Plays are meant to be performed, rather than read
Plays are meant to be performed, rather than read. The purpose of dramatic arts often extends far beyond the words written on a page; staging, lighting, costumes intonation, expression, and audience experience are all part of the experience of a theatrical production. To help develop your understanding of The Tempest and the cultural role of the dramatic arts, you will view a production of the play this week and write a two-page reflection to explain your viewing experience.
Plays are meant to be performed rather than read: The Tempest
The Tempest is a play written by William Shakespeare. It is believed that he wrote the play between 1610 and 1611. It is set on a secluded island, from which the rightful Duke of Milan, Prospero, conspires to restore, Miranda (his daughter) to her rightful place. He attempts to do this through employment of illusion and skillful manipulation (Jephson, 1864). Prospero summons a storm, the famous tempest, so as to entice his commandeering brother, known as Antonio and Alonso, the conniving King of Naples, to the island. Caliban plans to kill Prospero so as to rule the island. Prospero’s machinations reveal Antonio’s low nature and results in Miranda marrying Ferdinand; son to Alonso, and the revitalization of the King (StLouisShakespeare, 2012). This paper proceeds to give a personal reflection of the play, which includes a careful analysis of its setting, mood, tone, key points that stand out, as well as the performance’s contribution to the role of theater in contemporary culture.
The characters performing The Tempest at the Grandel Theatre, St. Louis, Missouri, put on costumes that suit the ancient times and the conditions in which the play was written. The costumes are dull in color just like the background and the entire scene. Dull coloring and costumes – characteristic of ancient times – fit my expectation and own imagination of how the scene and the characters could have looked like. What is more, from just reading the play on paper, one is able to gather sufficient details such as facial expressions, physical performance, movement of characters and their interactions, and many more such as lighting of the scene. In some parts, the play is set on a dark background to portray difficult times when the characters were depending on oil lamps or wood as a source of lighting. Similarly, at some sections, blue lighting background is evident, which is an indirect indicator that the characters were depending on the moonlight or an open ground for sight (StLouisShakespeare, 2012). Lighting and getting a sense of the place and time of the play cannot be achieved from reading a written play by itself.
The play begins with a sound tract, which I can characterize as setting the low-spirited mood or gloomy mood of the entire performance. The low-spirited mood is in accordance with Prospero’s betrayal and his pursuit for revenge and being bent on justice until his daughter gives him an insight on the power of forgiveness and love. In addition, Sebastian and Antonio’s greed contributes to the somber mood of the play. They are ready to kill their brothers in exchange of power inheritance. The time in which Prospero is reformed into a good person, under inspiration of his daughter (Miranda) is the easiest part of the play to understand since it suits my expectations given the background of the play. Besides, the king’s move in favor of love and forgiveness changes the gloomy mood into a high-spirited mood at the end. Besides, Prospero stands out as a powerful and dominant character throughout the play since he seems to control almost everyone. In the end, he admits of having abandoned his magic; hence, receiving his dukedom and pleading with the audience to pray for him (StLouisShakespeare, 2012).
Throughout the play, the costumes and lighting styles were the dominant details in the play which help to keep the setting or position the characters to the ancient times. The play increases participation and engagement of the audience through display of emotions and gestures as well as cementing the image of the scene and its characters. According to Breemen (2017), theatrical performance in contemporary society seems to connect the artists and the audience to the play and cultural issues than ever. The world today expects people to be increasingly participatory in retention of social and cultural norms (Breemen, 2017). Thus, theatrical performance, as delineated in The Tempest, is crucial in creating awareness of the audience of social issues such as greed and revenge versus love and forgiveness, which in return, help retain cultural beliefs and practices.
Breemen, A. (2017). Performance Philosophy: Audience participation and responsibility. Performance Philosophy, 2(2), 299-309. DOI: https://doi.org/10.21476/PP.2017.2267
Jephson, J.M. (1864). Shakespeare’s Tempest. London: MacMillan and Co.
StLouisShakespeare. (2012, Aug 6). Shakespeare’s The Tempest. [YouTube]. Performed at the Grandel Theatre, St. Louis, Missouri. Retrieved on Sep 15, 2017 from, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCj5e75s30A