One-Act Excitement // Art as Exploration
Congratulations to the cast and crew of Roswell Theatre Company's production of The Tempest for GHSA's Region 5-AAAAAAA One-Act Play Competition. We took home third place overall amidst a very tough set of competitors. Senior Hayley Newton was recognized as Best Actress for her portrayal of Prospero, and Senior Nicole Price and Junior Emily Harrell were recognized as All-Star Cast award recipients. Well done, all, and thank you for this fantastic gift of theatre!
The Tempest is a play that consists of a multitude of nothings. In that, I mean very little actually happens. There’s quite a bit of talking and plotting about what may happen, but, other than the titular storm, there are precious few moments within the play where action takes place. Indeed, the most dramatic aspect of Prospero’s story has already come and gone: his deposition from his dukedom by Antonio some twelve years past. The events of the play Shakespeare actually wrote to be performed, it seems, only serve to take up the time between the storm and Prospero’s ultimate reclamation of his title.
I think that’s a bit odd at face value. I mean, we in the Western, English-speaking world regard Shakespeare as the master dramatist. He is called the Bard, not a bard, the definitive article and capitalized “B” indicating his status as the supreme authority on the subject of drama and in the creation of a captivating assortment of happenings in and amidst his plots. And yet, if we look more deeply into those other stories - King Lear, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Macbeth, etc. - we see that perhaps plot was not one of Shakespeare’s great gifts from the “Muse of Fire” invoked in the opening choral address of Henry V.
Instead, we are captivated not by the plot elements of the stories, but by the characters within them. These characters Shakespeare creates - Lear, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Macbeth, Cleopatra, Falstaff - exist at the far edges of the human experience. They are simultaneously a reflection of humanity and the epitome of it. They feel deeper, think faster, exist in a time-space all their own commanded by their own wills to the deepest purposes of their individual tales, and then are heard no more. They are both all-human and inhuman. Fantastical portraits of infinite variety.
And it is our job as theatre-makers, as artists, to let them speak.
The Tempest is no different, and perhaps exemplifies this aspect of the Bard’s dramatic art. When the play itself is plotless, all that is left is the anatomization of humanity into its constituent elements. Who is Prospero, the wisened wizard seeking his dukedom instead of continuing further into his study of the magical arts? Who is Caliban, the savage or the noble first-people of the island? Who is Ariel, the being of air and fire who above all else seeks its freedom? We ask these questions as actors and theatre-makers. We plunge our hearts and minds into the text and extract some semblance of the infinite variety of these roles, allowing the ink on the page to meld with our own souls and take root and life if but for a brief moment upon the stage. These characters - these people - speak through us.
They are infinite, and their time with us allows us the chance to be infinite as well.