[Next entry: Nov. 17]
Second-draft sketch of Tempest set, and beginning work on the scale model. Texture and line of heavy sail cloth, yellowed, shades of beige. Relates to the shipwreck at the outset, but also to the “voyage” nature not only of the literal story but of the transience of reality itself. Shadow screen in back; periodic rear video projection and color washes with live shadows. Iconic masks atop each mast, suggesting the primitive magic of the island. Words and phrases from the text imprinted on the canvas.
This will go through much evolution as we start the staging.
And starting the storyboard. First scene outlined below. This too will change a lot, but essential to find the spine in a play that has infinite possibilities. Essential to me in Act One, Scene One—
* The fury of the storm, alternating with short snatches of the characters’ responses to it, proceeds almost like frames of a comic book with great scribbles in between.
* The storm as multiple layers of reality. And as leveler: the social power structure overturned.
* The rapid plunge from hope to catastrophe.
* Non-Shakespearean additions: the Magician evoking the storm and being convulsed by the energy of what his magic releases; the presence of his books; the Spirits controlling the tempest; Alonso and Ferdinand wrenched apart.
It was a practice of Brecht to try to encapsulate the essence of a scene in a single sentence that embodied both its conflict and its ironies. Not a Cliff’s Notes summary, but an interpretation through action. Something like this, though maybe I’ll do better later:
Act 1, Scene 1: MAGICIAN EVOKES THE ILLUSION OF A TEMPEST, AS THE SOCIAL POWER STRUCTURE SINKS ITSELF.
Music. To black.
1 – Far right (R), light on a large open book with mirrored pages. From a crouch before it, Prospero rises, facing US, in a cloak with vivid magical signs. He inscribes symbols in the air with a bladed wand.
(Find sources for Elizabethan magical practice and verbal formulae. Need here to give a sense of Prospero’s enormous power. Do we need something stronger than chanting? Blood-letting? Scourging? This is an evocation of fury. This isn’t a New Age guy.)
2 – Suddenly his body contracts, as if electricity passing through it, blade thrusting upward, both hands clutching wand. Lightning, then thunder. Blackout.
3 – Lightning. On shadow screen, silhouette of four Spirits, hands outstretched. Laughter. Sound of sea, video storm swirl.
4 – The Spirits spin about, holding three ships, tossed on waves. Two ships fly off in different directions, leaving one, spinning.
5 – Flapping of weathered canvas. Ship Master appears R, holding onto vertical mast. Boatswain appears L, calling across to him. Both sway with ship.
(Mast is the central scenic element of this scene. How to do it? Needs to sway with the characters, but we won’t have enough actors to assign one to the mast itself.)
>>>Boatswain: Here, Master.
>>>Master: Speak to the Mariners: quick, or we run aground. Bestir, bestir!
6 – Master exits R. Boatswain comes C, calls to Mariners, front. Takes several swigs from flask during this, very deliberately — it’s part of the job. shadow of Ariel flitting across. Mariners (finger puppets) appear in front of him, scurrying about.
>>>Boatswain: Heigh, my hearts! Cheerly, cheerly, my hearts! Take in the topsail. Tend to the Master’s whistle. Blow till ye burst your lungs, so we stand clear of the rocks!
7 – Burst of storm. Alonso appears from L, then staggers across the deck, supports himself on R mast as Boatswain counters L. Storm subsides.
>>>Alonso: Good Bos’n, where’s the Master? Play the men.
>>>Boatswain: I pray now stay below.
Antonio and Sebastian appear from L, fall across deck as ship tilts, catching hold of the mast and one another.
>>>Antonio: Where is the Master, Bos’n?
>>>Boatswain: Do you not hear him? You mar our labor, keep your cabins, you assist the storm.
8 – Burst of storm. Everyone sways together. Gonzalo appears from L, loses balance, catches hold of Boatswain to support himself.
>>>Gonzalo: Nay, good fellow, be patient.
>>>Boatswain: When the Sea is. What cares these roarers for the name of King? To cabin! Trouble us not.
>>>Gonzalo: Yet remember whom thou hast aboard.
>>>Boatswain: None that I more love than myself. You are a Counsellor: if you can command these Elements to silence, we will not handle one rope more. Use your authority: if you cannot, give thanks you have lived so long, and make yourself ready in your cabin for the mischance of the hour. Cheerly, good hearts! Out of our way, I say.
Boatswain exits R as storm bursts again. Gonzalo falls R, catches hold of the others clinging to the mast. Storm subsides.
>>>Gonzalo: I have great comfort from this fellow: methinks he hath no drowning mark upon him; his complexion is perfect Gallows. If he be not born to be hanged, our case is miserable.
Alonso, Gonzalo, Antonio and Sebastian make their way across and off L as storm bursts again.
9 – Heavy lightning. Boatswain appears R, very distraught, waving. Leans with his back against the mast, drinking. Shadow of Ariel behind.
>>>Boatswain: Down with the top-mast! Lower, lower! Bring her to try with mainsail.
A cry from the nobles off L. Laughter from the Spirits.
>>>A plague on this howling! They are louder than the weather.
Re-enter Sebastian, Antonio, and Gonzalo from L. Boatswain still leaning on mast.
>>>Yet again? What do you here? Have you a mind to sink?
>>>Sebastian: Pox on your throat, you bawling, blasphemous dog!
Sebastian draws sword, lurches toward him, ship sways him back into Antonio.
>>>Boatswain: Work you, then.
>>>Antonio: Hang, cur, hang! You whoreson noisemaker, we are less afraid to be drowned than thou art.
10 – Gonzalo trying to calm them, between them.
>>>Gonzalo: I’ll warrant him for drowning; though the Ship were no stronger than a nutshell, and as leaky as an unstanched wench.
Gonzalo laughs at his own joke for the sake of the others. Huge burst of storm.
>>>Boatswain: Lay her a-hold! Set her two courses; off to Sea again; lay her off.
11 – Master staggers on from R, embraces Boatswain, as the trio huddle together.
>>>Master: All lost! To prayers, to prayers! All lost!
>>>Boatswain: What, must our mouths be cold?
They look at each other a moment, then separate, Master off R, Boatswain off L.
>>>Gonzalo: The King and Prince at prayers! Let us assist them, for case is as theirs.
>>>Sebastian: I am out of patience.
>>>Antonio: We are cheated of our lives by drunkards.
This wide-chopp’d rascal–
>>>Gonzalo: He’ll be hang’d yet,
Though every drop of water swear against it,
And gape to glut him.
>>>Antonio: Let’s all sink with the King.
>>>Sebastian: Let’s take leave of him.
12 – Burst of storm. Strong lightning. Sebastian, and Antonio lurch off L as Gonzalo is thrown R and catches hold of mast. Two Spirits enter R and L with billowing cloth, as the sea, whipping it overhead and disappear. Mariners appear from behind Gonzalo, scurrying about his shoulders and head.
Mariners: Mercy on us! We split, we split! Farewell, my wife and children! Farewell, brother! We split, we split, we split!
13 – Spirits reappear L and R, with billowing cloth, whipping it about, then bring up the figures of Ferdinand and Alonso clinging together. Burst of storm, and they are pulled apart and wrapped in the sea cloth, disappear.
14 – Light on Gonzalo, clinging to mast.
>>>Gonzalo: Now would I give a thousand furlongs of Sea for an acre of barren ground; long heath, brown furze, anything. The wills above be done, but I would die a dry death.
Sea Cloth rises slowly up his torso, submerges him. Blackout. Storm echoes away.
And that’s all for now.