This past Saturday night I had the pleasure of seeing fellow STJEnglish blogger Tara Bradway’s production of The Tempest.

Tara’s Adirondack Shakespeare Company (she is the director) put on The Tempest “In the Raw.” The concept is to use as little props and scenery as possible so the actors and the audience are intimately engaged with the text and the performance. When I got to the performance space in the D’Angelo center I didn’t know what to expect. The lighting was very bright and I could see all of the actors in varying stages of preparation for the performance. As an avid theater goer and community theater actor I was taken aback as an audience member being privy to what I had always considered the behind the scenes magic where actors are running lines or figuring blocking or taking deep gulp breaths to calm nerves. As the time came closer for the show to begin actors were dressing and getting into place. Why were we witnessing this? I kept wondering. I had been used to seeing actors coming from behind the curtain or entering stage left or right. I wondered if this watching the actors prep would ruin my ability to lose myself in the show.

And then the performance began. 

The transformation was immediate and I soon forgot that I was sitting in a conference room in D’Angelo hall. I was immediately transported to the island with Prospero and Ariel. I was soothed by the sounds of the ocean and I was horrified by and for Caliban and I was laughing out loud at Stephano and Trinculo. And you know what that meant? I was in the text.

After studying The Tempest for a semester in Dr. Steve Mentz’s Intro to the Profession I had grown to know this play intimately.  The performance brought the play to life and it occurred to me that seeing the actors prepare, and get into position, and the tons of other stuff they were doing was part of drawing me into the theater experience. It became a collective experience. I began to look forward to seeing the changes as several of the actors fulfilled more than one part. To watch them go from character to character as an actor was admirable.

I was sorry I had missed Titus Andronicus the night before. Having seen The Tempest, I now look forward to seeing it this Saturday on our Manhattan campus.

So Brava, Tara and the Adirondack Shakespeare Company. Thank you for allowing me to “suspend my disbelief” and mean it.

Don’t miss this weekend’s performances:

Manhattan Campus – Saval Auditorium
Friday, February 25 – Titus Andronicus
Saturday, February 26 – The Tempest
All shows are at 7:30 p.m. Admission is FREE with St. John’s ID. 
About Steve Mentz 1264 Articles
I teach Shakespeare and the blue humanities at St. John's in New York City.

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