Plays are written to be performed on stage, although it may be fascinating and enjoyable to read them as works of literature. However, when watching a theatrical performance, one may get emotions different from those which could be gained from reading. Moreover, impressions of performances of the same play by two theatrical troops may vary. In this respect, the performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest at St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, 2010, is worth consideration.
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Staging, Lighting, Costumes, and Characters
Firstly, it is necessary to mention the details of the entourage. The director’s work is admirable as all the actors’ movements are gracious and immaculately coordinated. The lighting helps spectators accentuate their attention to certain details. Also, it helps create an atmosphere of tension, magic, or love when necessary. As for the characters, all of them are brilliant and correspond to the play perfectly. However, the most prominent one is, expectedly, Prospero, the sorcerer, performed by Robert A. Mitchell, who copes with his task superbly. As Prospero is posed as a magician, the actor creates a powerful and impressive image that makes the audience hold their breaths. One of the most nameable scenes is the one in which the sorcerer causes a tempest by using his spells and driving his enemies to the shore. As for the other characters, they also look persuasive. When the actors are supposed to make a comical effect, they cope with this task. An instance of this is Scene I of Act II in which Sebastian, Antonio, Adrian, and Gonzalo talk in prose (Shakespeare, 1868). It sounds and looks comical in contrast to the scenes filled with tension and muted blueish light. As for the costumes, they correspond to the epoch of the Renaissance, which submerges the spectator into those times.
Through the whole play, the mood changes from gloom to suspense, then to magical playfulness, and vice versa. The director, troop, and technical staff create sudden contrasts, which reveal the tragicomic undertone of the written play. One of the tools creating the mood is the meditative a slightly gloomy ethnic music that is used in the performance. In the tempest scenes, an artificial wind howls, which adds plausibility to the shown events.
Emotions and Feelings
If one has read the play, he or she will better understand the suddenly emerging feelings between Miranda and Ferdinand through the performance. Usually, when emotions are revealed, a writer needs to use not only dialogues but also descriptions. It is impossible for a playwright, that is why actors have to demonstrate their supposed emotional states through facial expressions, intonations, and gestures. The actors of the St. Louis performance managed to cope with this task successfully and persuasively. To say more about emotions, the most striking ones throughout the play were raised in the spectators by the actor who played the role of Caliban. His twitchy movements, terrifying voice, and beastly appearance made him look like a natural savage. All those details made a peculiar effect on the audience.
To conclude, this performance shows that nowadays, in the age of movies and series, a thoroughly prepared live theatrical performance can be captivating and evoke strong emotions. Its effect depends on the actors’ mastery, the director’s work, the costumes, the lighting, and the mood created by the participants of the play. Although the theater nowadays is not as highly demanded as it used to be, it will not die out and will continue having its spectators and supporters.
Shakespeare, W. (1868). The plays of William Shakespeare in 37 parts. No. 35. The tempest. Leipzig, Germany: Bernhard Tauchnitz.
StLouisShakespeare. (YouTube channel). Shakespeare’s The Tempest [Video file]. Web.
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