Becoming Caliban
Chronicles of a production of The Tempest
Sunday, March 20, 2005
The Last Performance

And now our charms are all o'erthrown. The costumes have been put in a pile to be washed, the props have been stowed away, the set still stands because a local school wanted to use it to stage a pageant (which made strike nice and quick for us). It was fun to watch the kids get emotional just before the curtain call -- I could feel sagely and old, thinking, "Ahhhh, yes, I remember those days, when the end of one show seemed like the end of a world." But it was the end of a world, and one I liked being in.

The final performance was pretty good, though I think Friday and Saturday nights were the best, with Friday feeling the most energetic and precise. Afternoon performances are strange things, and when they're the final performance, they lack, for me, the feeling of finality that comes with an evening performance, something that caps off a day. I liked ending this show this way, however, simply because it did lack that sense of an end. It felt like fading off into the sunset rather than raging against the dying of the light. A slow fade rather than a smash cut.

And I got paid, which was nice. It seems that, with grants, advertising sales, and ticket sales, the company probably broke even on this show. That doesn't leave anything for the summer show (I assume), but there are a few months now to raise the funds. Ahhh, the joys of nonprofit theatre!

One of the things that makes working with this company so much fun is that it's entirely free of big egos. Everybody seems to be there to have fun, and in four years of working with this group, I've never seen a lot of the temper tantrums and pettiness and thoughtless cruelty that I've encountered with nearly every other theatre group I've worked with. Theatre people tend to be a little strange, a little off-kilter -- emotional, moody, insecure, grandiose, etc. It goes with the territory, and the territory is mighty contoured. I vividly remember what one of my writing teachers at NYU said, warning all of us aspiring playwrights against taking ourselves too seriously: "Look, actors and directors are all screwed up and neurotic, but playwrights are worse. We take things from our imaginations and put them on paper, but then we give those pieces of paper to other people and have them act them out in front of audiences! This isn't neurotic -- it's insane!"

I haven't written a play in at least a year. I think it's time...

Enough of this rambling. I'll post some final thoughts later in the week. Some people may be sending me photos, too, so I'll post them if I get them. For now, rest.

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the production
The Tempest
produced by Advice to the Players
at The Barnstormers Theatre
Tamworth, New Hampshire, USA

March 17 & 18, 2005
at 10am & 7pm

March 19
at 7pm

March 20
at 2pm

shakespeare links
Open Source Shakespeare
The Tempest Text
Elizabethan Pronunciation
Perseus Project
Early Modern Literary Studies
collection of Tempest links
Images of The Tempest
The Tempest in old postcards
Post-Colonial Tempest Links

2005-02-27 2005-03-06 2005-03-13 2005-03-20

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about the writer
Matthew Cheney teaches English and theatre at The New Hampton School.

This weblog chronicles his experiences rehearsing and performing the role of Caliban in a production of Shakespeare's The Tempest.


Primary website: The Mumpsimus

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