, so constant, that this coil
>>>Would not infect his reason?
>>>Ariel: Not a soul
>>>But felt a Fever of the mad and play’d
>>>Some tricks of desperation.
Movement, then freeze. Ariel fierce. Echoes.
>>> All but Mariners
>>>Plunged in the foaming brine and quit the vessel,
>>>Then all a-fire with me:
Movement, then freeze. Ariel fierce, alternating with giggles and roars. Echoes.
>>> the king’s son, Ferdinand,
>>>With hair up-staring,–then like reeds, not hair,–
>>>Was the first man that leap’d; cried, ‘Hell is empty,
>>>And all the Devils are here.’
>>>Prospero: Why, that’s my spirit!
Sudden change in Prospero: twists hand to seize Ariel, in desperation.
>>>But are they, Ariel, safe?
>>>Ariel: Not a hair perish’d;
05 – Change in Ariel: Dances about, legato & fairylike, like sprinkling dew on roses, almost camp. Prospero continues dialogue in slow, focused tone.
>>>On their sustaining garments not a blemish,
>>>But fresher than before: and, as thou bad’st me,
>>>In troops I have dispers’d them ’bout the isle.
>>>The King’s son have I landed by himself;
>>>Whom I left cooling of the Air with sighs
>>>His arms in this sad knot.
>>>Prospero: Of the King’s ship,
>>>The Mariners, say how thou hast dispos’d,
>>>And all the rest o’ the Fleet.
>>>Ariel: Safely in harbour
>>>Is the King’s ship; in the deep Nook, where once
>>>Thou call’dst me up at midnight to fetch dew
>>>From the still-vex’d Bermudas; there she’s hid:
>>>The Mariners all under hatches stow’d
>>>I have left asleep: and for the rest o’ the Fleet
>>>Which I dispers’d, they all have met again,
>>>Bound sadly home for Naples,
Sudden, violently melodramatic gestures and snarl:
>>>Supposing that they saw the King’s ship wrack’d,
>>>And his great person perish.

06 – Prospero gestures to get him back under control. Both are frozen as he speaks, held in tension.
>>>Prospero: Ariel, thy charge
>>>Exactly is perform’d: but there’s more work:
>>>What is the time o’ th’ day?
>>>Ariel: Past the mid season.
Sharp spasm.
>>>Prospero: The time ‘twixt six and now
>>>Must by us both be spent most preciously.
>>>Ariel: Is there more toil? Since thou dost give me pains,
>>>Let me remember thee what thou hast promis’d.

07 – Sharp spasm.
>>>Prospero: How now! moody?
>>>What is ‘t thou canst demand?
>>>Ariel: My Liberty.
>>>Prospero: Before the time be out?
>>>Ariel: I prithee
>>>Remember, I have done thee worthy service;
>>>Told thee no lies, made no mistakings, serv’d
>>>Without grudge or grumblings: thou didst promise
>>>To bate me a full year.
>>>Prospero: Dost thou forget
>>>From what a torment I did free thee?
>>>Ariel: No.
>>>Prospero: Thou dost; and think’st it much to tread the Ooze
>>>Of the salt deep,
>>>To run upon the sharp wind of the North,
>>>To do me business in the veins o’ th’ earth
>>>When it is bak’d with frost.
>>>Ariel: I do not, Sir.
Prospero jerks wand one way and another, jerking Ariel back and forth.
>>>Prospero: Thou liest, malignant thing! Hast thou forgot
08 – Black shape rises with hands behind Ariel. Hands threaten him. Blurred image of Syracorax’ face appears behind, transforming. Ariel terrified, struggles against grasp of hands. Hands twist him to different shapes. Prospero rages, R of center.
>>>The foul Witch Sycorax, who with Age and Envy
>>>Was grown into a hoop? hast thou forgot her?
>>>Ariel: No, Sir.
>>>Prospero: Thou hast. Where was she born? speak; tell me.
>>>Ariel: Sir, in Argier.
>>>Prospero: O! was she so? I must,
>>>Once in a month, recount what thou hast been,
>>>Which thou forget’st.
Ariel in unison with Prospero:
>>>This damn’d Witch Sycorax,
>>>For mischiefs manifold and sorceries terrible
>>>To enter human hearing, from Argier,
>>>Thou know’st, was banish’d: Is not this true?
>>>Ariel: Ay, sir.
>>>Prospero: This blear-ey’d hag was hither brought with child
>>>And here was left by the Sailors. Thou, my slave,
>>>As thou report’st thyself, wast then her servant:
09 – Sycorax, masked, rises behind Ariel, grasps him. He shakes violently, tries to get away. Periodic shrieks.
>>>And, for thou wast a Spirit too delicate
>>>To act her earthy and abhorr’d commands,
>>>Refusing her grand hests, she did confine thee
>>>Into a cloven Pine; within which rift
>>>Imprison’d, thou didst painfully remain
>>>A dozen years; within which space she died
>>>And left thee there.
Sycorax disappears. Ariel is left bound and shrieking, in unison speech with Prospero:
>>>Then was this Island,–
>>>Save for the Son that she did litter here,
>>>A freckled whelp, hag-born,–not honour’d with
>>>A human shape.
>>>Ariel: Yes; Caliban her son.

10 – End of unison. Prospero very close to Ariel — still as if trapped and tortured.
>>>Prospero: Dull thing, I say so; he that Caliban,
>>>Whom now I keep in service. Thou best know’st
>>>What torment I did find thee in; thy groans
>>>Did make wolves howl and penetrate the breasts
>>>Of ever-angry Bears: it was a torment
>>>To lay upon the damn’d, which Sycorax
>>>Could not again undo; it was mine Art,
>>>When I arriv’d and heard thee, that made gape
>>>The Pine, and let thee out.
Prospero releases Ariel from the imagined torture. Ariel exhausted, grateful:
>>>Ariel: I thank thee, master.
>>>Prospero: If thou more murmur’st, I will rend an Oak
>>>And peg thee in his knotty entrails till
>>>Thou hast howl’d away twelve winters.
Strong pause, waiting for Ariel’s response. No movement. Total capitulation:
>>>Ariel: Pardon, master;
>>>I will be correspondent to command,
>>>And do my spriting gently.
>>>Prospero: Do so; and after two days
>>>I will discharge thee.
Ariel cries in delight, sharp movements about, as if nothing had happened.
>>>Ariel: That’s my noble Master!
>>>What shall I do? say what? what shall I do?
Prospero turns away from Ariel to command.
>>>Prospero: Go make thyself like a Nymph of the Sea: be subject
>>>To no sight but thine and mine; invisible
>>>To every eyeball else. Go, hence with diligence!
Ariel makes several spasmodic starts in different directions, then disappears.
11 – Hands remove cloak from Prospero; he comes to the sleeping Miranda.
>>>Awake, dear heart, awake! thou hast slept well;
Passes hand over her face; she wakes. Prospero turns and reveals Prospero Puppet.
>>>Miranda: The strangeness of your story put
>>>Heaviness in me.
12 – Prospero Puppet embraces Miranda.
Does that seem like an interesting direction to go? I welcome comments and wild ideas.

A second workshop — I’ll write about it next week. And welcome to Danny, our new student intern from Bennington College. He’ll be working with us into early February. And just completing the 32 puppets for Rash Acts, the last being a monumentally difficult lifesize creature who doubles as a volcano.

Happy to get word that we’ll be presenting a workshop at the national conference of Puppeteers of America this summer; we’ll focus on dialogue writing for puppet theatre. It’s simple: just be Shakespeare.
— Conrad
Next entry: Dec. 22

December 8, 2008
Tempest #12 — More on Ariel

Thinking more about Ariel, and doing some head sketches prior to starting to sculpt — though for him I need to get past the point of face-focused character and see him as a full-bodied creature of action.

In Tempest #2 I expressed the familiar idea that Ariel is a force of nature, an elemental of air and fire, but took this a bit further than most producers have done:
* He has vast power, ranging from the gentlest breeze, the softest glow of the firefly, to tornado and wildfire conflagration. Harnessing his power, holding him captive, as Prospero does, isn’t a once-and-done thing: it’s the struggle of holding a horny German Shepherd straining at the leash. We must see this reflected in each Prospero/Ariel scene, and in Prospero’s preparations for these encounters as well as the physical toll his magical conjurations take on him. As I said before, Prospero’s calling him a “delicate spirit” is like saying ‘Nice doggie, nice doggie,” patting the pit-bull.

* There’s a playfulness in him, a joy of action that has little sense of consequence: the fire dancing merrily as it catches the curtains on fire. Prospero must ask about the welfare of the shipwrecked passengers precisely because he knows there’s a danger that Ariel might have gotten too frisky with them — the amorality of the small child tormenting a bug. There’s a bond with the Puck of Midsummer Night’s Dream, but Ariel is of vastly different magnitude than the prank-playing trickster. He joys in the action, in the doing.
* Paradoxically, Shakespeare sees in this “natural” force a core morality. In terrorizing the villains in guise of a harpy or in the masque’s hymns to chastity, he’s expressing Prospero’s values. And yet he did refuse Sycorax’ “earthy and abhorr’d commands” — almost as if the bad guy’s atom bombs refused his command to explode — and his empathy with those he’s tormented moves Prospero deeply. It’s akin to the disruption in the natural world at disorder in the realm of mankind that brings on the storm in Lear: ultimately a divine principle rules.
* His essence is transformation. Like the multiple states of matter, he has no single form: he’s a flash of fire, he’s a human, he’s a sprite, he’s a nymph, he’s a harpy, he’s music. Yes, for theatrical purposes we do have to anchor him in a form we recognize as “Ariel” — he can’t be just a bunch of digital flickers — but the fluidity is part of his power.

* This fluidity, and the music that’s a part of it, gives a kind of hermaphroditic feel to the character. Puck seems pre-adolescent; Ariel’s gender has no specific function, yet there’s a powerful sexuality in his action, his sensual language, his emotion. He’s often been played as a woman or as a blond, gay-poster-boy type. But I’m thinking maybe his core being is older, a spirit that may take youthful forms but who is, in his eyes, as old, as fecund, and as polymorphous as the island itself. He is the island.
Right now I’m thinking about designing Ariel in perhaps three distinct forms, maybe more. Need to find a unity so they’re all recognizable. Some inspiration from the shamanic paintings of Susan Seddon Boulet in the combination of animal and human forms, multiplicity of eyes & faces. Possibility of Ariel having multiple voices, or a prime voice with others melding in periodic unison, or a prime voice with normal pitch variation and a second voice articulated but as a bass drone. Essential that he use language beautifully, and yet a sense that language itself is foreign to him.
It’s easy, with the resources of puppetry, to tart up the role with effects. And it’s hard to create an “alien” sense without just getting goofy: the space aliens of the old Star Trek series always seemed as if they all had some strange disease of the forehead and had just come from voice & diction class. We need always to come back to what supports the scenic dynamics and the reality of the human characters within this magical — i.e. transformative — realm.