September 1, 2009
Tempest #46—More Cast Notes

I was going to write more about Prospero and Ariel, but instead am including some cast notes for the next rehearsal of Part 1 (up through Act 3 Scene 1). Some may not be entirely comprehensible, but any inquiries will be answered. A bit more than two weeks till opening.

Using 14 video clips for rear projection, often with live shadow figures within them. They’re all where “magical” elements occur: Ariel’s first scene, the shadow of Sycorax, Ariel’s songs to Ferdinand, the banquet, the dogs, the Harpy, the masque, etc. Mostly abstract, expressing a general feeling through movement and color, often with several moving images superimposed and with digital filters making them fairly unrecognizable. Will it work or just seem “experimental”? We’ll soon see.



Boatswain/Gonzalo/Alonso—Much better on the hand-offs of the swaying mast in 1:1 so that we don’t have sudden direction changes. Remember always to sight where it’s going as you’re coming toward it. And that’s realistic, after all: these characters are grabbing it for safety, so they’d damned well better look which way it’s going.

Sebastian: Would it be possible (might be more effective) to wear Sebastian’s sword on the right hip and draw across the body? Ok if he has some trouble finding it—just play that.
After he’s calmed down, I think it might be better just to keep it in your hand, rather than trying to sheathe it again—if it’s down at your side he won’t look threatening. He’s distracted enough that he may be too irrational to remember to sheathe it. Or are you doing something else that you need to?


Miranda: In 1:2, you might try focusing her downward more when she & Prospero are talking close at hand. Seems that would be a kind of habitual manner, not looking at him directly very often—don’t mean never, but just when it’s particularly significant. A very close relationship, but never quite comfortable.

Ariel: In 1:2, you can play even more broadly in the large movements. And in telling your deeds with the ship, go as far as you can with illustrative gestures: flaming, dividing, burning, cracks, roars, weaves, shake, mad, plung’d, a-fire, dispersed, etc. etc. He’s highly verbal, but we need the sense that his physicality is equal to this, that the words flow from his action, not the other way around.

Ariel: Not sure how this manifests, but think about it. When Ariel starts objecting to “more toil” in this scene, it’s very different than Caliban’s objection to work. Once Ariel is launched into a task, there’s enormous delight in the doing of it, as we’ve just seen in the storm narration. What’s objectionable about the work is its impinging on his freedom. The pain that he felt imprisoned in the tree wasn’t the pain of being pinched; it was being constrained when your whole being IS movement. Maybe it’s in his physical response, starting at “more toil,” as if he’s starting to feel the bonds again, trying to shake them off. And it builds through the Sycorax scene, where he’s actually experiencing the binding again.

Caliban: Caliban’s neck and shoulders turned out much longer and narrower than I’d planned, and at first I was going to try to correct this. But in watching, I rather like it: gets away from the cliche of Caliban as “earth creature.” The skinniness makes him more vulnerable and in fact somehow more dangerous; also hungrier. So be conscious of that: I think you can keep his arms longer in gestures (though can be a contrast when he’s wrapping his arm around his head, etc.), and experiment with how he stands, maybe with shoulders always on a tilt, like an adolescent who doesn’t know what to do with this longer body.


Caliban: Don’t make “Oh ho, Oh ho” an amorphous laugh. It can have a laugh quality, but I think these are exclamations, almost as if they’re coming out of the spasm of trying to fuck. And then on “Thou didst prevent me,” try bringing your hand sharply to your groin.

Ferdinand: Try letting your verbal responses to the songs at your entrance come more rapidly. The songs themselves are slow, and so I think they build up an energy in you that needs to be let out: what is this? What is this?

Ferdinand: It’s not clear right now, when Prospero speaks to you, whether you really respond to him or not. I think you need to have a clearer physical response when he first speaks, and likewise when he addresses you again on “A word, good sir.” Of course your attention goes immediately back to Miranda, but it’ll be a stronger reconnect if these reactions break it.

Miranda: All your language to Prospero objecting to his treatment of Ferdinand is conciliatory—“dear Father” “beseech you, Father” “Sir, have pity” But I think her subtext is a demand. This might not work, but try it & see how it feels: Rather than trying to soften my own anger, match it.

Ferdinand: You can take a pause before “My spirits, as in a dream” You’ve just been be-spelled, you’ve seen this furious exchange, you’ve heard her defend you—it takes a moment for you to take a breath & take this all in.


Gonzalo, your “Beseech you, Sir, be merry” wants to come as a direct response to Alonso’s opening sigh: you see this powerful man suddenly on the point of collapse. Right now it’s not clear what impels you to start speaking.

Antonio & Sebastian: I think you’re still “styling” your witticisms too much. You both tend to drawl them a bit, What amuses you & each other is the quickness, the dead-pan, inserting something every time Gonzalo takes the slightest breath. If they also try to “sound witty” it’s overkill, and it also forces Gonzalo to pause longer than he would, given his urgent objective of comforting the King.

Sebastian: When you cut loose at the King, it can be with the same genuine anger that you have toward the Boatswain—except that he’d never address the King in a loud voice, he’d never risk that. But you’re angry and scared and it’s all his fault.

Gonzalo, on “No, I warrant you” might start with a deep breath, containing his anger, but also feeling the first flush of sudden weariness. Right now the sleepiness comes out of nothing, and indeed it does come up suddenly, but it might be more credible if there’s an early breath, and a sense of letting go of the current business.

Sebastian/Antonio: That same rapidity & cue pickup & flatness need to continue into your conspiracy scene. There can be some pauses, some innuendo, but a very small amount of that suggestive, plotting tone goes a long way. They don’t know when the others will wake, and there’s lots of ground to cover in a short span of opportunity. Antonio bears the brunt of the speaking here: look at the essential lines & phrases in his discourse, and what’s just leading up to them, and get through the secondary stuff as distinctly but as quickly as you can, so you can hit the major points strongly.

Alonso: At the end of 2:1, Alonso is energized—“Lead off this ground and let’s make further search/For my poor son.” This is totally a change from the “No, no, he’s dead,” of the beginning of the scene. What makes the difference is that the sudden waking, the immediate danger, has cast him back into his usual character, the man of action, the commander. By the next scene he’s back in the doldrums, but here he’s revived. So I think that from the moment of waking, after the first moment of confusion, he gets his bearings and is intensely alert, aware in all directions, and ready for action—not a hint of the depressive.


Trinculo: Use your breath a lot more. He’s had a lot of physical exertion, he’s scared, so I think his breath informs his movement and his manner. Audible intakes when he’s surprised or noticing something, audible out-breaths when he’s despairing, audible inhales when he’s about to launch on a new point or a new action. That can help sharpen his responses and also anchor his emotions more strongly. The manipulation is good, but you have a tendency to rely too much on vocal inflection of individual lines for expression, and so we lose the thru-line of what’s driving him. Yes, he makes a whole lot of disparate points, but underneath it all, he’s terrified, he’s exhausted, he’s cold, he’s hungry, and you can’t convey that all through vocal inflection, you need to find how it makes him breathe. He needs those deep breaths to cope with it all.

Stephano is best when he’s sorta off-balance tipsy, when he’s responding to what’s immediately before him, and otherwise pretty straight. Right now, the voice often goes into a super-petulant or posturing tone that’s over-kill: not that those elements aren’t in his character, but it needs to manifest more in his actions, gestures, postures than in his voice, otherwise it seems too cartoony.

Stephano/Trinculo: Keep your lines very tightly cued. Not just for the sake of the scene’s tempo, but to get the sense that they’ve been married for 20 years and are ready to reply to the other before the other is finished speaking. Unless there’s a really specific thing that makes you pause, you should bring your line in right on the period of the other guy’s. As well as sensing how your rhythm and inflection “answers” or plays off his, not just in the meaning of your line but in its music.


Caliban/Stephano/Trinculo: We need to explore how the “aside” functions for you all. For Stephano & Trinculo, both in your monologs and in the scenes, there are times when you can do the kinda realistic talking-to-yourself that’s the usual style these days in Shakespeare, but at times, as with Trinculo’s “were I in England now” or “Misery acquaints a man”, or with Stephano’s exploration of the monster, I think it works better to make these directly to the audience. Seems odd to think of Caliban having asides to the audience, yet it might be functional: for him, when something is so painful or so amazing that he can’t help but share it. The “aside” isn’t conveying information to the audience: it’s sharing intimate experience with the stranger sitting next to you at the bar. That stranger isn’t a real person to you exactly, though maybe you have to look up at him to make sure he’s not passing judgment on you, but he allows you a fuller expression of your thought & feeling than if you were stuck with saying it to yourself. For Caliban, this might include some sequences in his monolog, while others are to himself, and it might include “These be fine things” (parallel moment to Miranda’s “How many goodly creatures”

Trinculo: When Stephano vomits into your horn, make a much more elaborate process of cleaning it out. Go on with the dialogue, but probably keep your focus on this job till he actually offers you the liquor.

Three: Caliban goes on at great length with “I’ll shew thee the best Springs” “Let me bring the where Crabapples grow” etc. So he must not be getting the response he wants from Stephano, so he’s impelled to go on. Possibly Stephano is ignoring him and drinking instead, but it could be that, while drinking, Stephano is gesturing Caliban to keep it up, “What else can you do for me? What else?”—really relishing the slot machine’s pay-off.

Three: At the climax of the Freedom song, the last note and gesture wants to be a strong punch, and I think we should black out on a frenzied freeze, rather than let them stagger around for the beats of the light fade. There needs to be the sense that something’s really launched here.


Ferdinand & Miranda are developing very well. My one concern in this scene is that right now not much really happens between them except getting through the small talk to say what they intend to say. It’s all one tone, and the fact that you do it really well makes it hard to find exactly what’s missing. I’m thinking that the scene has three stages of development, and I’m not sure how these manifest, but look at it in this way:

1) Even though he’s calling her “precious Creature” and she’s clearly concerned for him, there wants to be more concealment of their emotional tone from each. They’re both too vulnerable to risk revealing, through their emotional tone, how deeply they’re smitten. They’re not declaring themselves, they’re just haggling over the job at hand.

2) With “You look wearily,” it changes, and it all comes flooding out. You’re perfect; you’re perfect—and this culminates in the question “Do you love me?” and his response to it, and her (weeping) response to that. It’s a glorious flood of feeling.

3) Her weeping takes it to a new realm: this is dead serious. It’s all or nothing. I will be your wife; I will be your husband. Meaning not our current notion of marriage, but for life. There’s emotion in it, but none of the complimentary gushing: it’s too serious, too real for that.


Enough. Back to video editing.

Peace & joy—